User Experience versus Customer Experience: same or different?


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I’ve noticed that articles on user experience (UX) rarely mention customer experience (CX) and vice versa. The two seem to be developing in the shadow of each other without actually acknowledging each other. Then I came across an interesting blog post by Leisa Reichelt (I did not find any mention of relation to Fred Reichelt). In it she states the following:

  • Turns out there is this whole other profession, born, it seems, mostly from the marketing discipline, who have an active interest in orchestrating company wide good experience for their customers.
  • …it strikes me that they have a much more mature and structured way to approaching company wide good experience than we User Experience people (generally) do.
  • Given the choice of having a Chief Experience Officer (CXO from a UX background) or a Chief Customer Office (CCO from a marketing/CX background), I’d probably choose the latter – for the more comprehensive, well rounded view of the organisation and all its working parts than the interface obsessed UXer is likely to be.

So what is the difference between User and Customer experience? ISO 9241-210 defines user experience as “a person’s perceptions and responses that result from the use or anticipated use of a product, system or service”. The definition of customer experience is an interaction between an organization and a customer as perceived through a customer’s conscious and subconscious mind. It is a blend of an organization’s rational performance, the senses stimulated and the emotions evoked and intuitively measured against customer expectations across all moments of contact. These definitions suggest that UX and CX are in fact the same thing. However, it is clear that these two fields/ approaches are developing somewhat separately.

The answer lies in the audiences that follow each. The UX audience tends to be techie oriented or aligned. The jobs posted under UX tend to have to do with the web and mobile channel and such. The CX audience tends to come more from a marketing or operations background. The CX aligned jobs tend to be center around strategy, loyalty and now Net Promoter Score (NPS). Click here for a more thorough explanation of the difference as told by Harley Manning, Vice President, Research Director for Customer Experience at Forrester.

In a nutshell, UX is a subset of CX. As Harley Manning puts it; a person might love their overall CX but even if they dislike the UX on the website. Likewise, it is possible for a business to have a fantastic UX but fail in their overall CX. CX is focussed on the enterprise wide experience while UX tends to be focussed on a particular channel or two.

Leisa Reichelt concludes that “so much of what CX people do is what we need done so that the experiences we’re [UX] designing have a real chance of being good…. We’ve done a lot of hand waving about Good Experience and Experience Strategy over the past few years, but we’ve done very little to explain HOW to make this happen. Getting to know our Customer Experience colleagues, getting more of them in our organisations and making them aware of our existence could really help move this forward”.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Qaalfa Dibeehi
Qaalfa Dibeehi is the author of "Achieving Customer Experience Excellence" and "Customer Experience Future Trends and Insights". He has 20+ years experience in the customer experience related space with particular emphasis on organisations that have a dual commercial and social/community responsibility. He is Non-Executive Director at Emerge. Previously, he was Chief Operating and Consulting Officer at Beyond Philosophy and Director at Fulcrum Analytics. He has an MBA from NYU and three other Masters Degrees from City U. of New York in Statistics, Psychology and Health Care Administration.


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