Customer experience (CX) vs. User experience (UX): understanding the difference
Listen to this episode of our podcast to learn more about CX vs. UX.
Customer experience: the overall experience
Customer Experience (CX) is the overall combination of a customer’s interactions with a brand at all stages of their customer journey. In other words, CX relates to how interactions at every touchpoint – both online and offline – create an overarching opinion of a brand.
A shoe retailer, for instance, has a host of different touchpoints across the organisation: multiple high-street stores, the customer service provided by employees in call centres, the functionality of its website and ecommerce platform, or its return processes to name a few.
Understanding CX is about understanding how all these interactions are linked. Doing so helps an organisation appreciate why CX matters: because a positive CX keeps the customer satisfied, improves brand loyalty, enhances the likelihood of repeat business, and increases the chances of a word-of-mouth endorsement – and let’s face it, word-of-mouth referrals are simply the best form of marketing available.
But because of this variety of interaction, it is very difficult to build a consistent, positive customer experience. So when a business evaluates their customer experience, they often discover clear weaknesses that need addressing.
And when a business applies CX principles within a digital context, the problems become much more specific, too. Therefore, developing a sophisticated CX vision should be a company’s north star – and targeting UX touchpoints one by one is the best way of achieving this.
User experience: the individual interactions
User Experience (UX) refers to the individual interactions and moments on a customer journey. This means that each individual UX moment combines with another to create their overall perception of the brand, the CX.
For instance, a slow and glitchy payment system on the shoe retailer’s website could frustrate potential customers and prevent them from buying a pair of trainers. Consequently, this poor user experience would have a negative effect on the shoe retailer’s CX. Combine this with similar weaknesses at other touchpoints and you might find yourself in a tricky situation.
Just because UX refers to the seemingly smaller details, its importance shouldn’t be understated. Each isolated moment influences an individual’s overall perception of the brand. Just think of a bad experience that you have had with a brand – that one experience can have a long term impact.
In order to influence these behaviours, businesses need to offer first-class UX at all available touchpoints, guided by their CX principles. Therefore, a consistent strategy is the most effective way of engaging with all potential customers and accomplishing this goal.
Customer research is integral to a CX vision
As customer experience is a perception, it is intrinsically centred around feelings and emotions. But, one of the major problems that businesses face is that they often make CX decisions based on internal influences and biases.
Continuing our shoe retailer example, the digital department might invest in an advanced customer marketing platform to increase repeat sales. They might do this because their industry specific knowledge and experience suggests that this technology is the future of retail.
However, doing so might have completely missed the point – that customers were more frustrated with the search function of the shoe retailer’s website, which was preventing them from making the purchase in the first place.
This demonstrates why it is imperative that customer insight is the heart of a business’ CX principles – because empirical evidence is the only way to truly understand a customer’s behaviours, emotions and intentions.
Using customer research ensures that all internal bias and influence is removed and means a business can create an objective roadmap of pain points, incrementally addressing them in order of importance.
Systematically targeting UX builds a more positive CX
Once a company understands the pain points, there are a multitude of digital initiatives to improve that particular UX, and subsequently the brand’s CX.
An obvious example is by dialling in on micro moments – providing sophisticated marketing during the moment of greatest intent. So, in the shoe retailer’s case, the company could structure PPC advertising for high heels during the hours of five and seven in the afternoon, as customer research informed the digital department that these hours – after the traditional 9-5 working day – are when the item ‘high-heels’ receives the highest number of search engine searches.
And with more sophisticated advertising and coverage, it follows that one would expect to see a rise in shoe sales. Indeed, this one example suggests that focusing on UX could now prove to be the secret to retail success.
Another obvious initiative that a company could employ to improve CX is by implementing A/B testing on their website. The same company could provide two design layouts for their Stiletto-heels page and run a testing phase over a set period of time to discover which page achieves the better results: longer time spent on page, higher number of clicks, higher number of sales etc.
A/B testing – or split testing – provides black and white evidence of the most appropriate pathway to success to help a business increase their revenue, and is a simple way of emphasising how systematically targeting UX builds a better CX.
However, there is a commonly held misconception that financial considerations are the only way to measure customer experience. While sales, revenue and profit are of course hugely significant, improving CX is a much broader construct that revolves around long-term progress. Improving CX is more about continuous improvement than it is short-term victories.
In the shoe retailer’s world, this non-monetary improvement could be achieved through a decrease in returns to warehouse, or through less complaints to its customer service call centre.
Consistent CX separates the best from the rest
The commercial landscape is forever changing, with more competition now than ever before. The best way to counteract this trend, though, is by investing in customer experience and improving brand loyalty. Compounding this, a recent study by Oracle found that 74% of senior executives believe that customer experience impacts the willingness of a customer to be a loyal advocate.
For those companies who want to thrive in this environment, developing a consistent customer experience will form a vital part of their strategy.