UX vs CX – What’s the difference?

Sketchnote explaining the differences between CX and UX

User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX) are terms used interchangeably to describe the experience a person has with a product, service or brand.

The interchangeable nature often leads to confusion about what they mean and how they differ.

So what is the difference between CX and UX?

A popular explanation portrays Customers as the people who pay for a product and the Users as the people who benefit from it. 

A good example is the productivity platform Jira that is used by agile teams to manage their software development processes. The team members are the Users, while the Customer is a senior manager who signs off the software tool budget for the organisation.

While this explanation is useful, it shouldn’t be regarded as a hard and fast rule for every scenario, especially as it ignores the fact we interact with brands in lots of different ways to fulfil our needs.

My preference is the Nielsen Norman explanation which describes three levels of experience:

  • Interaction level
  • Journey level
  • Relationship level

The Interaction level describes the experience of a single interaction such as a website or application that a person will engage with to complete a task.

Up next is the Journey level, which describes a series of interactions taken by a person over a period of time to achieve a goal. The interactions may take place through different devices and touchpoints; such as mobile apps, websites, chatbots, phone calls, face-to-face, and more. All of this adds a layer of complexity to the design process. 

Finally the Relationship level describes a person’s experience of an organisation over a prolonged period of time, from initial awareness through to the end of the customer lifespan. In that time, they will have experienced a system of journeys and touchpoints.

When people talk about Customer Experience, it is the Relationship level they are generally referring to. While the Journey and Interaction levels fall under the banner of User Experience.

Focus on the human needs

Whether you prefer the term CX or UX, the important thing is that both bring the focus back towards human-centred design, helping teams to think with an external mindset about the world outside their organisation, rather than an internally-focused mindset.

Use a common language

Organisations also increase their chances of success by agreeing their common language and definitions for terms like CX and UX. This ensures everyone is on the same page and reduces the confusion and misunderstandings that inhibit growth.

Thanks for reading 🙂

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