Why you should be thinking about UX and CX differently


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How many times have you called your credit card or insurance company only to plow through a grueling five minutes of automated options before being put on hold for the “next available representative”? After being reminded that “this call will be recorded for quality assurance purposes,” another five minutes drag by before you’re finally talking to a human being.

By this time, you’re frustrated and exhausted, and you wonder how any company concerned with “quality assurance” could put you through such an obnoxious ordeal.

This is an example of an awful user experience (UX) – from its clunkiness and inefficiency to its total lack of regard for the customer’s time, this kind of call center gauntlet is doing the company no favors with regard to customer satisfaction or loyalty. As such, it has an immensely harmful effect on the overall customer experience (CX) – how customers engage with a company over the entire duration of their time using its products and services.

CX and UX are distinct from one another, but they overlap in countless ways. UX programs – from apps to websites to call center menus – are often imagined in a vacuum by engineers and designers, and this can lead to a disconnect between customers and the services they use. It’s essential for companies to align UX and CX as often as possible to prevent customers from becoming exasperated with the poor quality of their interactions and ultimately losing faith in the brand altogether.

Here are several ways your company should be thinking about the relationship between UX and CX differently.

#1 UX should always be fully integrated with CX

If you want to optimize UX for your customers, you have to fit it into a larger plan for maximizing the quality of customer experiences across the board. While this is something companies are increasingly focused on, many consumers report that they’re still not being well-served by companies’ CX/UX efforts.

According to the Northridge Group’s 2017 State of Customer Experience report, more than 50 percent of survey respondents say they don’t feel companies make it easy to contact them, more than 70 percent of callers “experience long wait times and have trouble navigating the automated system to reach a live agent,” and 57 percent struggle to find information on a company’s website.

But here’s the critical number: 81 percent of consumers say they’re likely to “stop doing business with a company after a poor service experience.” And even when these customers decide to stay, they often do so reluctantly because switching would be too much of a hassle. This is a Pyrrhic victory – you don’t want dissatisfied customers, many of whom will perpetually complain about their experiences.

A customer’s perception of a brand is colored by the totality of his or her experiences, and long wait times or problems navigating a counterintuitive website are among the most annoying experiences customers can have.

One of the best ways to ensure that UX is aligned with your overall mission to provide quality experiences to your customers is to include them in the process of developing your products and services. Customers’ voices can penetrate the echo chamber around engineers and other tech-minded employees who are often very different from the average consumer (for example, they often hold advanced degrees and have higher incomes), and they will provide crucial data about how well your CX and UX initiatives actually work.

#2 Make customer co-creation a priority

From marketing campaigns that incorporate consumers’ creativity to the increasing reliance on user-generated content, it’s clear that we’re in an era of unprecedented engagement between customers and brands.

That’s why you should expect to see much more customer co-creation in the coming years. While brands should always promptly respond to customers’ concerns and try to develop products that provide an attractive and streamlined user experience, many aren’t stopping there. They’re also involving customers in the creative process itself.

Major companies like Sony, Starbucks, Cisco, and Unilever have long emphasized customer co-creation. And a 2016 article by INSEAD Knowledge notes that DHL, IKEA, and Fuji Xerox have all “incorporated customer co-creation workshops as a standard feature of R&D.”

There’s a reason why so many companies are taking advantage of customer co-creation: It often leads to higher levels of customer satisfaction and a greater return on investment than other methods of product development. Customer co-creation is also associated with higher product acceptance rates, lower innovation costs and greater price inelasticity, as well as the ability to develop minimum viable products more quickly (this refers to the version of a product that works well enough to satisfy customers who are using it before anyone else).

Just ask Procter & Gamble.

After implementing customer co-creation procedures, the proportion of P&G’s products that were influenced by outside producers rose from 15 percent to 35 percent. Meanwhile, according to a 2015 study in Procedia: Social and Behavioral Sciences, the company’s R&D productivity increased by 60 percent, its “innovation success rate” rose by 100 percent, and the cost of R&D actually came down.

If numbers like those don’t convince brands to give customer co-creation a try, it’s difficult to see what would.

#3 Develop an accurate picture of consumer behavior

Anyone can tell you how important it is to avoid subjecting customers to frustrating user experiences. But determining what kind of experiences your customers actually want isn’t as straightforward as it seems.

That’s why brands have to pay close attention to the trends that are emerging in their industry and do their best to understand the attitudes and priorities that underpin those trends. They also have to be sensitive to the needs of customers who aren’t on the cutting edge of the industry – customers who like to interact with businesses in more traditional ways.

For example, although more and more consumers say they want self-service options, this doesn’t mean automated processes should replace human beings. According to Conduent’s 2017 State of Customer Experience survey, 24 percent of respondents use self-service resources specifically to “avoid person-to-person interaction,” while 27 percent seek assistance digitally (though they reportedly have an “inclination to self-solve”). The largest plurality of respondents (49 percent) still prefer “human interaction through face-to-face or phone communication.”

This demonstrates the value of recognizing the diversity of your customers and providing service options that won’t alienate them.

The Conduent survey is instructive in other ways, too. Although digital channels have become the “most popular routes for interaction between a customer and their tech supplier,” they have lower customer satisfaction rates than any other method of communication. Consumers may want to be able to engage with companies online, but in many cases, the technology hasn’t kept pace with this demand.

If companies want to improve the overall customer experience they offer, simply providing a desirable service isn’t enough – they have to make sure that service isn’t generating a user experience that actively works against them.

Luke Williams
Luke Williams is Head of Customer Experience (CX) at Qualtrics and is an award-winning researcher and author of the New York Times bestseller, “The Wallet Allocation Rule,” and “Why Loyalty Matters.” A statistician and methodologist by training, Luke is a thought leader in the space of customer experience, client satisfaction, client loyalty, client ROI, strategy, and analytics. He is a member of the Market Research Association (MRA) and CXPA. Luke has a M.A. in Research Methods from Durham University in England.


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