Three customer experience designers looking at post-it notes on a whiteboard

What Exactly Is Customer Experience (CX)?

Camren Browne

You’ve heard of UX—but what about CX? What exactly is it, and why is it so important?

The world of consumerism is changing. When trying to stand out from competitors, most companies have looked to their prices or the quality of their product for aspects that can be improved. However, the digital age has created a fast-paced and highly saturated market that has empowered customers to demand more than just an economical, high-quality product. In order to win their loyalty, consumers need to have an enjoyable experience with a brand or organization as a whole—not just with their product. This is where customer experience (CX), and customer experience design, comes into play.

According to the Adobe Annual Digital Trends report, B2B companies consider customer experience (CX) as the most exciting opportunity for 2020. Not only that: another study found that, by the end of 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. So, for anyone working in the product or brand space, understanding CX is essential.

In this guide, we’ll explain exactly what customer experience (CX) is and all that it has to offer. Here’s what you’ll learn:

  1. What is customer experience (CX)?
  2. What does a CX designer do?
  3. Who can benefit from CX design?
  4. Key takeaways

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

1. What is CX?

Customer experience, or CX, encompasses every single interaction a user has with a particular brand. The relationship between a customer and an organization is based on various types of interactions throughout many different points of contact. A customer’s experience doesn’t always start with the first use of a company’s product. There are often many touchpoints between the customer and the brand both before, after, and even during the consumer’s use of the product. A “good” customer experience usually means seamless and enjoyable exchanges from beginning to end.

Let’s use purchasing an iPhone as an example. As an Apple customer, the quality of your customer experience is not just determined by how pleasant it is to use an iPhone, but also what it was like to purchase it, how easy it is to contact support and access repairs, and even how captivating, entertaining, or effective their marketing campaign was. This is one area in which CX differs from UX; you can learn more about the differences between UX and CX in this guide.

CX design is the practice of creating smooth and efficient interchanges between a company and its customers. Customer experience can be broken down into three different parts: the single-interaction, the customer journey, and the lifetime relationship. Let’s take a look at those now.

Single-interaction

The single-interaction experience is referring to the user’s experience when completing a single, select task. This level of CX describes the user’s short-term interaction with a specific product or service within a company. This aspect of CX is what most people would associate with UX or UI design. Some examples of single-interaction experiences are ordering groceries using a store’s online app, cashing a check at an ATM, or signing up for a newsletter online. While single-interaction tasks may be dealing with the main service or product a company provides, these touchpoints are usually isolated events that make up a small part of the overall customer experience.

Customer journey

Customer journeys have a slightly broader scope than single-interaction experiences as they deal with the series of exchanges that take place to accomplish a goal over time. A customer journey often utilizes multiple modes of interaction across varying devices. Let’s use ordering a new credit card as an example. Your journey may go something like this: You log on to your bank’s mobile app for assistance in requesting a new card. Next, you are connected with a customer service representative via telephone in order to complete the request. A few days later you receive the card in an envelope and need to use the ATM to activate it. Although you’ve only accomplished one goal, you have interacted with the company across multiple modalities. That is the essence of the customer journey.

Lifetime relationship

This aspect of CX has the broadest scope and takes into account every single interaction and touchpoint between the company and the consumer throughout their relationship. Unlike the customer journey and the single-interaction, the lifetime relationship doesn’t focus on one specific goal. Instead, it focuses on all of the exchanges that take place between the customer and the organization. The quality of all of these exchanges determines what that person’s perception and opinion of the brand are in total. The lifetime relationship between both parties can include any advertising the consumer may have seen, their experience researching, buying, and using the brand’s products, what it was like to contact support services or obtain repairs, receiving messages or notifications from the company, or even what it was like to terminate a subscription or service.

2. What does a CX designer do?

Now we know what CX is, let’s consider who is responsible for these customer experiences: The CX designer.

The work of a customer experience designer is mainly focused on enhancing a customer’s experience throughout all types of interaction with an organization. They solve a range of problems and must be able to analyze and understand the consumer’s behavior and decision-making tactics. In a sense, CX designers are the consumer’s biggest advocate. They work to identify customer grievances and organize teams and projects to alleviate them.

Unlike UX/UI design, CX designers address any and all issues that the customer may have when interacting with a company, not just problems that arise when using a single product or service. Due to the wide range of problem-solving skills required, CX designers often have backgrounds in marketing, advertising, management, psychology, tech, sales, and communications. CX designers measure their success by using key metrics like customer engagement and conversion rates. Data collection, user testing, research, and presentation capability are also highly utilized skills in this field. On a day-to-day basis, you may find CX designers creating storyboards, workflows, journey and empathy maps, personas, and thinking up different customer scenarios.

Some other popular job titles within the CX field are that of customer experience manager and CX consultant. You may even come across roles such as CX researcher, CX writer, and CX strategist. For a deeper understanding of what a role in CX might entail, check out CX job descriptions on sites like Indeed and LinkedIn.

3. Who can benefit from CX design?

Creating satisfying customer experiences is something all brands can and should focus on to help set them apart from other organizations in their field. Consumers often make purchasing decisions based on how a company makes them feel. A brand that makes a customer feel valued and takes the time to invest in their overall experience is more likely to have higher conversion rates, better word-of-mouth marketing, and a greater number of returning customers.

Whether a B2B (brand-to-brand) or B2C (brand-to-consumer) company, designing ways to put the needs of the customer first is a great way to gain loyal patrons, increase a company’s bottom line, and set a foundation for future growth. Because CX design takes every touchpoint between consumer and company into account, brands across all fields, not just the tech industry, can benefit from having a CX designer on their team. From retail companies to non-profit organizations, CX design can have a huge impact on the overall success of a brand and its public appearance.

4. Key takeaways

The age of information has given most purchasers the ability to interact with hundreds, if not thousands, of brands. Smartphones and mobile devices have made it easy for consumers to spend more time researching and interacting with various competing organizations and products. The quality of a person’s experience as a customer with a specific company is what directs their actions moving forward. People want more than just a good product. They want effective help and support, engaging marketing and advertisements, and quality customer service. Furthermore, they want to feel like their voices are being listened to with concern. Customer experience (CX) design is the practice of paying close attention to customer feedback and designing an experience that is in line with what the consumer expects and enjoys. Customer experience designers help ensure every interaction a consumer has with a company is productive, pleasant, and keeps them coming back for more.

You can learn more about creating awesome customer and user experiences in the following guides:

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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.