For decades technology has been focused on the user experience. After all, if the average user can’t understand how to interact with the features of a device or an app, that device or app is destined to be an abject failure. Yet, in recent years, the UX community has undergone a revolutionary shift: Instead of focusing on users, most UX professionals focus on customers.
The difference between user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX) is a subtle one, but it is one that is incredibly important to the field of design. For those interested in pursuing user experience design degrees, this is the history of the transition from UX to CX and what means for the future of design.
Differences Between UX and CX
It is easy to use UX and CX interchangeably — after all, customers will eventually becoming users, so what’s the harm in conflating the two terms? However, for those interested in pursuing a user experience design degree and those already working in the field, it is important to accurately define and apply UX and CX.
Though the market is shifting away from UX and toward CX, the customer’s experience is a much broader field than the user’s. CX is an umbrella that covers every step of the conversion journey, from seeing advertisements to comparing prices to product testing to customer service interactions to using the product. Thus, CX designers must be involved in every aspect of the business and product, from branding and brand reputation management to marketing strategy to pricing fairness, product packaging and delivery and more. The goal of CX is not only to ensure that users enjoy the product but to ensure that users have positive emotions toward the entire organization and will return for additional products or advocate for the organization within their networks.
Meanwhile, user experience homes in on the customer’s experience manipulating the product, regardless of whether that product is a website, software or a device. Thus, UX designers focuses on usability, information architecture, navigation, visual hierarchies, learnability and similar concepts. The goal of UX is to produce an enjoyable and effective product.
How UX Became CX
In truth, the shift from a focus on UX to a focus on CX was rather abrupt, but it occurred after years of tension and dissatisfaction with the effects of UX efforts. At first, user experience was a relatively broad field. Often, UX designers were called “interaction designers” or given similar titles that described the core of their work: facilitating interactions with products to improve user opinions.
Near the late ‘00s, the internet began changing how people interacted with businesses and brands. In fact, tech startups began disrupting long-stable industries with new products that services that took advantage of the web’s ability to interact with users in new and interesting ways. Thus, no longer were large, established organizations only competing against each other; they were also competing with new upstarts that reset consumer expectations.
Through this, organizations slowly realized that users don’t only interact with websites, software systems, devices, etc.; they also interact with marketing materials, sales and customer service reps, payment platforms and other elements of the business. As a result, UX departments changed names and changed goals, instead concentrating on every phase of consumer contact.
How CX Is Changing UX for Good
The term “user” is dehumanizing; it reduces the people who interact with the product to lifeless, mindless, emotionless drones. Worse, it ignores the wider reputation of a brand or business, the background experiences of customers and the demands of other departments in creating and selling products. Many UX designers prefer to think of themselves as HX designers — human experience designers — but the field of CX does more to address the needs and wants of everyone involved in a product transaction
CX improves UX in dozens of ways, but for those in the field, the transition to CX has opened many more opportunities for careers and success. Training in UX with a human-centered approach can be applied not only to product design but also across business-wide efforts, like marketing and customer service. UX professionals already employed in UX departments should consider pivoting toward CX, either by becoming familiar with internal CX departments and efforts or leading the charge to customer-focused design themselves.