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CX versus UX: The Difference Between Customer and User

CX/UX – Only one letter different? Well, more than one letter, but there are a lot of similarities between Customer Experience and User Experience work. Professionals with either focus work to learn about people by doing research!

The Similarities of Customer Experience and User Experience

Customer and User Experience goals and process are often similar. Both have:

  • A sense that business is not just about selling and buying, but about satisfying needs and providing value while making money.
  • A concern about the problems that happen when we make assumptions and respect for the power of good data.
  • Interest in the data collected from current or potential customers.
  • Respect for people who use products and services and who are customers and clients.
  • A belief that ordinary people can provide useful information about products and services.

The Differences of Customer Experience and User Experience

  • Customer Experience Research – While the differences seem to be mostly about methods, the data collected may provide different answers. Customer Experience Research prefers data from large numbers of people to predict probable behavior when many people are taking similar actions, asks for opinions about a feature, product, or brand and often collects answers to specific questions. People often report personal opinions and say what they believe to be true. CX research often learns things like:
    • I like this product.
    • I don’t need that feature.
    • I would buy the product if available.
    • I would give it a 3 out of 5 in terms of being difficult to use.
    • I would recommend this product to others.

    This is valuable information!

  • User Experience Research – UX research focuses on data collected from small numbers of people who are like real users of the product and services. Most of the research is done with individuals rather than groups of people. Asking questions may be part of the process. A key difference with user experience research is that people are observed in realistic settings where they are attempting to complete appropriate tasks. The focus is on behavior, not just opinions, like:
    • Several people had difficulty finding the login fields
    • All people observed were able to select the desired product.
    • Only one of the people was able to complete the checkout process without errors.
    • People often looked for features that were not included in the current design, such as a search function.

Why are these differences important?

At Gravitydrive we know that behavior is more likely to tell us what people will really do. Our experience when watching people try to use products is that they often believe they are successful, even when they have not completed a task or action correctly. Users say they find a product satisfying or easy to use, even when they have had difficulty while using it. And users often express confusion and frustration, but blame themselves for their problems using the product. Their behavior does not always match what they say soI tend to believe the behavior!

Customers purchase products and services. Users make decisions, love or hate your brand, get confused, use your product every day, buy things and become customers and clients.

Because we continue to learn from each other, I suspect that CX and UX methodologies and data collection methods will continue to merge/overlap. The goals are the same in many aspects – to create products and services that are useful, usable, and appealing
and to communicate their benefits to potential customers.

We continue to have much to learn!

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About Suzi Shapiro

Suzi Shapiro
Suzi Shapiro has spent a lifetime learning about how people work and how to use this information to make their lives better. Suzi has many years of experience as a university Psychology and Informatics professor and as a User Experience Researcher and has worked with people from a wide variety of businesses, from Technical to Financial to Medical to Educational. Suzi is currently a Principal User Experience Consultant with GravityDrive. Their User Experience Design practices can improve processes, services and products. She is also responsible for developing training for people wanting to improve user Experience Design processes in their companies.

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2 comments

  1. Interesting take Suzi. So it pretty much seems like UX is more of a “microscopic study” and CX is more of a “macroscopic study”. Would that make sense if I were to explain the same thing to say an economist or a biologist?

  2. Suzi Shapiro

    Your comment made me think! Thanks.

    Let me go with another metaphor (With an indulgence that this is sloppy and may not be accurate for all practitioners, CX OR UX.)

    Many people who say they are doing CX are like naturalists who observe animals in a zoo.
    They are only concerned with what they can learn that relates to “zoo behavior” ( the immediate use or purchase of their product).
    They often do a great job of documenting behavior in the controlled environment, but may limit themselves to the animal that can be reached through the bars (Like those pop-up surveys you might see when using a web site.) or count the occasional vocalizations (Complaints, Net Promoter Scores, etc.)
    They also prefer herds over individuals.

    I like to think that people doing UX not only go to the zoo, (We learn a lot there as well) but we like to get out in the jungle to observe in the “natural” environment.
    When doing contextual inquiry, we may follow one person for a day or more.
    There are lots of reasons we can’t always observe in the “wild”, so we give the animals puzzles to solve (a shopping web site) and then watch what they do when trying to solve meaningful problems (check out after selecting a product).

    I see UX as being:
    * A broader range of tools.
    * An emphasis on behavior and observation.
    * Qualitative more often than Quantitative.

    What do you think?

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