4 mins read

The difference between customer experience and user experience

Marketing Lead

Marketing Lead

Two common phrases you’ve likely heard: customer experience and user experience.

They sound the same, they look the same, and, to be honest, you might not even know the difference (or the significance) between the two. This needs to change, and soon. Customer experience and user experience matter more than perhaps anything else in your customer's journey, and there's a significant need for you and your marketing team to know the distinction between them.

But where do you begin: Customer experience or user experience? Does one matter more than the other? And why exactly do you need to know the difference, can't you pick just one of the two to focus on? Thankfully, there are answers to all of these questions (and any more that might arise) in the sections below. Let's begin with the basics: Customer experience and user experience explained.

Customer Experience Explained

Simply put, customer experience is every interaction the customer has with your business. Whether it be online, in-store, or over the phone, customer experience is an umbrella for every single instance a customer has had some sort of communication with your business. It doesn't matter if a purchase was made or not, it doesn't matter if they only walked in the door for a second and immediately walked right back out, it doesn't even matter if they simply saw an advertisement for your business: Customer experience encapsulates each and every interaction between a customer and a business, no matter how minuscule or insignificant the interaction might seem to you or to them.

User Experience Explained

On the other hand, there's user experience. While it might sound similar to customer experience, rest assured: it's an entirely distinct thing. User experience boils down to how a customer uses a product, a system, or a service. This includes how easy it was to use, how efficient it was when being used, and even how well it can be used in the first place. It's a technical thing, in other words. User experience is a phrase that encapsulates all the thoughts and feelings a user has about your business's offerings. Simply put, it's less about your business itself and more about how good or bad the efficacy of the product or service your business provides is.

Why You Need to Know the Difference

The reason it's so imperative for you and your business to know the difference between customer experience and user experience is because they're two closely linked concepts, each with their own distinct marketing purposes. For instance, good customer experience involves having friendly and professional staff and ensuring a positive and welcoming environment for your business and anything associated with it, while good user experience involves making information quickly and easily available on your business's website and making sure that everything on your business's website works as it's supposed to. This, in turn, improves customer experience overall. Focusing on one instead of the other means neglecting a fundamental aspect of your business's marketing strategy, which wouldn't be good at all. There’s a need for both in your marketing strategy.

The Need for Both Customer Experience and User Experience in Marketing

In truth, while customer experience and user experience both have their own distinct purposes, they're somewhat overlapping. In the grand scheme of things, user experience is a part of customer experience. You can’t have a good customer experience without a good user experience. If your business's website doesn't work correctly or isn't very easy or efficient to use, then that user experience will impact the customer's experience. If the product they've been sold doesn't do what it's supposed to do, or the service they've hired you to do isn't done the way they wanted it done, then these user experiences will impact the customer experience. Understanding this is critical to success in marketing because, in conjunction with one another, customer experience and user experience improve the customer's journey and increase your business's overall conversion.

The Bottom Line: How Customer Experience and User Experience Work Together

So, what's the takeaway? For starters, you can now see the difference between customer experience and user experience: the former is about the customer's interaction with your business, and the latter is about the customer's interaction with your business's product or service. You now know that understanding the difference between the two is necessary if you care about your business's success. You also understand that there's a need for both in your marketing strategy if you want to be successful.

When all is said and done, customer experience — and, by extension, user experience — will play the most vital role in your business's success. From the reputation of your business to the amount of loyalty your customers feel for your business to the amount of conversion your business sees, customer experience and user experience work together to bring your business to the most successful version of itself. Adhering to this principle is the first step to bettering your business. 

From here, you can conduct an audit of your user experience as a whole:

  • Does your customer’s experience align with their identity?
  • Do their experiences help your business reach its goals?
  • Does your strategy leave anything up to chance?
  • Does it meet your customer’s expectations, or does it exceed them effortlessly and with little stress?

Talking to customers and asking yourself these questions are the only ways to help define your strategy and take your customer experience — and, by extension, your user experience — to the next level.

After you’ve done this, research is an important next step: Not only does it help you understand if your customer and user experience is good or bad, it also helps you refine your strategy based on quantitative results. This is also where customer experience tools like Hotjar and measurements like a Net Promoter Score (NPS), a Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), or a Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) can come in handy.

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