The Difference Between User Experience and Customer Experience (and Why CX Is More Important)

Stay with me here.

A user is your customer. A customer is your user.

But the user experience (UX) is a very different animal than the customer experience (CX).

Does that make sense?

Both UX and CX are buzzwords. Like blogging or social media, gurus will say UX and CX are ESSENTIAL to a well-oiled machine.

But a lot of people use them interchangeably.

Which ain't right.

We're going to quickly break down the two, explain why they're different, and why one is more important than the other.

What is the Difference Between UX and CX?

User experience is what it's like to use something - your product, your website, your ordering system, to name a few examples. How easy is it for someone to grasp? Does it do what it promises? When someone needs help, is it easy for them to find it?

UX is most commonly associated with software and digital services, but it applies to any product or service. The best user experiences aren't just pretty; they're easy, intuitive, and overdeliver on promises.

Customer experience is broader. It includes offline, non-product brand interactions. It encompasses your website, purchase experience, the user experience, customer service, ongoing marketing, and every other interaction someone will have with your brand.

Loyalty Statistics The Ultimate CollectionThe best customer experiences are personalized, painless, and yes, they too overdeliver.

UX is Just a Portion of CX

Both UX and CX are hugely important, but UX is only a segment of CX. And it may not even be the most important aspect of CX. You're more likely to lose a customer based on factors unrelated to your actual product.

To use an example in the news recently, do you carry an iPhone or an Android phone?

Some Android phones have had the same capabilities as the just-announced iPhone 7 for years. The Android OS is fine, the phone is more powerful - why aren't more people carrying their phones?

The answer is Android just isn't their tribe, and they prefer the experience of being an Apple customer.

It isn't just technology, either. People gravitate to good CX. It's why we still spend most of our money in-store instead of online, to give another example. We like trying things on, touching them, getting immediate answers to questions, talking to people, and being among peers.

It's a better, more convincing customer experience, after all.

Why It's Important to Distinguish Between CX and UX

Entrepreneurs typically aren't CX experts. They have a product expertise - maybe it's a restaurant, a social network, an open-source piece of software.

But their product alone is rarely enough to win the hearts and minds of consumers. A great user experience goes a long way, but true loyalty is won through superior customer experiences.

Sure, a great customer experience won't count for much if the product (user experience) is garbage. But you'll earn a lot more slack if you have a strong CX.

As users, we judge things based on function and ease. "Does it do what I need it to do, and with minimal pain?"

As customers, our scope of judgment broadens. We consider pricing, what our peers are using, the behavior of the company, what their branding speaks to, the tone of customer support reps, how well they respond to user feedback, member benefits (in subscription models), online content, and countless other broad, non-product specific criteria. (Click here for a whole bunch of data around loyalty and engagement.)

People are making brand judgements based on emotional factors more than ever. They'll bail on a brand that has shady business practices, or fall in love with one whose employees address them by first name.

CX is more important than UX in the quest for engagement and loyalty.

UX will create fans. CX will create brand zealots.

Focus on building a great UX that’s part of an even greater CX. Build your business for the person, not just the user, and you'll find yourself winning over a lot more people (and yes, users) than you would with just a great UX.

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Topics: Customer Engagement, customer loyalty

Written by: Brandon Carter

Brandon is a former writer and marketer for Access Development. He's a frequent blogger on customer and employee engagement & loyalty, consumer trends, and branding. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @bscarter

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