CX vs. UX

A detailed explanation of the difference between customer experience and user experience.


Sara Staffaroni

April 23, 2021

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It happens too often—the terms “customer experience” and “user experience” are used like they’re identical and interchangeable. This leads to a lot of confusion! In truth, customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) are two distinct concepts with only a little overlap, though they do work together to improve your business. 

CX is a big umbrella that covers all the impressions, interactions, and experiences a customer has with your company over a long period of time—it’s cumulative and expansive. UX, on the other hand, refers specifically to user interactions with a product. To make matters even more muddled, UX is actually part of CX. And both are absolutely critical to helping your business grow and improve. 

Let’s explore both concepts further to eliminate the confusion for good.

What is CX?

Customer experience is the way customers think of their relationship with your brand, your company, and your products and services. CX begins with the first impression a potential customer receives about your company and continues on through every phase of the customer journey. It’s a long-term, far-reaching phenomenon that is the sum of many parts. 

Customer experience includes how customers perceive everything about your business. That means your brand image, every facet of your products and services, their interactions with your customer service team and other departments, and every experience they have with your brand, however small. Those experiences can be as tiny as a promotional email, or as large as your billing and payments process. It all adds up to the overall customer experience.

How to measure customer experience 

Knowing the definition of customer experience is just the beginning. You also need to have a customer experience strategy in place, which begins by measuring your current customer experience. This will help you accurately assess how well your business is serving your customers and meeting or exceeding their expectations right now, and identify opportunities for improvement. 

Since the customer experience spans so many touchpoints, it can seem challenging to get an accurate measure of how things are going. But there’s good news—with a comprehensive Voice of the Customer (VoC) program, you can measure multiple essential elements of the customer experience with accuracy. 

Voice of the Customer 

A VoC program gathers, analyzes, and reports on all the feedback you receive from your customers—their expectations, what they like and don’t like, and how they feel about your company. Building a VoC program is essential because it tells you how your customer experience is currently performing and identifies places where you can make improvements. Without one, you’re just making guesses about how your customers feel and what they want from your company. 

A successful VoC program typically includes these three most popular customer experience metrics, though you may opt out of using one if it’s not a good fit for your strategy.

Net Promoter Score®

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) system is based on one question: “How likely are you to recommend us to your friends and colleagues?”

Customers rate their likelihood to recommend on a scale from 0-10, and are sorted into Promoters (10 or 9), Passives (8 or 7), and Detractors (6 to 0).

NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters. This percentage is your NPS. 

NPS is an excellent measure of customer loyalty, which is an important part of the overall customer experience. 

Customer Effort Score 

Customer Effort Score (CES) measures how easy it is for customers to do business with you. After all, customers won’t have a great experience if they struggle to make purchases or get help with an issue.

You measure CES by sending a one-question survey asking customers “On a scale from 1-7, with 1 being strongly disagree, and 7 being strongly agree, do you believe the company made it easy for me to handle my issue?”

Calculate your CES with this formula: (Total sum of responses)/(Number of responses) = CES score. 

You can use CES to measure how certain touchpoints of the customer journey are performing and discover possible pain points. 

Customer Satisfaction Score 

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) surveys measure how satisfied your customers are with your products and services, a specific interaction, or your company as a whole. You send a survey asking the question: “How would you rate your overall satisfaction with the product/service you received?”

Customers rate their satisfaction on a scale from 1-5, where 1 represents very unsatisfied and 5 represents very satisfied.

You measure your score with this formula: (Number of satisfied customers (4 and 5) / Number of survey responses) x 100 = % of satisfied customers.

CSAT is used to measure the customer satisfaction of a specific interaction or event. It’s a short-term satisfaction metric for customer experience.

How to improve customer experience 

Once you’ve measured your customer experience to see where you currently stand, you may find you’re falling a bit (or a lot) short of the expectations of your customers. Even if you’re doing pretty well, there’s almost always room for improving your customer experience. Here are a few of the best ways to do so. 

Identify customer insights. Capturing customer data across the entire customer journey is vital to improving your customer experience. After all, you can’t know exactly what to fix if you don’t have the data on what’s going wrong. This is where your VoC program comes in. Once you’ve collected this data, you also need to make sure it’s shared with your whole organization so everyone is on the same page and can work together to make improvements. 

Engage employees. Happy employees make for happy customers. If your employees find their daily work to be a chore or too difficult, that lack of engagement will make for lackluster customer service. 

Finding ways to increase employee engagement, like connecting their daily work to a larger inspiring vision and giving them increased autonomy, will pay off in a better customer experience. They should also be actively encouraged to create excellent customer experiences themselves. 

Create a customer-centric culture. If you’re wondering why your customer experience is falling flat, look within your company culture. The companies that provide an exceptional customer experience are laser-focused on the needs and desires of the customer all the time. That means centering the customer experience in things as small as updates to your billing process, and things as large as designing new products. 

Your brand values need to align with the customer experience and connect with customer needs. And all your programs and processes should be designed primarily with the customer in mind. 

Provide purposeful leadership. Your company’s leaders set the tone and the strategy for everything your business does—so how are they leading everyone to create excellent customer experiences? Leaders need to be aligned on the importance of the customer experience, and also agree on the strategy to build a better CX. 

This means they need to decide on a clear set of values that they consistently operate upon and communicate them effectively to all employees. And they should hold themselves and their teams accountable for outcomes that affect the customer experience. 

Customer Experience Management 

Customer Experience Management (CXM) is the process of designing and optimizing your interactions with customers to meet or exceed their expectations. The goal of CXM is to increase customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, and create strong brand advocates in a cost-effective way. How this is done varies by company, but it’s an important element of creating a delightful customer experience. 

CXM has two main components. The first is gathering real-time feedback across the whole customer journey to keep a pulse on any current pain points or issues that may arise. The second is data analytics that helps you close any gaps between what customers expect from your company and the experience you’re currently delivering. 

A successful CXM program will help your company deliver an ever-improving customer experience every time, creating loyal and satisfied customers and growing your business.

What is UX?

User experience (UX) is focused on specific user interactions with a product. UX is all about how the end-users of your product find the experience of working with it. UX professionals research how their product, application, or website performs with the people who use it regularly. 

User experience is not the same as customer experience, but it is part of your overall CX. It’s distinct from CX in several ways. UX is focused only on the product experience, while products are just one part of CX. User experience is also totally focused on the needs of the end-user, while CX tries to strike more of a balance between considering the needs of the business and those of the customer as well. 

And UX also focuses exclusively on the end-user of the product, who may or may not be the customer. For example, with a software product, a company executive might be the customer who makes the purchase, but front-line employees are the ones who are actually using the product every day. In this case, UX would focus on the experience of those employees using the software. 

User experience is certainly a key part of the overall customer experience. It’s not possible to provide a great customer experience if your website is difficult to navigate, or your mobile app is full of bugs and issues. But UX is just one component of the complex system that is CX.

How to measure UX 

Since UX is more narrowly focused than CX, measuring it is a bit simpler. But it’s just as important to do so you know what’s going well with your product and what’s falling short of expectations. 

There are two main types of UX measurements: quantitative and qualitative. And both have a vital role in measuring where your UX stands and where it needs to go. 

Quantitative measurements are data points that can be distilled into a number or metric. These measurements include multiple-choice responses from customer feedback surveys, user interactions like clicks, A/B testing, user session data, and other analytics. 

Qualitative measurements, like responses to open-ended survey questions or feedback gathered in focus groups, are harder to measure exactly but are no less important. These measurements are more like conversations or observations and allow you to explore why users feel a certain way about your product. 

Combining both kinds of measurements offers you a powerful way to gauge how users feel about your product and why they feel that way. This is the first step to really excelling in the elements of user experience. 

UX research 

UX research is a critical part of user-centered design. It’s the work that you do to understand your users—their pain points, their needs and preferences, the job they are using the product to do, their behaviors, and more. UX research is conducted through a variety of evaluation methods, but these three are the most common. 

Behavioral analytics

Analyzing the behavior of your users is an effective way to gain insight into how they’re really using your product. These analytics provide an objective look at what’s happening in the moment. Behavioral analytics can include: 

  • Pageviews, or the number of times a user visits a certain page 

  • Time on Task, or how long it takes users to complete a certain task

  • User errors, or how often a user makes an error or mistake 

  • Earnings, or how much money is being made by a page or product 

  • Latency, or the lag or hang time on a page or in a product 

  • Abandonment rate, or how often users leave your site without completing a task

These metrics offer a look at specific parts of the user experience that might be pain points or indicate a larger issue. For example, if a certain website page has a high abandonment rate, you can do further research into why users are leaving that page without making a purchase. 

Customer support data

Looking into your customer support logs to find patterns is a cost-effective and efficient way to root out issues with your product. You can look to see if there’s a certain product that is responsible for the bulk of customer support calls, or if a bug pops up again and again as an issue for multiple customers. 

Survey data

Conducting surveys of your users is a popular and effective way to gather user experience data. You can use a variety of survey methods, from a simple one-question slideout survey on your website to a detailed user survey full of open-ended questions sent via email. 

Collecting data from your survey responses will give you insight into many aspects of the user experience without having to gather participants in a room, and they can participate on their own time. There are many survey tools that make creating user experience surveys simple and effective, such as GetFeedback. You also need to analyze and track your survey data once you receive it as well, or all that valuable feedback will go to waste. 

How to improve user experience 

Now that you know where your user experience stands, how can you improve it to stand out from the crowd? Working to improve your UX ensures your customers and users have a positive experience every time they visit your website, use your product, or log onto your app. And that has a big impact on your overall customer experience as well.

UX design 

UX design is all about creating products that provide relevant, meaningful experiences to your end-users. UX design isn’t just about the product itself, however—it also includes branding, usability, function, and design. Great user experiences don’t happen by accident, so if you’re looking to improve your UX, you may want to create a UX design process of your own. It can help make your products more usable, but also more efficient and even fun to use. 

User-centered design 

User-centered design (UCD) is a process for creating products where the designers and other stakeholders focus on the end-users and their needs in every phase of the design process. In other words, concern for the UX is there from the very beginning. You can implement your own UCD during your next design phase to more closely match the needs and solutions of your users. 

Key takeaways

Creating experiences that delight your customers is how you build a strong business—and both customer experience and user experience play a key role in doing that. Working to improve both CX and UX allows your business to better serve your customers so they remain satisfied and loyal for years to come. 

User experience is about creating great products that solve problems and work well for your customers, while customer experience is about excelling at every touchpoint in the customer journey.

If you’re looking for a way to implement your own customer experience solution so you can reap the benefits of highly satisfied customers, check out the complete CX solution from GetFeedback. And brush up on your UX knowledge as well with our library of free UX resources

Learn how GetFeedback can help you exceed customers’ expectations—start your free trial today.

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*Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.