CX vs. UX: Battle of the Buzzwords

Jan 30, 2019 9:05:00 AM

shutterstock_1222690516Recently, we talked in this space about user experience (UX) and why it’s so important to get it right when designing, building, and selling a software product. To recap, Google has come up with a handy way to evaluate and give a numerical value to a product’s UX, which helps guide designers and developers in the right direction to make improvements.

UX has become a popular topic in recent years and has pretty much attained buzzword status—the hip, cool software designers and developers are all about maximizing UX, and not a moment too soon.

But there’s another “experience” buzzword on the rise, and enterprises of all kinds should pay attention: It’s “customer experience,” or CX.

What CX Is All About

The term “customer experience” sounds like it ought to be a synonym for “user experience,” but it’s not. At least, not exactly.

CX covers all of a customer’s interactions with a brand. As such, it’s a superset of UX, which is limited to those aspects that regard hardware and software user interfaces. CX runs through the entire customer interaction lifecycle, including such aspects as:

  • Marketing and advertising. Have you ever seen a TV commercial, and afterward you could remember that it was funny or cute or that it had a nice jingle, but couldn’t remember what was being advertised? The message has to get through to make people beat a path to the physical or virtual doors.
  • Shopping experience. How easy is it to do business? Is it easy for customers to find what they came for? Are the things they’re looking for in stock? How friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful are the staff? Are the products presented in a pleasant and organized way?
  • Customer satisfaction. Was the order filled correctly? Did the products meet the customer’s expectations for quality? Were services performed correctly, on time, and for the right price?
  • Returns and issue resolution. Are problems (which are inevitable, no matter how hard you try) resolved in a mutually acceptable manner? Are returns easily processed?

Astute readers will note that, depending on the business model, UX can touch all of the above. For a 100% online retailer, such as Amazon, UX and CX are almost exactly the same. For Uber, there are aspects of both, and they are equally important. Customers have to use the Uber app to get a ride, so it needs to be easy to use, but the company’s reputation depends in large part on what the customer’s experience after getting into the passenger seat, so Uber needs to be concerned with everything from the hygiene habits and driving skills of its drivers to the cleanliness, comfort, and safety of their vehicles.

Even businesses that are mostly brick-and-mortar need to be concerned with UX. Such a business doesn’t need a fancy website—a static one-pager with no interactivity will do in many cases—but if customers can’t find the location, business hours, or phone number (or if those particulars are incorrect), they will take their business elsewhere.

They Both Matter

Buzzwords or not, both CX and UX influence the success of an enterprise and its products and services; the only difference from one business to another is the amount of overlap between the two.

For software designers and development teams, this means that they have to be mindful not only of UX for its own sake but how it fits into the company’s greater CX strategy. The practical effect, whether the techies like it or not, is that marketing and other creative types may start to exert a growing influence over the design of digital assets, including mobile apps, websites, and other software. Better get used to it, folks.

Customer experience is not a new idea; it’s always been an important part of a company’s success. Methods of measuring and evaluating CX are well-established as well: Customer feedback surveys almost invariably ask if you would use the product or service again or recommend it to a friend. Thanks to Google, there is a reliable, repeatable way to measure UX as well, so businesses now can get a more complete picture of how their customers feel about them.

Forward-thinking firms will consider all of these metrics when evaluating where they are and how to get where they want to go.

Brian Geary

Written by Brian Geary

Brian is a true believer in the Agile process. He often assists the development process by performing the product owner role. In addition to his technical background, he is an experienced account manager with a background in design and marketing.

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