Does Great User Experience Translate to Great Customer Experience?
Every industry has its own version of the “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” scenario, and the Internet is no different. In this case, digital marketers and customer service professionals tend to clash over the question: does great user experience translate to great customer experience? Or is it the other way around?
This question is essential because it helps to direct your decisions on what to emphasize on as you try to improve your overall brand. So I want to break down the differences between the user experience and the customer experience, and then discuss which should come first. To kick things off, let’s look at user experience.
What is User Experience?
User experience, often abbreviated as UX, is the practice of developing a website or application based on what your end user (or customer) needs. That includes finding out details about what they value, what they hope to get from your site, and what limitations they may face.
If that sounds pretty all-inclusive, that’s because it is. User experience is typically correlated with your user interface, as it’s more related to how your customer uses your finished product.
Think of it as a roller coaster. If the ride is bumpy, you notice, and it detracts from your enjoyment. If the ride is smooth, you simply enjoy the ride without noticing the smoothness.
But user experience focuses solely on your website or your platform (if you’re a SaaS business). Studies have shown that this ‘correlation’, as it is usually described, is a leading reason for website abandonment or a “negative experience.”
So what makes for a good user experience?
To ensure that everything works out smoothly for your user experience, you have to base your decisions on some very important questions:
– Is your site/product usable?
– Can you find it?
– Does it fill a need?
– Do people actively want to use it?
– Does it add value in a meaningful way?
– Does your experience convey trustworthiness?
– Can your product be used on a regular basis?
All of these address the basic requirements of a solid user experience and will help you achieve your goals as a brand. But if your audience can’t find information, don’t have a need, or simply don’t want to use your product, then you’re likely to fail in the long run.
And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. User experience is ultimately going to be unique to your brand. That means you need to approach your user experience in a very thorough manner.
Consequently, it means that the user experience development process is relatively complex. When you go about designing a website or application, you have to go through a repetitive cycle of creation and evaluation in order to achieve a good end product.
Without the right approach, you’re likely to miss crucial elements that can affect your final user experience. That is why many brands choose to outsource the creation of their website or platform to talented professionals.
It’s also a discipline that doesn’t stop with the launch. You need to ensure that your user experience is optimized on an ongoing basis.
The needs of your audience will develop over time, and your branding should reflect that. User experience research is a budding field and has lots of potential insights to share with any brand. It also means ensuring that your marketing and user experience work together to grow your brand.
Now that you know the basics of user experience, let’s move on to customer experience.
What is Customer Experience?
While user experience focuses on your website or product, customer experience zooms out a little and tries to look at the big picture.
As a general rule, customer experience focuses on the overall perception of your brand. This is an all-inclusive view that assesses your product, channels, employee-customer interactions, and any other way people can interact with you.
And given how connected the average consumer is these days, you have to be more diligent than ever before to ensure that your process, people, and product convey a brand message that can be trusted.
In other words, your customer experience is about presenting a good impression to any potential stakeholder in your business. Under this model, you hold brands to incredibly high standards. You must have a quality product, excellent customer service, and a competitive price to boot. And that’s just the beginning. Discovering the vast areas that affect your customer experience can be just as complicated, if not more, compared with the process of creating a user experience.
Research from McKinsey shows just how challenging it is to craft your customer experience.
However, it also indicates that companies that focused on customer journeys instead of “touchpoints” saw better results.
What does that mean in practice, though? What’s so special about customer journeys?
For starters, it means that you need to segment your audiences like never before. Each unique audience needs a catered journey to engage with your brand.
You can’t approach your customer experience with a one-size-fits-all solution. You’ll have to tackle each problem as it arises and employ the same level of creativity to ensure you cater your solutions to the correct audience.
But you also need to recognize that you can’t control everything about your customer experience. For instance, word-of-mouth referrals (or poor reviews) are entirely up to your customers. All you can do is seek to provide an experience that could make that referral positive. But even then, there are no guarantees. Customer experience is highly contextual and driven by emotions, which makes it hard to pin down.
That said, it’s still seen as the most exciting growth opportunity by many brands. And for good reason.
As more customers look to websites and social media to gather information about brands, there’s more potential than ever to craft these customer journeys.
So, when you’re considering your customer experience, remember that you’re dealing with individuals. Each journey will be a little different, and your brand should be prepared to deal with those differences.
Now that you know what user and customer experiences are, let’s get back to our original question.
Are User and Customer Experience Related?
Unfortunately, the answer isn’t a simple “yes” or “no.” A better explanation is, it can be when you do it well. There’s no denying that user experience and customer experience are both vital to your brand. They each play a role in creating a good relationship between your business and your customers.
But when you look at user experience and customer experience together under the same microscope, it should be immediately apparent that one is a subset of the other. If you were to lay them out on a graph, it would look like this:
Customer experience as a whole is a broader discipline than user experience. It includes everything about your business, not just your website or application.
That means you can have a great user experience but still have a poor customer experience. If your customer runs into an issue with product delivery or isn’t able to see the value you provide, they’ll leave you despite having a pleasant experience with your product.
Again, the roller coaster metaphor is an excellent way to imagine this. The experience may be smooth, but if the overall ride isn’t satisfying, your customer will leave disappointed. So, a good user experience on its own does not equal a good customer experience.
It’s a vital part, and you should focus on it, but not at the cost of your overall customer experience. Your user experience is ultimately just one building block in the greater scheme of things.
The key takeaway is to not neglect either and to use both to strategically grow your brand in the long run. Only then will you be using them to their fullest potential.
When it comes to this particular “chicken or the egg” scenario, the clear overarching winner has to be customer experience. It encompasses your entire brand, not just one small part of it.
User experience is still vital though. You absolutely need to spend time creating a good website or product that your customer can easily use and enjoy. If done well, it will contribute to your customer experience. For instance, without a good user experience, you may never win over your audience as a customer, to begin with. But in the end, you can’t deny the all-inclusiveness of customer experience. Your brand image is more than your website or product, and you need to treat it that way.
You need to spend time ensuring that everything you do creates a good impression in the minds of your customers and potential customers. Remember that it’s not about touchpoints. It’s about journeys.
Main illustration done by Siddharth Kandoth