17 Apr 2024
Digital Products
6 min read

Customer experience vs user experience



Marketing Manager

The pressure is on for businesses to keep delivering for their customers. 52% of customers will switch to a competitor if they have a single negative impression or interaction. You simply can’t afford to deliver anything less than an exceptional customer experience.

Customer experience and user experience are often talked about together – but the two terms are not interchangeable. The two do often go hand-in-hand in influencing how a person perceives your organisation and whether they go on to purchase from you. But there are some important and useful distinctions to be made between the two, so let’s get into it.

What we’ll cover in this post:

  • Customer experience vs user experience – what’s the difference?
  • Key elements of customer experience
  • Core components of user experience
  • How customer and user experience work together to help your business

Customer experience vs user experience – top level

At a fundamental level, just what is the difference between customer experience and user experience?

Customer experience = a customer’s entire journey and experience with your business – from making an enquiry to post-purchase. Encompasses online and offline interactions and everything in between.

User experience = how a user (not just customers, anyone who engages with you in any context) feel when they interact with your website, app or digital product. Many factors including design, content, usability and functionality impact user experience.

As we’ll get into, when you’re engaging with people, and (hopefully, eventually) customers across both digital and offline channels, the two off go hand-in-hand in creating an overall positive experience.

But for now let’s define the two things and their key elements.

Defining customer experience and its components

Customer experience (or CX) is the impression people have about your organisation as they go through the buying journey. Every interaction, conversation or communication they have with you from making an initial enquiry to completing a purchase (and following that too) adds up to their overall experience and perception of you as a business. It may not be one individual you’re interacting with, but multiple individuals across multiple departments (e.g. in B2B). This in turn influences whether they are a) likely to repeat their business with you and b) recommend you to other people or businesses.

Saying that customer experience encompasses every possible interaction a customer has with you across the buyer journey might seem a bit “woolly” – so let’s break this down into some of its key components:

  • Customer satisfaction – how satisfied a customer is with a) your product/service and b) the level of service and care they receive
  • Customer relationship management – how well you resolve issues, address complaints or concerns and set expectations with the customer with transparency and communication
  • Touchpoints and channels – ensuring a customer has a consistent experience when interacting with you across multiple channels – online and offline
  • The customer journey – having complete visiblity and understanding of all the steps a customer goes through from initial enquiry to completing a purchase and then becoming a repeat customer

Digital and the customer experience

Although CX broadly applies to every interaction a customer has with you, it’s becoming more and more centred around digital. This is particularly obvious and prevalent in industries where customers increasingly have digital-only or digital-first experiences – for example food delivery, ecommerce and even estate agency. We’ve covered in a previous blog post how you can gear your digital strategy around delivering a better customer experience.

User experience and its elements

User experience (or UX) is how a person feels when interacting with you in the digital space – either via your website or native/mobile app. Other than it applying specifically to digital and digital interactions, another important distinction between user and customer experience is that it doesn’t just apply to customers – anyone who interacts with you, customer or not, is experiencing your organisation as a user.

The user experience honeycomb

Good user experience goes way beyond just the bare minimum of delivering something usable. Great user experience focuses on consistently delivering on 7 key aspects, set out in Peter Morville’s user experience honeycomb.

  • Useful: fulfilling a want or need
  • Desirable: evoking a positive response
  • Accessible: usable by people of all abilities
  • Credible: instilling trust in your organisation and the information you’re providing
  • Findable: navigable and discoverable off-site
  • Usable: everything working as expected
  • Valuable: providing tangible value

User experience, just like customer experience, should go beyond providing the bare minimum in terms of meeting the user’s needs – it should aim to provide real value to them and providing a lasting impression of positivity around your organisation.

What does this mean in practice?

Without going into too much detail around UX/UI design and theory, at a fundamental level when a designer considers UX they consider designing something meaningful and relevant to users. This means considering things like the following:

  • Integrating the correct brand elements to ensure consistency across channels to build trust and authority
  • Using specific design elements and principles geared towards encouraging certain actions and behaviours
  • Ensuring familiar functionality and usability by as wide an audience as possible
  • Navigation design – how a user moves through your website/app
  • User testing and learning from your users – understanding how people are interacting with you currently and improving based on this insight

How CX and UX work together

Hopefully, you’ve started to understand how customer and user experience blend together and intertwine, and how one can influence the other. As we’ve touched on, as customers get increasingly digital-only and digital-first experiences, the two become even more intertwined – but it’s still important to remember that CX considers the bigger picture while UX looks at more specific interactions and elements.

Even if your CX blends offline and online interactions, the customer will no doubt be a user of your website, app or both – and providing a good experience in this sense will help ensure a consistent and favourable experience overall. Going back a step, before a customer even becomes a customer, they may very well be “just a user” – i.e. a visitor on your website. In a digital age this is where most customer journeys begin, and focusing on delivering good UX increases the chances they will actually become a customer.

It also works the other way. It can sometimes be easy to speak about UX in quite a detached way which makes it about getting a user from point A to point B – but truly exceptional UX design considers how the user feels when they interact with you which feeds into the customer experience and perceptions of you overall.

How to deliver on CX and UX

Delivering a consistently good customer and user experience comes down fundamentally to understanding how people interact with you, particularly in the digital space. This involves:

  • Mapping user and customer journeys
  • Understanding pain points and potential sticking points in current user journeys
  • Gaining insight into how users undertake certain tasks

There are a variety of ways to do this but an experienced partner like Adaptable can support you with assessing where you are now, what you could to improve and helping you put in place the tools to make these improvements. Want to learn more about how you could use digital to improve the customer experience? Get in touch to find out more.