Three designers in front of a whiteboard, discussing customer experience vs. user experience

UX vs. CX: What’s the Difference?

Camren Browne

There’s much debate about what the difference between customer experience (CX) and user experience (UX) is, or if there even is a difference at all. The term “UX” has been around for a bit longer than CX—it was brought about by Don Norman in the 90s. Customer experience, on the other hand, is a newer concept which has only started to gain recognition in the past twelve years or so. Both UX and CX are crucial for brand success—so what’s the difference between the two, and how do they complement each other?

In this post, we’ve laid out all the key similarities and differences between UX and CX. We’ve organized our comparative guide as follows:

  1. What is user experience (UX)?
  2. What is customer experience (CX)?
  3. What are the key differences between UX and CX?
  4. How do CX and UX work together?
  5. Key takeaways

Ready to learn all about UX versus CX? Let’s get started.

1. What is user experience (UX)?

User experience focuses on the people that are directly interacting with a singular product or service. The product is most often a mobile app, website, or some sort of software. However, some organizations may hire UX designers to help develop non-digital products as well. But whether it’s an interface or the latest model toaster oven, UX focuses solely on the usability of a product. UX designers are often analyzing how enjoyable it is to use a specific service or how intuitively someone can learn to use a product. Topics like information architecture, visual hierarchy, navigation, and learnability are at the forefront of the UX design process. You’ll find an in-depth explanation of what UX design is in this complete guide.

2. What is customer experience (CX)?

Customer experience, or CX, casts a much wider net and encompasses all of the interactions the customer has with all aspects of a company—including a specific product within a brand or a specific service they provide. In this way, CX sort of envelopes user experience. Various companies hire CX designers to analyze and assess how customers feel about their brand as a whole and to improve how customers interact with them. CX takes into account the customer’s perception of an organization’s advertising strategy, brand reputability, customer service, pricing, delivery methods, product usability, and the general sales process. You’ll find more information in this introductory guide to customer experience (CX).

3. What are the key differences between UX and CX?

Although UX is very much a part of CX, there are still some key differences to consider—especially if you’re weighing up which field to build a career in or ways to improve your already well-seasoned design skills. We’ve broken down the main differences in terms of focus and daily responsibilities, key metrics, and typical client base and target audiences.

CX vs UX: Focus and daily responsibilities

User experience designers focus mainly on a user’s interaction with a single product, while customer experience designers are focusing on the consumer’s experience with the organization as a whole. Keep in mind that the “user” UX designers are studying is not always the consumer or purchaser. For instance, let’s consider a CEO purchasing a certain software for his employees to interact with and use daily. A CX designer would take into account the CEO’s experience researching and purchasing the software, while a UX designer would focus more on the employees interacting with the software itself.

Both types of designers conduct lots of in-depth research, but UXers tend to get well-acquainted with smaller amounts of people or individual personas, whereas CX designers are surveying larger groups. A CX designer’s main goal is to boost overall brand perception and increase customer loyalty; they are usually coming up with better ways to market, better ways to communicate with customers, and better ways to design enjoyable customer experiences overall. UX designers, on the other hand, spend most of their time designing digital or non-digital products, observing users when they interact with that product, and designing ways to improve it based on user feedback.

CX vs. UX: Metrics

The key metrics CX designers use to measure their success are quite a bit different than what UX designers use in their work. Customer experience professionals often look at how customers rate their overall experience with a company and analyze how many customers a company has gained or lost over a certain period of time. CXers use metrics like churn rate, retention rate, customer lifetime value (CLV), customer effort score (CES), and net promoter score (NPS). These tests are mostly measuring customer satisfaction as well as customer loyalty. UX designers, on the other hand, use metrics that look at the usability of a product and how users rate their experience interacting with it. They are often looking at app store ratings, reviewing usability testing results, and recording how consumers describe their experience using a product or service.

CX vs. UX: Client base and target audience

Because the term “customer experience design” is relatively new and more well-known in service-related industries, CX designers are often working for retail companies and hospitality organizations. UXers tend to work for clients that need a digital product, like a website or app, created or redesigned. A CXer’s target audience is often the people with purchasing power while UX designers pay the most attention to whoever will be using the service or product.

4. How do CX and UX work together?

Now that we’ve laid out their differences, let’s see how UX and CX work together. As stated above, user experience is a crucial part of the customer experience, so the two disciplines can go hand-in-hand in many ways. Ultimately, both CX and UX are focused on the consumer’s level of satisfaction when interacting with a company. If a user is not happy with a product, they’re not likely to have a great perception of that company as a whole. And conversely, if a consumer is not happy with a company’s marketing or purchasing process, there’s a good chance they won’t even get the chance or want to interact with a service or product offered by that brand.

Understanding this key relationship between CX and UX can have a rather large benefit in terms of a company’s overall success in growing their bottom line. It’s no longer enough for an organization to have a solid, easy-to-use product. According to research conducted by Forrester, a prominent business consulting and analytics firm, customers will pay more if they have a good lifetime relationship with a company along with an impressive product. This means paying attention to customer feedback as well as how they rate their experience purchasing it, contacting support, or evening terminating its use. To counter this point, it’s also not enough to have just a visually appealing or well-advertised brand if users can’t figure out how to use what they’re offering.

These fields are so intertwined that many organizations are looking to hire people that can take both areas of design into concern. A CX designer that can take into account a consumer’s complaints about their experience using an individual product is more likely to increase overall customer satisfaction than one that can’t. A UX designer with knowledge of purchasing habits and the customer service needs of their users can often design a superior interface or product. Knowledge of both in each field can be extremely beneficial for either design profession.

5. UX vs. CX: Key takeaways

With an increasingly competitive digital and non-digital market, many brands are struggling with how to set themselves apart from their competitors and appeal to a wide variety of potential customers. The recent boom in both the UX and CX career fields shows the growing need for organizations to invest time in studying their users and their consumers. And while there may be differences between the user’s and customer’s experience, designers that can empathize with both are more likely to create better products, design better marketing schemes, and produce improved client satisfaction.

What are some other ways for brands and designers to stand out? Check out the following:

What You Should Do Now

  1. Get a hands-on introduction to UX with a free, 6-day short course.
  2. Become a qualified UX designer in 5-10 months—complete with a job guarantee.
  3. Talk to a program advisor to discuss career change and find out if UX is right for you.
  4. Learn about our graduates, see their portfolio projects, and find out where they’re at now.

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Camren Browne

Camren Browne

UX Designer & CareerFoundry Tutor

I’m a designer, writer, and father. I quit my job of 6 years to become a digital nomad after the birth of my daughter. She has been to 6 countries before the age of 6 months. My passion resides in helping people achieve their greatest state of being as well as my own.