Customer Experience vs. User Experience: What’s the Difference? [+ Examples]

Alana Chinn
Alana Chinn


Customer experience vs. user experience — what came first? No, this isn’t quite like the famous chicken and egg debate that you may have participated in as a kid (I’m Team Egg, by the way).

For the sake of comparison, user experience is what I’d call the “egg” in our story. The concept of user experience — referred to as UX — has been around for a while. But, the term UX was officially introduced in the 1990s by Don Norman, founding member at Nielsen Norman Group. Norman coined “UX” during his time at Apple to describe the product experience as a whole.

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First comes UX, then comes customer experience — or CX. The concept of CX expands on the idea of UX and looks beyond the product experience alone. CX includes people (like you) as key influencers along the buyer’s journey.

Despite how these terms came to life (see what I did there?) — CX and UX are often used interchangeably in business today. So, what’s the difference between CX and UX? How do you tell them apart? And, why does any of this matter to you as a customer service professional?

Great questions. Let’s dive in.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience is a combination of the perceptions, feelings, and beliefs that your brand has created for customers throughout the entire buyer’s journey. Think about CX as the overall impression you’ve left on your customers.

Take this example: Your customer is experiencing technical difficulties with your product or service. They submitted a ticket through your help desk portal and spoke with someone on your team to resolve the issue. Here are some CX questions your customer may consider:

  • Did this process feel seamless from beginning to end?
  • Was the customer service representative friendly and responsive?
  • Would I use this company again or recommend it to a friend?

CX is all about how your customers view your brand based on the quality of your products and the people they interact with along the way. And, our recent State of Customer Service Report highlights that 93% of service teams agree that customers today have higher expectations than ever before.

Remember, it’s the little things that make people shout about your company from the rooftops — both the positive and the negative.

What is user experience?

User experience focuses on all of the end user’s interactions with your product or service. Good UX keeps customers happy before, during, and after the product experience.

Using the same example from above, your customer may have asked themselves the following UX questions while using your help desk portal:

  • Is this website visually appealing?
  • Is the information accessible and easy to navigate?
  • Can I use this website on either my desktop or phone?

Check out the video below to watch Norman explain the term UX in more detail.

Elements of UX, like intuitive design and minimal product friction, ultimately fit into the greater CX picture. That means creating the best holistic experience possible for your customer —from sales support to, you guessed it, customer service.

While CX and UX are complementary by nature, they don’t always solve for the same things. That’s why it’s still important to understand the differences between the two.

Let’s tackle that next.

Goals and Objectives

Both CX and UX professionals work toward making (and keeping) customers happy through every business interaction. But, CX and UX strategists have their own unique set of goals and objectives to get there.

Common CX goals and objectives may include:

  • Creating a brand experience that attracts, engages, and delights customers
  • Promoting customer satisfaction at every stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Generating a steady feedback loop where customers can voice their needs

Common UX goals and objectives may include:

  • Designing a seamless product experience with minimal friction
  • Developing products that are interactive, fun, and easy to use
  • Ensuring products solve the most important problems customers face

In sum, CX professionals work to cultivate positive experiences with your brand. UX professionals focus on improving product interactions to help create those positive experiences.

Metrics and Measurement

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to measuring the customer experience. But, CX boils down to how satisfied your customers are and how likely they are to recommend you to a friend.

Here are some metrics you can use to measure CX:

A big part of measuring UX requires you to look at the usability of your products. User testing is a great way to find answers to common usability problems.

Here are some metrics you can use to measure UX:

  • Website or page load speed — the amount of time it takes for your website to display content
  • Time on task — how long it takes your customers to accomplish a goal (e.g., find the help desk portal on your website)
  • Adoption rate — the ratio between new users and all users for a product or service

Why the Difference Matters

So, why does the difference between CX and UX matter anyway? Well, for one, distinguishing between internal roles and responsibilities is a must. Your UX team needs to focus on enhancing product usability.

While usability is important on the CX side, a positive brand experience is the true measure of CX success. That said, it’s important for your business to have separate but integrated strategies for each.

customer experience vs user experience

The result: happy customers.

Now, let’s talk more about CX and UX across the customer journey.

How CX and UX Work Together

User experience is a subset of customer experience. Without good UX, you likely won’t be able to develop a positive customer experience.

UX is all about products. CX is all about people and products.

Both concepts work together to create a customer journey with no friction. If you’re unsure about what that journey might look like, try mapping it out. Customer journey maps are a great way to visualize a person’s experience with your company — from start to finish.

And, get this — journey maps can also help you assess the quality of UX and CX at each touchpoint. For example:

  • Are there any pain points? Maybe your app is taking forever to load and people are getting stuck before reaching a goal. That’s UX.
  • How are your customers feeling? Maybe they feel supported any time they have an issue and can’t wait to tell their friends about your brand. That’s CX.

The culmination of UX and CX interactions across the customer journey help define how customers feel about you and your products.

CX and UX Examples

CX in Practice

Here are some tasks that a CX team may complete:

  • Conduct a customer satisfaction survey to gain insights into people’s experiences with your brand
  • Review customer service tickets to identify and address recurring customer issues
  • Check brand sentiment on social media to understand how customers feel about the brand
  • Analyze churn rates and develop strategies to better retain customers

UX in Practice

Here are some tasks that a UX team may complete:

  • Brainstorm ways to make an app more interactive and fun to work with
  • Run a usability test for a website to identify obstacles that users are facing when trying to use a product or service
  • Refresh the visual look and feel of a product or service landing page
  • Update the information architecture within a user interface so it’s more intuitive for people to navigate

So, in the end, I guess it doesn’t really matter whether CX or UX came first (still Team Egg, here).

Bottom line: The best thing you can do as a business is create the optimal experience for your customers.

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