UX vs. CX: What's the Difference?

UX and CX are both crucial factors in design. In this article, we examine the differences and similarities between the two.

ux vs. cx

It’s been a long week, and you haven’t had time to make it to the supermarket. You grab your phone and swiftly place an order through a grocery delivery app. Navigation is a breeze—you’re able to find the items you want quickly, compare prices at a glance, and select a delivery time before you check out.  No muss, no fuss—you’ve had a seamless user experience. 

Unfortunately, when the groceries arrive at your doorstep, the fruits and vegetables you ordered are woefully past peak. You reach out via email to request a refund for the unusable produce, but you don’t hear back for several days. Meanwhile, the company barrages your inbox with promotional messages, which only increases your frustration. 

While your user experience with the app itself was positive, the sum of your interactions with the brand—your customer experience—was negative. Next time, you’ll skip the app and just go shopping yourself—or maybe try out a different service. 

UX design is key to the success of a product. It combines with aspects of sales, marketing, customer service, and more to build a brand’s CX—or customer experience. In today’s uncertain economic landscape, CX has taken on new significance—a 2020 report noted that CX is poised to eclipse price and product as the top brand differentiator among consumers. 

Let’s take a look at the differences between UX and CX and examine how they affect brand survival. 

What is UX?

UX designers strive to build positive user experiences with mobile apps, websites, and other digital products. Clarity and efficiency are cornerstones of UX design—users should be able to achieve a goal or complete a task intuitively, with minimal effort. Great UX design is user-centric, powered by a thorough understanding of how users navigate a product to accomplish their desired ends. 

UX design is an exercise in empathy. To create a product that meets users' needs, designers must understand who their users are and how they behave. An excellent UX designer will study users’ motivations, goals, and pain points, and use information gleaned from extensive research and feedback to guide the design process and improve usability.

What is CX? 

CX professionals focus on the big picture and work to optimize how customers experience a brand as a whole. CX is concerned with how customers relate to a company, and strives to build emotional connections with customers in order to increase customer loyalty, boost sales, and create brand advocates.

A customer’s relationship witg a company is shaped by interactions across a plethora of touchpoints. User experience with a product is just the tip of the iceberg—ads, packaging, social media content, customer service assistance, and in-person exchanges at brick-and-mortar retail locations all influence the way a customer feels about a brand. 

Great CX creates a valuable and enjoyable overall experience with a brand, ensuring that a company delivers on its promises across all points of contact in a customer’s journey. Like UX designers, CX professionals must gather and interpret data to understand customer behavior and modify touchpoint experiences accordingly. 

What do UX designers do?

UX design is an iterative process that begins with quantitative and qualitative user research. UX designers use interviews, surveys, focus groups, and competitive analysis to gather information about users and create user personas. This allows UX designers to better understand who their users are and what they need.  

These insights guide the initial phases of design in which simple, low-fidelity blueprints called wireframes are created to represent a user’s interactive journey with a product. Next, designers create prototypes that users can test. Designers may ask users for explicit feedback or simply allow them to try the product while measuring their natural responses. 

This cycle of testing and modification continues through product launch. Performance analytics and further testing will inform how user experience can be improved down the line.

What do CX professionals do?

Like UX designers, CX professionals use data to build customer personas and understand their experience. CX uses customer journey mapping to illustrate a customer’s interactions with a brand and understand how a customer’s views of a company might have changed over time. 

CX relies on key metrics like conversion rates and other KPIs to measure customer engagement and satisfaction. Careful analysis of customer feedback can reveal reasons for customer churn, and point to touchpoints that may have soured a customer’s relationship with a brand. Customer experience professionals are particularly concerned with CX metrics like: 

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS): the percentage of customers who would recommend a company to others
  • Customer Effort Score (CES): an indicator of the effort a customer must exert to complete a task
  • First Response Time (FRT): the average wait time for a response from customer support

CX consultants use knowledge of advertising, marketing, customer service, the sales process, and more to analyze this data and identify patterns that reveal important information about brand reputability and the quality of a customer’s entire experience. 

What is the difference between UX and CX?

Users and customers often overlap, but a product’s end-user might differ from the purchaser in question. A parent buying an Apple watch for their child, for example, would be an Apple customer—even if their child is the end-user of the purchased product. The child’s user experience with the Apple watch would contribute to but not solely define the parent’s overarching opinion of Apple as a brand. 

While UX focuses on product usability, CX studies the sum of a customer’s interactions with a brand, which includes but is not limited to their user experience with a product. In this way, UX operates as a subset of CX, impacting customer satisfaction and helping to shore up a loyal and emotionally invested customer base.

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