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27.08.2010: User Experience is not Customer Experience. Not Even Close
This particular blog post has been on my mind for a while now. Nowadays, a popular topic of conversation in the UX world encourages UX leaders everywhere to become more involved in business leadership and business strategy, as opposed to staying in their traditional sphere of influence related to UX strategy. There have also been a number of discussions/comments on a variety of UX blogs lately, about whether the term 'User' in our discipline name is accurate enough, or whether it should be replaced with a different term, such as 'customer' (as in 'customer experience' as opposed to 'user experience'). Others are proposing for the word 'User' to be dropped altogether, so 'user experience design' would end up known simply as 'experience design'.
In my opinion, the fact that these discussions are taking place around the same time speaks volumes about the lack of maturity in many of our practitioners' strategic thinking. Don't get me wrong, I think User Experience as a profession has come a long way in the last 10 years or so in terms of methods, process and industry standardization. We have successfully aligned or integrated our process within various software development methodologies, and we have even been promoted to participate in discussions at the big boys table with the business, technology and marketing folks. There are no doubt a few UX professionals acting or in line to act as CEOs, CXOs, CIOs or CTOs, who, through practice and years of experience, have aquired that business acumen needed to become a true leader in the boardroom. But before we even begin talking about user experience professionals setting the tone and creating the overarching strategy for all those non-UX areas, I would venture a guess that there is still a lot we need to learn about what constitutes a successful business, the parameters within which it operates, and last but not least, its terminology. This guerilla movement within the UX community who are trying to replace 'user experience' with 'customer experience' are obviously not aware that the term 'customer experience' has already been coined and it is used frequently in the corporate world to describe a completely differently business concept.
So What Is Customer Experience?About three years ago, I was asked to prepare a handful of slides for a sales presentation outlining the relationship between customer experience and user experience, and given that I didn't know much about CX at the time, I decided to do some research on the subject. As it turned out, other than in some UX circles, the term 'customer experience' is never used as a synonym of 'user experience'. A quick search on Wikipedia releveals the following: 'customer experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. From awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy'. This definition alone should make it clear that strategically (in a business sense and not in technical sense) user experience is a subset of customer experience. User experience deals with the interaction, use and to some extent attraction, but it certainly doesn't deal with awareness, discovery, purchase, cultivation and advocacy (again, think business process, not interaction design).
Moreover, customer experience concerns itself with perception and reputation, not only in direct digital interaction, but it does so across every channel, as opposed to subset of digital channels as it is the case with user experience. A large corporation normally creates its customer experience strategy first, then it creates channel strategies for each individual channel, and only then is the turn of channel(s) specific user experience strategy (applicable to one or more channels). In other words, the user experience strategy has to support the goals of both customer experience strategy and channel strategy, and not the other way around.
So before thinking you belong in that chief officer (CO) boardroom, and before changing the nomenclature of our discipline, think whether you really know as much about business as you do about UX. Think about how long it took you to learn and polish your UX skills and ask yourself if you've put the same amount of effort into business management. And if you didn't, maybe the more sensible way to approach your big move up the corporate ladder is to not only keep wearing the suit, but also to keep learning new aspects of business strategy and UX strategy every day, and hope that one day (sooner rather than later), thinking about the two will be equally effortless. Then, you'll know you belong.
What do you guys think? Tags: standards, thoughts, user experience, community, business
The fact that user experience professionals are still vying to change the term 'user' still baffles me. Like you said, UX made huge inroads in the last few years, why would someone want to start all over again at a point when the discipline is becoming universally accepted in business and technology circles? As long as we all know what we're doing, why do we care so much about a small semantic issue?
Cornelius, you make a good point in regards to wanting to replace UX with CX. These are clearly two distinct concepts, and, as Steven points out, the idea of renaming UX just as it's starting to gain acceptance is pretty ludicrous.
That being said, I think the distinction between UX and CX is not as cut and dry as you make it out to be, and is getting more blurred all the time. Samantha Starmer's recent take on the subject does a good job of making the argument that UX professionals should be thinking about their work from a CX perspective:
Dmitry, I agree that UX professionals should think about their work from a CX perspective, however, that doesn't mean we are CX professionals. The article you mentioned encourages UX professionals to think cross channel and in-between channels, which is great, we need to understand the bigger picture as much as we need to understand the little details. But that doesn't change the fact that the business of UX does not cover anywhere close to the entire spectrum of CX. The blurring of the line occurs because two things are happening: first, as I said before, some UX professionals prefer describing our profession using 'customer' rather than 'user', and second, because there are plenty of people on the business side who don't understand what user experience is and the easiest thing for them is to equate it with CX. I still think that using those two terms interchangeably is only gonna confuse everyone going forward, and I do believe the difference in business concepts is actually fairly clear cut irrespective of the similarity in the actual semantic meaning of the two words.
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