The customer experience and the user experience may be different, but they are strongly interrelated. The customer experience refers to the sum of all experiences a person has with your brand. From the content they read to the services they request to the finished product arriving at their door, these are all points along the customer journey that impact their overall experience with your company. User experience, on the other hand, refers to a single interaction with your brand.

The Customer Experience in Action

Let’s look at an example of the customer experience.

Sheila is shopping for a set of mesh chairs to take with her to the beach this summer. She has purchased products from your company before and has always been pleased with the service you provide. Unfortunately, this last order was shipped wrong, and one person from customer service refused to swap the product without charging Sheila for return shipping. Though you’ve done an excellent job with the customer experience as a whole, you could be losing a great customer from one negative experience.

Luckily, your company is better than that. Instead of letting one poor experience sour your relationship with Sheila, you apologize on behalf of your company, correct the issue and discount the original order because of the inconvenience. Even though one negative experience was about to ruin the end-to-end customer experience for Sheila, you changed gears and used the sum of customer experiences to make up for the one negative one.

So where does the user experience fit into all this?

The User Experience in Action

The user experience can be defined as the overall experience when using ONE particular product, website or software application. In other words, it’s all the components that pertain to the usage and experience with a single service or product. You’ve probably heard a lot about the user experience when discussing websites and conversions.

Let’s take a stab at another example, one that involves both the customer experience and the user experience.

Joe does a search for coolers that he plans to take with him to the beach. He finds and navigates the site to find something that will fit his needs. Fortunately, he’s able to use the site quickly and efficiently and find a product that he likes. Because of the site’s infrastructure, readability and easy navigation, Joe’s interactions with the brand’s website are positive. In just a few clicks, Joe is able to order his cooler and feel good about his user experience.

Just as Bill is about ready to submit his order, he chats with an online customer service representative about when he can expect his shipment. He wants his cooler in time for the weekend. Joe expects that the customer service rep will walk him through the various shipment options, but they don’t. Instead, they are unhelpful and slow to answer. Joe completes the order anyway, and his cooler comes late.

Joe had a great user experience in the beginning with the website because it was well-designed and easy to follow. Unfortunately, his customer experience wasn’t as enjoyable. If Joe ran into Sheila at the beach, he probably wouldn’t recommend to her because of this, and he wouldn’t have good associations with the brand.

Things can work in the reverse, too. Joe could have had a hard time navigating the website and been left feeling frustrated, but he could have encountered very helpful customer service. Even with attentive representatives, it’s likely that Joe would not return because of the aggravating ordering process online. Joe would instead look for a new company, one that would provide a positive user experience and customer experience.

Their Subtle Differences

For the most part, customer experience and user experience are terms that are used interchangeably, but there are still subtle differences to be aware of. Let’s take a look.

  • In metrics and measurement, the user experience looks at how long it takes to meet specific goals such as conversion rates, success rates, error rates, abandonment rates and how long it takes to complete a task. For the customer experience, the metrics rely on the overall experience, the likelihood of continuing to use your product and the likelihood of referring your brand to others.

  • The user experience focuses on a person’s interactions with a single item such as an app or website. The customer experience focuses on the entire journey a customer has with a brand, from start to finish.

  • In terms of design, user experience and customer experience are also very different. Good digital user experience helps customers find information quickly, complete desired tasks and search web pages with ease. Good digital customer experience offers pleasant interactions that allow customers to feel positive in regards to everything associated with the brand.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully these scenarios have helped you better understand the difference between the customer experience and the user experience and how they play into each other. They are similar, but not the same. They are strongly interrelated, so you must give attention to both.

User experience is really a component of customer experience since it relates to a single interaction with the brand. By giving customers a strong user experience, you are paving the way for a positive customer experience as well. On the other hand, you can deliver a great user experience but still have it soured by a poor customer experience. Bottom line: Failures in either area can negatively impact both ends.

As you design products and services and establish the various points along the customer journey, be sure that you are always putting the customer in mind first.