What is the difference between customer experience and the customer journey?

When we are working on a website design project, one of the most important elements of the process is gaining a clear understanding of an organisation’s target audience.

The ability to offer an unrivalled experience hinges on knowing the precise needs of the customers that will use a business’ product or service.

In previous blogs, we’ve highlighted the importance of user experience and the customer journey and why a customer-centric approach is vital for any business with a digital presence.

In both cases, we’ve spoken about understanding the customer experience and customer journey but before you can do that, it would help to understand what they mean and the similarities/differences between them.

The difference between UX and CX

Firstly, it’s important to form a distinction between user experience (UX) and customer experience (CX).

UX, as the name suggests, is a user’s experience with a product. In our case, it relates to the websites and web applications that we create for businesses.

This includes the interaction design elements that encourage visitors to engage with the platform.

The important difference here is that UX relates to both prospects and customers before they have converted.

CX, as you'd expect, relates to the experience and interactions of a customer. In this case, it will almost certainly occur post-conversion.

What is customer experience (CX)?

CX looks at the touchpoints, both on and off-line, that a customer interacts with when engaging with a business.

This can include:

  • Customer service
  • Marketing communications
  • The sales process
  • Product/service delivery
  • Price and promotions

Ultimately, CX is the perception that customers have of your brand.

The impact of great CX

We can probably all think of examples where we’ve experienced great customer service from a company and just as many where the experience has been less than great.

These experiences will characterise your opinion of that business. Which is why focusing on good CX is vital for any organisation.

Not least because a great customer experience can turn someone into a brand ambassador who will happily promote your business to colleagues, friends and family, free of charge.

Thanks to the internet, customers now have more choice than ever. Surfing their way from brand to brand until they find a customer experience that suits them.

For this reason, organisations that fail to address the CX of their digital platforms are likely to miss out on generating new leads and keeping their existing customers.

CX and the customer journey

Customer experience and the customer journey are inextricably linked but they are also distinctly separate concepts.

In fact, CX can only happen once you have a clear understanding of the journey that someone has taken in order to become a customer.

Appreciating the needs that your customers have, the routes they have taken to find your business and the decisions they took before making a purchase will allow you to map out their journey and use this knowledge to create an experience that meets both their needs and the needs of potential customers.

What is customer journey mapping?

If a customer journey is the end-to-end activities that a customer undertakes when deciding to make a purchase, you’ll need a map to navigate the journey.

This is where customer journey mapping comes in.

A customer journey or buying cycle can break down into a number of stages. You’ll see plenty of different versions with slightly different terms, but these five elements sum it up nicely:

  • Awareness
  • Consideration
  • Purchase
  • Retention
  • Advocacy

The most important thing to remember when creating a customer journey map is ensuring that you always look at the process from the customer’s point of view.

How can you create a customer journey map?

Typically, a customer journey will follow a number of processes leading to the customer acquiring your product or service.

However, a crucial part of the online customer journey is post-purchase re-engagement through email marketing, social media advertising and remarketing strategies.

So it’s important to remember that the customer journey doesn’t end once someone has bought your product or service.

By using website analytics tools, you can tell exactly where customers are, how much time and money they are spending online, and the exact point they leave.

While data like this can prove invaluable, it also helps to gain a human perspective. After all, your customers are people and sometimes the best insight can come from a conversation.

This more anecdotal research is harder to collate but definitely worth the effort.

You can find out what customers are thinking by using:

  • Social media
  • Online surveys
  • Outreach (phone calls/emails/face-to-face)

Visualising the customer journey

You can now use all of this data, both analytical and anecdotal, to create a simple graphic of the customer journey.

Highlight each of the touchpoints along the customer journey and use the data that you’ve collected to identify any obstacles that a customer might face.

When it comes to your digital presence, issues might involve:

  • Confusing website navigation
  • Slow website load
  • Lack of information
  • No calls to action
  • Poor usability on mobile devices
  • Inconsistency across platforms (social/desktop/mobile/app/in-store)

Combining UX, CX and the customer journey

Customer experience is as much about feelings as it is actions or interactions.

When designing a website or web app, we need to think about how someone feels when embarking on their customer journey.

  • Does it focus on the company’s priorities more than the customer’s?
  • Does the customer feel that their needs are understood and recognised?
  • Is it easy for them to make decisions and act accordingly?

There are also practical considerations, including clear navigation, faster load speeds and a responsive website design that allows the site to display the same on multiple devices.

Once you have a clear understanding of who your customers are and what they want from your business, you can use a detailed customer journey map to create an omnichannel customer experience that offers consistent levels of customer service both online and offline.

If you’d like to find out how we can create a website or app that offers a seamless online customer experience for your business, give us a call today.

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