November 15, 2021

Customer Experience (CX) vs. User Experience (UX)

You’ve likely come across the terms CX (customer experience) and UX (user experience) and how they’re critical to your company’s success. While there is some overlap, the two aren’t interchangeable.

Regarding customer experience vs. user experience, UX is the experience users have with your product, while CX describes their entire experience with your brand. UX is also a major factor when it comes to driving the overall customer experience—especially in today’s digital-first economy.

The Disney corporation is routinely recognized for its personalized and magical approach to customer experience. In fact, The Happiest Place on Earth boasts a staggering 70% return rate of first-time guests. The reason why they’ve been able to nurture such a loyal, passionate fan base over the years is because the CX is never left up to chance. It’s a calculated effort on maintaining the environment that customers have come to expect from the Disney experience.

Many even refer to Walt Disney as the world’s first UX designer, one who envisioned a place where “the latest technology can be used to improve the lives of people.”

The trend to focus on UX has turned into a new normal for many customer-first companies. Companies like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, and other digitally native brands, continuously raise the bar for UX and have completely reimagined what both the user experience AND the customer experience should look like. As a result, customers have redefined their expectations, and it’s up to you to meet them.

The success of both your UX and CX relies heavily on boots-on-the-ground research. In order to truly understand your customers’ needs and problems, you need to leverage common tools like field research, questionnaires, competitor analysis, and most importantly, interviews. Once you’ve gathered all the necessary data, it’s time to share your findings with key stakeholders. Together, all parties can strive for full alignment to help shape your brand’s CX vision.

In this article, we’ll run through everything you need to know about CX vs. UX and help you understand their relationship to one another. Read on to learn more.

Customer Experience vs. User Experience

When it comes to the CX and UX difference, each interaction has a specific experience that is just a small part of the broader relationship between a customer and the company. In particular, this means UX focuses on user-product interactions, while CX focuses on customer-brand journeys spanning the entire ecosystem of products, channels, or solutions.

For example, a company might have a UX-friendly mobile app (it is easy to use and loads quickly), so the UX is strong in that sense. However, that same company might fall short in other areas. Maybe the customer has a negative interaction with a rude rep in the support center. Or perhaps a chatbot gave them the wrong information. The key is to remember that a number of business units are involved in creating a single UX. And while your company may be made up of 12 different teams, to your customer, you are one single entity. In other words, a good UX can help support a mediocre CX, but a bad CX can overwrite a great UX.

Take 3Pillar’s Common App MVP, for instance. After creating the mobile app MVP, we researched and reviewed the college application process in entirety to figure out exactly what we should build for and when.

Is UX Actually Part of the Customer Experience?

Yes, UX is part of a broader CX strategy, but CX encompasses many aspects not covered under the UX umbrella. While both CX and UX now work best in lockstep, they weren’t always so tightly aligned.

Now, more of the customer journey happens inside the product—be it an e-commerce app or an enterprise SaaS solution. In some cases, the UX may influence a design decision from a full mobile application to a simple rich SMS because of what happens next in the CX. And there are times when it can be tricky to differentiate customer vs. user experience when you’re designing products for two groups.

For example, when Disney developed the MagicBand, it seamlessly blurred the line between user experience of the band (how it’s worn, how it’s set up, how it’s used) and the customer experience of the band (who helps you set it up, what to do when you run into issues, how much does it cost, what it enables).

Similarly, at 3Pillar Global, we often create products that address the needs of the client themselves and the end-user.

In some cases, the client and their employees are the only end-users, though many times, we’re helping our clients solve a problem that allows them to better serve their customers (end-users). However, we still rely on customer feedback to build products. Products tend to change once end-users start using the tool, which means our activities become more UX-oriented at this point.

As an example, Apple has set the gold standard for customer satisfaction. Whether it’s their watches, phones, or laptops, their customers don’t seem to get tired of buying Apple products. Why? Because Apple has made gathering customer feedback a priority.

In instances where the client might see things differently than the end-user, and both parties may have different goals in mind, it’s critical that we address the needs of both groups. Here it is critical to establish clearly defined expectations from both the business and customer perspectives and revisit them as the product matures. Failing to realize and plan ahead means customers will be placing constant pressure on evolving to better suit their needs.

CX vs. UX: Key Differences Explained

Both UX and CX aim to align the user experience with the brand’s strategic goals, vision, and values—ensuring a customer’s experience with a particular product/channel/brand as a whole addresses needs and offers an easy, enjoyable experience. But—they’re approaching those goals from different angles.

Here’s a look at how CX and UX differ in terms of goals, testing methods, and the KPIs that measure success:

Key Goals, Activities, and Metrics: CX vs. UX

Goals

CX:

  • Maintain consistency across touchpoints
  • Meeting customer expectations
  • Anticipating customer needs
  • Focusing on the customer, not any one product or channel

UX:

  • Ensuring interactions with a product/service/solution are as convenient as possible
  • Helping users complete tasks
  • Delivering the best product possible based on customer feedback/data
Core Tactics/Activities

CX:

  • Capturing/analyzing feedback
  • Utilizing social listening
  • Mapping customer journeys from lead generation to post-purchase
  • Developing high levels of communication and transparency
  • Working to influence company culture and encourage a customer-first mindset

UX:

  • Conducting product research
  • Developing user personas
  • Creating specifications and/or prototypes
  • Using customer insights to make products more valuable
  • Building platforms for single interactions (e.g., phone service, website)
Metrics

CX:

In CX, success is measured by looking at the overall experience, particularly customer loyalty and satisfaction. Metrics might include CLV, NPS, CES, etc., and aim to measure brand perception/the sum of all interactions—both direct and indirect.

UX:

In UX, success is measured using metrics like how long it takes to complete a task, success rates, abandonment rates, error rates, clicks/steps to completion, and more. These metrics help organizations understand a product’s usability and how users interact with it “in the wild.”

The Product Scoring Index we’ve created at 3Pillar Global is a CX-style metric that we incorporate into our UX-based testing. It’s a blend of UX and CX inquiry where a 1-5 rating system is used to determine how enjoyable an experience was, the ease of use of the product/service, the effectiveness of the experience at completing the desired goals, and trust in the product/service based on the experience.

Final Thoughts

While it can be tough to distinguish customer experience vs. user experience, these fields are very much intertwined, with one not necessarily being more important than the other.

At the end of the day, the key to long-term success is to put your customer first. It’s all about finding the right balance that works for your business, taking into account specific metrics and objectives while also maintaining a strong focus on the customer experience.

Keep in mind that customers will always remember how your product/service made them feel. Disney has certainly set the bar high for brands in all industries on creating unique, seamless experiences that will stick with customers for a lifetime.

So ask yourself—am I taking a complete customer-centric approach across each touchpoint, or am I prioritizing one type of interaction over another? Either can result in a bad customer experience. To remain competitive, companies need to continually optimize CX and UX if they want to continuously capture customer loyalty.

To learn more about how 3Pillar Global helps its clients prepare for the next phase in the CX evolution, contact an expert today.

Special thanks to these members of FORCE, 3Pillar’s expert network, for their contributions to this article.

FORCE is 3Pillar Global’s Thought Leadership Team comprised of technologists and industry experts offering their knowledge on important trends and topics in digital product development.