UX vs CX: How Are These Different from Each Other?
What do we mean by user and customer experiences? Learn the concept of UX vs CX from a designer's perspective and its practical implications.
Written by RamotionJan 9, 202412 min read
Last updated: Feb 6, 2024
Researchers, designers, and product managers have been trying to improve how users interact with products and services, focusing on the quality of their experiences. It is interesting to note how a different approach to the design of a user interface can significantly impact the overall perception of the product and, by extension, the brand or organization itself. Therefore, the value of users’ real-world experiences cannot be ignored.
It is also essential to take a closer look at the philosophies and approaches of design teams and organizations, as this aspect plays a vital role in defining the role of users – or customers. Some critical questions to ask here are:
- Who is the target audience? Is the design being created for users or customers?
- Is the design team focusing on the user experience or customer experience?
- What is the difference between these experiences?
These questions are essential for CX and UX designers when they enter the job market and find the roles that best fit their skill sets.
In this article, we introduce the concepts of user and customer experiences, focusing on the similarities and differences between both. We also discuss how these two experiences can work together on the UX level, strengthening each other.
Read along as we unpack these two exciting terms in this article.
Introduction to Customer and User Experiences
Before we dive into the comparison, let us try to understand the basic concepts of users, customers, and their experiences as they interact with any product or service. There is more to customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) definitions than just changing a single word.
What are customer and user experiences?
User experience focuses on the interactions of an end user with a product or service, referring to their feelings before, during, and after the interaction. Customer experience, on the other hand, is a broad term that encompasses the image of a brand, along with the user experience, leaving an impact on the retention and loyalty of customers.
Understanding the basics
User experience (UX) is concerned with all the interactions of an end user with a product or service, whether in the physical or digital environment. UX focuses on improving the users' overall satisfaction level before, during, and after the interaction with a design. Evaluating the users’ feelings, a seamless experience, and the extent to which they accomplish their goals serve as good metrics for UX design.
On the other hand, customer experience (CX) is a broader term. CX thinks of existing and prospective customers, both individuals and organizations. This term goes beyond the interactions with a design. Instead, the brand image, product or service marketing, and the relationship with other offerings from the organization also come into play when we think about customer experience. The focus, therefore, is not a single interaction. The primary goal of CX is to increase customer loyalty and retention.
Interconnection between CX and UX
From the definitions, UX and CX cannot be separated. Regarding the relationship level with customers or users, UX and CX go hand in hand. It would not be wrong to say that UX is a part – or a subset – of CX.
While user experience aims to meet users' needs and improve their experience with the interactions, it also directly impacts customer loyalty and retention. Therefore, UX has its utility in meeting the needs of CX in the long run.
Alternatively, a better customer experience cannot be achieved with a bad user experience. Organizations need a better brand image, customer satisfaction, and improved UX to attract new customers, meet their expectations, and stay ahead of the competition.
Diving Deeper: CX and UX Unpacked
The scope and impact of CX
The most important factors differentiating CX from UX are its scope and organizational impact. Customer experience is about more than just gathering customer feedback.
On the other hand, CX is also concerned with the micro-interactions experienced by users as they interact with a product or service. CX takes a much broader and holistic approach, where all the touchpoints and interactions of a customer are considered.
Customer experience focuses on all the ways and sources from which existing and potential customers interact with a company, its products, and its offerings. This includes marketing, customer support, product development, advertising, and more.
Therefore, the scope of CX is much more enormous than UX, and so is the impact, i.e., the quality of customer experience impacts the entire organization or business.
Another essential thing to note is the evaluation metrics that CX relies on. The key areas to consider when evaluating customer experience include customer retention, loyalty, and the extent to which new customers are attracted to the company and its products. Therefore, a brand's overall image and perception precede improvements at the interaction level.
The nuances of UX
User experience, in contrast to customer experience, is more focused on the interactions of users with a design. The multiple touchpoints of users’ interaction with a product or service have much significance in UX, where the focus is on improving the quality of interaction, leading to an overall satisfying and engaging experience.
UI/UX designers always adhere to fundamental design principles like familiarity, simplicity, aesthetic appeal, and visual hierarchy. These principles ensure a consistent and seamless user experience where the end users can experience meaningful interaction.
When evaluating UX, the focus is on task efficiency, error rates, and the extent of user satisfaction. It is important to note that these factors strongly impact the overall customer experience, so these two terms cannot be treated in isolation.
Contrasting CX and UX
Customer experience and user experience are critical for a business's success. An organization's holistic and comprehensive approach would cater to both experiences, thus increasing customer satisfaction and improving brand image. UX and CX have similarities and differences, which we will explore in this section.
What are the significant differences between CX and UX?
Some of the significant differences between CX and UX cover the following aspects.
- Target audience
- Scope of the experience
- Goals and objectives
- Responsibilities of designers
- Measurements of success
CX vs. UX: Identifying the differences
CX and UX are concerned with the relationship level between the customers – or users – and the organization – or the design. Some of the significant differences between these two experiences are as follows.
1. Target audience
From individual customers to corporate users, CX focuses on multiple audiences. Additionally, the target audience includes existing and potential customers and everyone who could come in contact with the organization’s products and services. Therefore, the customer journey of all of these audiences is considered when considering the customer experience.
UX, on the other hand, is centered around the actual users of a design. The focus is on the individuals – and their goals – as they interact with the design. Therefore, UX focuses on improving a person’s experience before, during, and after the interaction.
2. Scope of the experience
A significant difference between CX and UX is in the scope of the experience. CX covers every journey level as customers get exposed to an organization and its offerings. From marketing, branding, promotion, and the actual user experience, CX encompasses a broad range of experiences, thus having a solid relationship with the brand reputation.
UX is more focused on the interaction level when users come in contact with a design. The scope of UX is narrow and, hence, more defined for designers. The micro and macro interactions with designs get highlighted and become prominent when focusing on UX.
3. Goals and objectives
The primary goal of CX is to create a brand experience where existing and potential customers are exposed to the best of the organization. Good CX would encourage customers to make easy purchasing decisions, thus providing a customer lifetime value to the organization.
UX, on the other hand, focuses on creating a seamless experience with a product or service. The journey level targeted by UX is usually restricted to a single design. UX aims to reduce errors, simplify interactions, and create interactive experiences.
4. Responsibilities of designers
Since the focus of CX and UX is different, the responsibilities of a UX professional are also slightly different from those of a CX professional. Individuals and teams working on improving the customer experience should keep the overall brand image and perception in mind. CX professionals focus on the values and mission of the entire organization, not just a product.
On the other hand, UX is concerned with the interaction level on micro and macro scales. Therefore, the responsibilities of design are more focused on a single design, where mapping the user journey and improving the user experience with the design takes precedence. However, this doesn’t mean that the organization's overall values are ignored.
5. Measurements of success
When it comes to evaluating CX, designers focus on the improvement of customer journeys. Increased customer satisfaction and better customer loyalty rates are good metrics for CX. CX professionals always consider customer retention and conversion rates as reasonable measures.
In the case of UX, user testing and research studies usually focus on reducing the number of errors and making interactions smooth and efficient. If users spend less time in different interactions and can quickly achieve their goals, that would lead to a better UX.
CX and UX: Exploring similarities
Along with the differences between CX and UX, several aspects make them quite similar. CX and UX directly impact a user’s experience and customer journey, which is strong evidence of their overlapping nature. Additionally, a positive user experience feeds into a better customer experience.
Some of the most important similarities between CX and UX are as follows.
1. Overlapping goals
The goals of UX and CX overlap because both approaches attempt to meet user needs and expectations to improve their experiences. A seamless and positive experience at every interaction level improves overall user satisfaction and the brand image.
2. Focus on the experience
The terms UX and CX have one vital aspect in common: experience. Both customer and user experience, whether in the form of physical or digital interaction, are concerned with different points of the journey level, but the underlying idea is to improve the experience before, during, and after the interaction in any form.
3. Customer retention and loyalty
Retention of customers and users and their loyalty are prime importance for UX and CX. Therefore, neither UX nor CX takes a single interaction-level approach when designing products and services. The idea is to leave a strong impression on the users' and customers' hearts and minds so they stay loyal to the products and, by extension, the organization.
Practical Applications and Case Studies
It is always a good idea to look at some practical applications of CX and UX going hand in hand. In the modern world, the case study of a successful digital product can come in handy. Two such examples are discussed below.
Enhancing CX through UX and vice versa
The two case studies below exemplify how CX is enhanced with better UX design. Similarly, these cases also highlight how a holistic focus on CX can improve the UX of designs, particularly when it comes to digital products.
1. Bank of America’s Erica
Bank of America launched its chatbot, Erica, in 2018 to improve the user experience. This chatbot helped the users accomplish their simple banking tasks in less time and with greater efficiency, all through a single device.
However, this step improved the customer experience by providing better user support. This is an excellent example of a case where UX feeds into CX, improving the overall customer experience and brand image.
This case also teaches an exciting lesson about integrating UX into CX, where the focus is always on the organization's branding guide and design system. An organization's design patterns and component libraries are helpful, where consistency and an overall brand image are always visible.
2. Uber’s ride-sharing
Uber's providing multiple ride-sharing options, such as UberX Share and Uber Green, along with the usual services, is an excellent example of focusing on customers' needs.
It is also important to note how these options vary based on the geographic location, ensuring the target audience and their needs are catered to. A closer look at this experience design indicates how the customer experience governs the user experience design.
Therefore, it is critical to take a holistic approach when thinking about the experiences of customers and users, as both go together in most cases. The needs of customers and the design of that experience help devise a better UX design strategy.
Future Trends in CX and UX
Let us take a look at the future trends when it comes to UX and CX. For UI/UX designers and CX professionals, staying updated with the latest trends is essential to be a step ahead of the competitors.
1. Personalized customer experience
One of the rising trends in CX and UX is the demand for personalized experiences. This is where the utility of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and significant language models also comes into play.
Personalized experiences ensure that users see and interact with the products and services they are more interested in, even when using multiple devices.
2. Immersive experiences
The availability of multiple interaction channels improves UX and CX, where the users can now get an engaging experience, and the customers have one more reason to stay loyal to the organization because of its innovation.
User experience and customer experience are essential terms and approaches to design that all designers need to be aware of, mainly when dealing with the relationship of users and customers with products, services, and organizations.
A good understanding of these terms leads to a comprehensive and holistic design approach that benefits companies in the long run.
Designers need to take a unified approach, where both UX and CX aspects are brought together. This means that product managers and designers should keep an eye on marketing, sales, and promotion instead of focusing on a single interaction. This will lead to a better user and customer journey, thus improving the overall experience, brand image, and identity.