I speak with many companies and executives who wonder what's the difference between user and customer experience. Where does one begin and the other end? Is user experience about usability and customer experience about support? These are just some of the questions I encounter.
Getting both the user and customer experiences down is highly important for any company--but especially to a startup. Good user experience means higher likelihood people will be using your product. Good customer experience means you you'll be able to turn user into customers and keep them as your company grows. And that, is a measurable advantage, big time: on average, it costs 5 times as much to acquire new customers than it does to maintain and grow existing ones.
User experience encompass what people feel, think, and able to do as they interact with your product. Are they happy with the way it works? Can they complete what they're trying to do within a time that seems reasonable to them? Do they understand how to navigate your product? Does the task flow make sense to them? Is it easy and intuitive or does it require people to learn new ways of doing things?
Many times, people confuse good user experience with easy experience. That's not always the case. Think about the Delete function: Over time, companies have made it more difficult to delete to avoid deletion by error. So creating a good user experience greatly depends on your use objectives.
Typically, in creating compelling user experiences, companies enlist the help of product designers, interaction designers, user researcher, and if it's web/software based product--the help of an information architect. Since everything you do is based on your product experience it is crucial that you have the best resources available to help define the user experience.
Customer experience on the other hand is about the holistic experiences people have with your product AND with you as the company. Customer experience--while should be planned for early on--often comes into play once you're ready to turn users into customers. In large companies with regular product development and release cycles and established sales functions, this sometimes happens even before a product is designed, as part of the product strategy and planning. But for stratups, customer experience often comes after the product has been out and you have a critical mass of users.
When you think of your customers' experience you need to think of what you want your customers to feel and say about their interaction with your company at each and every point of contact with you. What should be their experience as they discover your product? Download it? Use it? Contact you for help or support?
Many companies fail at creating a consistent (or at least deliberate) customer experience across the touch points. Just look at Dell: While Dell laptops were doing significantly better, in 2005 its customer support function was subject to bitter criticism from Dell customers. Eventually, Dell turned to a user-generated support as a band-aide solution until it got its act together. You can read more about it in Charlene Lee's book- Groundswell.
Good customer experience is the product of cross-function team working together to define the experience and needed infrastructure and resources at each point of contact. It should also include a customer researcher who can tap into customer needs and expectations.
Creating Great Experiences
There are a number of overarching principles for creating great user and customer experiences. These are the meta practices that should guide the tactical execution on your efforts. In my next post I'll provide 10 keys to creating great user and customer experiences.