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The difference between UX & CX

by Adrenalin
13 Jul 2016
6 min read
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The difference between UX & CX

If you’re finding yourself in meetings where the terms UX and CX are thrown around the table like confetti at a wedding, let’s pause for a minute and get a handle on these two slippery acronyms. The truth is, while there is considerable overlap – they are not the same thing.  

We’ll have a go at defining both, but we agree there is no single commonly accepted definition of either. UX can incorporate disciplines as disparate as information architecture, interaction design, usability and human-computer interaction. (If you’re curious to read a range of opinions, here’s an overview of 15 experts answering the question: “What is UX design?”) 

What is UX? 

Nielson-Norman Group defines user experience design as: 

“The first requirement for an exemplary user experience is to meet the exact needs of the customer, without fuss or bother…In order to achieve high-quality user experience in a company’s offerings there must be a seamless merging of the services of multiple disciplines, including...interface design.”  

The important point here is to recognise the specificity of UX which focuses on individual customers’ needs. If you are the customer or user, it’s about your interaction with a specific product or service and how it improves your experience.  

Some examples: 

When it goes right 

  • when you booked your flights online, it was easy and quick to do what you wanted 
  • when you called to change flights, their phone menu was simple to navigate 
  • the e-tickets arrived promptly and you could move them to your Wallet or Passbook without hassle 

When it goes wrong 

  • you couldn’t navigate the airline app as easily as their website – or vice versa 
  • you requested SMS notification of flight delays, but only get an SMS 30 minutes before scheduled take-off, leaving you stranded at the airport for hours 
  • you tried to check-in online, but their site crashed, so now you have to join a long queue 

What is CX? 

Econsultancy defines Customer experience (CX) as:  

“...the experiences that your customers go through when interacting with your company and brand. This includes everything from discovery, to research, to purchasing, to customer support.” 

The distinction is that CX is generally a bigger picture, a wide-angle view that goes beyond the product or service specificity of UX. It’s the more complete experience of the customer with a company. Here are some examples from the experience of travelling with an airline: 

When it goes right 

  • you felt proud seeing those TVCs featuring choirs of children singing around Australia  
  • when overseas, you boarded a flight to come home and were greeted with a warm ‘G’day’  
  • the in-flight blankets were soft and the movies were current 

When it goes wrong 

  • no one told you the bag limit was 20kg or that you’d be charged extra 
  • there weren’t enough staff at check-in so the queue went forever 
  • your luggage got lost and the staff didn’t apologise 

What is the grey area they share? 

According to our UX analyst / architect, Samantha Thompson: “Not only do UX and CX sound similar, but they both look at a company or brand’s engagement with its customers. They overlap greatly. For example, a negative user experience with a product or service can adversely influence the users’ general perception of the whole company or brand resulting in a bad overall customer experience.” 

A UK based agency, WOW, undertook a survey that backs this up:  

Key stats about customers

  • 66%  –  “If I really like the brand or company, I’m disappointed if the mobile site is a bad experience.”
  • 55%  –  “A frustrating experience on a website hurts my opinion of the brand overall.” 
  • 52%  –  “A bad mobile experience makes me less likely to engage with a company.” 

Both acronyms are only just becoming more widely known and accepted in the industry and the lines between them are blurred because they both focus on the user. As Samantha says: “You can’t completely isolate a product or service from the company that offers it.” 

Nevertheless, really focusing on one product or service from a UX perspective can have many positive benefits for CX.  

For example, the transition from paper to ePassports and the use of SmartGates at airports have shown that improving design and usability – improving the UX – bring potential benefits to CX such as faster progress through customs and the ability to start your holiday a bit sooner, or get home to your family after a business trip.   

UX/CX stats you shouldn’t ignore

If you’re in any doubt about the efficacy of paying close attention to UX and CX, the following stats from various studies might convince you:

  • 90% of users stopped using an app due to poor performance 1
  • By 2020, CX will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator 2
  • 83% of users say a seamless UX across all devices is important 3
  • 80% of local searches on mobiles convert 4 
  • Mobile users are five times more likely to abandon the task if the site isn’t optimised 5 
  • 84% of companies expect to increase their focus on CX measurements and metrics 6

What we do – and don’t do 

It’s important to be clear in this space as UX and CX continue to evolve. 

Adrenalin lives and breathes UX, and as Samantha says: “The end user and their experience (UX) is at the heart of all strategies we create at Adrenalin. We carry out extensive user testing and research prior to creating a solution for a client.” 

That doesn’t mean CX is ignored.  

“We want to know all about the company and users’ perceptions of said company and how they were triggered to use the product or service, because all these CX aspects affect how a user will interact with and feel about a product – which in turn influences the user experience,” Samantha says. 

We think it’s about clarifying and communicating with clients so expectations are appropriate, we’re in this together. For companies hiring agencies such as ours, it is important that the lines between UX and CX are defined from the outset on any given project. For example, on a particular project we might only be looking at the UX of a specific product or service like the company’s website rather than carrying out a complete Customer Experience overhaul. 

The outcome is that if we do our job well on UX, the CX improves too. 

Curious to know how we put UX into practice?  

Find out about our UX work for our clients and discover the range of services we offer. If you would like to join our UX team, please see our latest vacancies on the careers page.

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