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Bridging the Gap Between UX and CX

  • Chris Corriveau
  • May 24, 2016
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I recently wrapped up a call with members from a customer experience (CX) team at a retail bank. As we discussed their team’s history and responsibilities and their digital experience design needs, the key distinctions between Experience Design (UX design) and the broader charter for a CX team, became more apparent.

While in both cases we strive to provide people with exceptional experiences, the user experience (UX) discipline is wholly-focused on digital customer touch points and often uses a different set of metrics, methodologies, and design practices than a bank’s broader CX team would.

So, what’s the difference between UX and CX?

Much of the confusion comes from CX being a more recently defined practice area and term over the last few years.

By most accounts, UX is a subset of the larger (and slightly less well-defined) Customer Experience discipline. Here’s a helpful way of distinguishing between the two: the term “user” implies interaction with a specific product or service (i.e. online banking or an insurance quoting tool), whereas “customer” implies a broader relationship with a brand (i.e. having accounts with Charles Schwab or Union Bank).

In the last few years, many financial institutions have spawned CX teams in an effort to measure customer sentiment or brand loyalty (with tools like Net Promoter Score or Voice of the Customer), and improve the delivery of services and products. Successful CX teams focus on increasing the likelihood of a person remaining a customer, expanding their relationship with the brand, and influencing others positively toward the brand. CX is measured as an overall experience across channels switching in between digital and physical environments.

UX teams work in service of these (and other) broader business goals but focus more narrowly on the interactions each person has with a very specific experience – a website, a product, an mobile app, a mortgage application, etc. They apply rigorous research, design, and testing methodologies to enhancing the quality and ease-of-use a person has overall with a digital experience.
Since the formal practice of CX is still relatively new to the scene, here are some practices that UX has distilled over the years that can be applied to both:

First, when conducting research, CX teams shouldn’t limit their inputs to customers alone—they need to gather research from their own employees as well. With every project, our UX team begins by interviewing stakeholders across roles and departments in order to get a more complete picture of the business – including opportunities and potential pitfalls. By incorporating input from employees who are on the front lines with customers, CX teams have access to a greater depth of information to identify ways to improve how customers are treated.

Second, UX teams achieve the best results working efficiently across departments, not in silos. Extractable’s UX team works hand-in-hand with content strategists, visual designers, and developers as prototypes are developed and tested. This agile methodology allows us to test and refine ideas efficiently. CX teams could benefit from being engaged deeply across all departments (customer-facing and otherwise) to gather ideas, try out theories, and better grasp the connections between different business units.

Third, UX teams benefit from standardizing research, tools, testing, design, and measurement frameworks that enable sound judgments to be made. As many CX teams have been structured more recently, many suffer from a lack of regiments and protocol for testing, measuring results, and decision-making. While specific metrics being tracked might be different (Customer Satisfaction for CX vs. Task Success Rate for UX), a uniform system for measurement and reporting is key to supporting progress.

In conclusion, there is a lot of crossover between UX and CX disciplines and embracing both is critical for financial services companies to thrive in the modern age. As the Customer Experience discipline matures, it would be apt to borrow some principles and tactics from its more seasoned counterpart, User Experience.

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