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What’s the difference between customer experience and user experience?

Interestingly, despite the two terms meaning quite different things, customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) are often used interchangeably.

It’s easy to do this since, on first impressions, the terms seem like they might mean the same thing, especially when a customer and user could be the same person.

But failing to identify what these two separate terms mean and therefore what they are trying to achieve can have a negative impact on your business. According to Forrester, for instance, people will pay 4.5 times more for a product or service if the customer experience is good. So understanding exactly what customer experience entails is vital.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience is best summed up as the overall impression your brand leaves on customers. It’s all about the feelings and beliefs that your brand conjures up for customers throughout their buyer’s journey.

Taking the example of a beauty salon, it’s helpful to think about what CX can encompass. It’s about the level of customer service that a person receives, whether that’s when they ring up, walk into the salon or make an appointment online via the website. It also includes how customer service representatives treat customers – do they respond to emails and website bookings in good time and do they feel like they’ve been treated with care when they go for an appointment?

In CX, the whole process is important, so it’s also about the way potential customers come across your brand via the website and social media as well the overall experience they have interacting with the business during their service and their future relationship with it.

According to a recent report from Hubspot, 93% of service teams agree customers today have a higher expectation of customer service than ever – meaning it’s absolutely crucial to to get it right.

What is user experience?

Rather than being focused on the overall impression a brand has on someone, user experience is all about the interactions the end user has with your service or product. It’s much more focused on a user’s opinion of how they access the brand.

Using the beauty salon example again, UX would be focused only on aspects like whether the business’s website is visually appealing, whether it can be used easily on mobile as well as desktop and whether it’s accessible and easy-to-navigate.

According to Invicta, users form an opinion of a website within 50 milliseconds of visiting it and 38% of users will leave a website if it isn’t visually appealing enough. That’s a huge blow on possible customers and sales.

How are CX and UX different?

One key area that CX and UX differ are the audiences that their associated tasks and processes are focused on.

CX focuses on the entire journey made from coming across the brand to hitting the purchase button – sometimes this journey follows one individual while at other times it can span multiple people in different departments.

UX, however, is focused on the person or people using a product or service, regardless of whether they have bought it.

It can be helpful to think about the goals of both CX versus UX to demonstrate why it’s important to identify their differences – and why many businesses have entire teams dedicated to each area.

Goals of CX may include creating a strong brand experience that attracts and engages customers, always promoting customer satisfaction at every stage of the journey and ensuring customers can easily voice their needs and share feedback.

UX goals, however, will focus on delivering the product or service, including ensuring products are easy-to-use and fulfil their purpose and making sure the product solves a problem and/or brings a customer what they desire.

Why CX and UX must work together

There is, of course, a reason why people often use CX and UX interchangeably – and that’s because UX does fit into elements of CX and a customer’s overall impression of a brand.

So, while it’s important for a brand to understand these terms individually so they can make sure they are making both of them as strong as possible, it is also crucial to consider the bigger picture and the overall holistic impression your brand is leaving on people.

Thinking about how the two terms work together, Hubspot described UX as being about products while CX is about both products and people – so there is a lot of overlap.

A strong brand and business will ensure both their UX and CX are working seamlessly together to create an excellent customer journey. The brand will identify any quantifiable pain points, for example their website speed is slow or there’s a problem with the app and fix it – this is UX. They will also consider how their customers are feeling overall – if their customer experience was so slick they are telling all their friends about it then that shows the brand has nailed CX.

In summary, while CX and UX might get used interchangeably without thinking, it’s actually very important to distinguish between them. You need to get both of them right for the other one to be strong – and both of them can then fit seamlessly together to create an overall experience of your brand for current and potential customers. Key elements of your brand, such as the website, will spill into both areas, but both areas have different goals which should be stuck to closely to help ensure the success of your business.

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