What Is the Difference Between User Experience and Customer Experience?

Too many people use the terms customer experience and user experience interchangeably. Although the two terms are closely related and may seem similar, there’s a bit of difference between the two. Let’s take a closer look at user experience and  customer experience so that we can gain a better understanding of their differences and how they play a role in your business.

What Is User Experience?

It’s best to start off explaining user experience because it’s more product-specific. User experience refers to the experience of a user, or customer, when interacting with a specific product or service. Some of the metrics used for measuring user experience (UX) include abandonment rate, success rate, clicks to completion, error rate, and time taken to complete task.

For example, image you’re running a subscription company and a customer visits your website to purchase something. The page loads and they conduct a search using the search bar because they’re looking for a specific item. They find a product of their interest and click on it to find more information. Once they’re satisfied with the product description, they go ahead to the sign-up page, enter their payment information, and then become a paying subscriber.

This particular interaction during the sign-up process can be called your website user experience. Factors like whether the page loads quickly or slowly and whether or not they were able to find the product easily will play a role in user experience.

Below is the User Experience Honeycomb created by Peter Morville to depict the various factors affecting UX.

user experience and customer experience
Source: Semantic Studios

What Is Customer Experience?

When comparing customer experience and user experience, customer experience is a much broader concept. It points towards the overall experience of a customer in their interaction with your brand or company. Therefore, customer experience covers all interactions a user has with your brand, but isn’t limited to the experience a customer has when interacting with a specific product or service. It can be measured using metrics like likelihood to recommend to others, likelihood to continue using the product or service, and overall experience.

For instance, a customer visits your website, conducts a search for a product, and then completes their purchase. They call up your customer service department to inquire about the delivery date and later receive the product. Maybe they receive it early or way after the promised date of delivery. Perhaps they even find some defect in the product or have some trouble using it and then come back to your customer service staff for assistance. Their experience, whether positive or negative, during this entire interaction is termed customer experience.

What Is the Difference Between User Experience and Customer Experience?

Since customer experience and user experience are so closely related, it’s quite easy to mix them up. To gain a better understanding about their differences, let’s take a look at the features of good UX and good CX.

A good digital user experience provides customers with the following benefits:

  • They can quickly locate relevant information on the website.
  • They can easily complete a desired task without much confusion.
  • They can navigate web pages with ease.

Graze is an excellent example of a subscription business with good user experience. As shown in the image below, the website makes subscribing simple by giving three options. With too many options, customers can easily get frustrated because they might not know what to choose. Also, the website assures customers that even if they’re confused about which option to choose, they can always change it again later.

user experience and customer experience
Source: Graze

A good customer experience provides customers with the following benefits:

  • They have a professional and helpful interaction with company representatives.
  • They have a generally positive attitude about everything associated with that particular brand or organization.

A great example of good customer experience is the following interaction between a Netflix employee and a subscriber who’s encountering a problem. As you can see, the employee went out of his way to interact with the subscriber in a friendly manner, even pretending to be a Star Trek officer. This correlates well with the brand’s customer base.

user experience and customer experience
Source: normanh/Imgur.com

User Experience and Customer Experience in Practice

Good user experience with bad customer experience

Let’s say you’re going on a trip and want to book a flight. Since it’s more convenient, you download an app from a certain airline and purchase your ticket through the app. Although it’s your first time using the app, you manage to use it efficiently with the easy navigation and self-explanatory interface. You eventually manage to complete the task within minutes.

user experience and customer experience
Source: JetBlue Mobile App

While this shows an example of a good user experience, you might have a different customer experience altogether when you get to the airport. Maybe the airline has an understaffed check-in booth with an unnecessarily long line or the attendants are abrasive and impolite. You might even experience a similarly bad service on the flight itself.

This example clearly demonstrates how one can have a good user experience with one aspect of the brand like their mobile app without getting much satisfaction on other aspects. Regardless of how good your app or website UX is, other aspects of your service can damage the overall customer experience. Customer experience and user experience don’t always correlate.

Good customer experience with bad user experience

It’s also possible for a brand to maintain good CX despite delivering bad UX in other areas. Let’s say you download an app that lets you record sounds. However, when you start using the app you’re confused with the interface and are unable to find what you’re looking for. You might have trouble recording even the simplest of voice memos.

user experience and customer experience
Source: Voice Recorder HD from Play Store

So, you call up the helpline and are attended to by a friendly, supportive representative. The rep clearly gives you a step-by-step explanation on how to find the feature you need. Now you can finally complete your task. Additionally, they’ll also give you a $20 store credit as a form of apology. This shows there are still ways to deliver excellent customer experience even if your product delivers unsatisfactory UX.

Tips for Good User Experience and Customer Experience

To truly align your customer experience and user experience, it’s important that you come up with a strategy combining the two factors. Here I’ve outlined a few basic tips to get started:

  • Whatever you do, always try to gain an in-depth understanding of your customer base, including what they want and need. This will help you in designing a plan that will focus on your customer preferences.
  • Use customer feedback to find out exactly what they’re looking for. What are their biggest issues with your product or brand? Answering this will help you understand what challenges you must address for developing better user experience and customer experience.
  • Create awareness across the organization about the importance of delivering good customer experience and good user experience. I suggest coming up with an incentive plan that rewards employees who have successfully delivered exceptional service. This is a great way to motivate more staff members towards reaching your CX or UX goals.


Many brands make the unfortunate mistake of only focusing on providing a good user experience while completely ignoring customer experience. Other brands deliver exceptional customer experience without trying to improve on the user experience of their website or other services. For complete customer satisfaction, it’s important that you properly understand the relationship between these two factors. Maintaining consistency between customer experience and user experience is key for long-term customer relationships.

Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant that specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, Influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities. Continue the conversation with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and LinkedIn.