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CX versus UX: What’s the difference, and why does it matter?

Published by Tom Uhlhorn on
CX versus UX: What’s the difference, and why does it matter?

CX versus UX: What’s the difference, and why does it matter?

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Let’s get one thing straight, customer experience and user experience are not the same thing. As a strategist, I quickly noticed some pretty major misunderstandings of certain sub-disciplines within customer experience (CX), which includes user experience (UX), user interface (UI) and, to some extent, customer service. The terminology for each subset is not one-in-the-same and are not interchangeable. Let’s take a deep dive into the nuances of each field and why small-business owners should care.

A holistic experience beyond the transaction

CX involves applying a style of thinking which enables your organisation to be more customer-centric and experience driven. Although CX is seemingly difficult to define with various definitions appearing in simple search results, it’s really quite simple. CX is a framework which focuses on strengthening the commercial relationship between a brand and a customer by delivering a holistic experience beyond just the transaction. While UX and UI are certainly crucial elements of CX, they each create a stream within the broader CX context.

How it makes you feel

User experience is measured by key metrics relating to how a user responds to design cues including conversion rate and page views. These are a reflection of a key outcome that UX projects aim to achieve: changing behaviour to suit a company’s objectives. Good UX design is reflected in brands such as Duolingo and Instagram, and most banking apps, all of which make it easier for the user to complete their desired outcome, practice learning a language, scroll through posts for long enough to receive an advertisement or transfer money. While UX focuses on behavioural outcomes, CX goes deeper into the psyche and has the audacious goal of increasing a customer’s perceived value of an offering. Great CX can be found in Disney’s theme parks and Aesop’s in-store retail experience, both of which use a multitude of sensory cues to increase your perceived value (and charge a premium for it).

To put it simply, user experience optimises how easy a ‘thing’ is to use, customer experience optimises how valuable a ‘thing’ is perceived to be.

How it looks and works

User interface (UI) is often talked about in conjunction with UX, but again, they are not interchangeable terms. UI solely focuses on the aesthetic appearance or functionality of a digital product or service. UI encompasses all visual elements, graphics, buttons, images and layout of an application, website or digital device. Examples of brands showcasing great UI design include the likes of Airbnb, Spotify and Dropbox.

But don’t confuse ‘customer service’ with CX

Everybody knows customer service, however, let’s define customer service within the context of CX. Customer service is the advice or assistance a person receives from a brand. CX is a more holistic understanding of the customer’s interactions with a brand, not just the service aspect.

But why CX?

So, what is the point of specialising in CX, as opposed to UX or UI?

We have created all sorts of these roles that ultimately work towards CX: marketing managers, researchers, strategists, product managers, developers and more. CX has the ability to tie all of these roles together. I specifically chose not to specialise within a stream of CX or a subset within the same framework as CX has a broader scope and offers so much more.

For small businesses, CX has a much more versatile and flexible approach that can respect budgets and current resourcing such as a lack of digital infrastructure or sophistication.

There is a lot already known about the positive impact CX can have on small- and medium-sized enterprises, including greater chances for value exchange, greater brand differentiation, higher perceived market value, increased revenue, improved customer retention and unlocking more value in the market.

CX is about future-proofing your business by ensuring your commercial model is always looped into your customer’s needs, perceptions, values, beliefs, motivators and detractors. It is the driving force behind successful and well-recognised businesses such as McDonalds, Red Bull and Nike. Brands that invest in CX are the brands that achieve long-term success and mass market adoption.

Although CX and UX (and other disciplines respectively) belong to the same framework, CX offers a much broader scope. CX is really about extracting value from a customer, whereas UX and UI exist within the conversion funnel and act as tactics or steps. This is where it becomes clear that UX, UI and customer service are all crucial components of CX and exist within the same framework.

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