User Experience is Customer Experience

What is UX? Good User Experience is Good Customer Experience

By Tuesday May 19th, 2015

User experience, or UX, is often overlooked as an important factor in a company's overall customer experience. It shouldn't be.

Most companies are familiar with the concept of customer experience.

Businesses that put effort into customer experience will surely see the impact on their bottom line, but a lot companies overlook a key component of modern customer experience: User Experience.

UX lines up with traditional customer experience in almost every way.

User experience, or UX, lines up with traditional customer experience in almost every way. The difference is that it refers specifically to the experience of navigating and using websites, apps, interfaces and products (digital and physical).

Placing emphasis on an optimized and successful user experience will pay dividends, just like an emphasis on customer service does.

Why Don’t Companies Emphasize User Experience Now?

For one thing, user experience is hard.

It’s often said that the best experience is a simple experience or even an “invisible” experience.

That’s about a million times easier said than done, and in reality only a handful of companies have ever achieved a truly invisible user experience.

Another reason is education. Executives might not be familiar with the concept of user experience. As I mentioned, user experience just isn’t included in the traditional customer experience paradigm.

If the person in charge doesn’t understand user experience, how can they implement and optimize for a better user experience?

The third reason is that it’s hard to measure user experience ROI.

I’ve heard this from businesses, but I don’t see how it’s any harder than measuring customer experience ROI.

What Can Companies Do Today?

There are both large and small changes that can improve user experience. Some changes are simple and foolish to ignore, and others are much riskier and require research or even focus groups.

On a small scale, companies can make sure their phone number and a contact email address are on every website page. Or they can provide predictive text in their site search.

Some companies even ask questions to tailor an experience.

For instance, asking your customers right away if they’re a retail or wholesale customer could save them precious minutes looking for the right info. If they find and act on the wrong info, then it could have saved your employees precious time!

It actually helps to assess a situation as if you’re drunk. Often, when people talk about UX, they confuse “drunk” with “stupid,” but if you optimize for stupid users, you’ll frustrate real users.

Instead, imagine your user is smart and capable but a bit intoxicated. Drunk people typically exhibit less attention to detail and have fewer inhibitions.

On a larger scale, the UX improvement possibilities are endless. Just ask yourself: “What does my customer need to see and do in this exact circumstance?” Or ask, “What can I do to reduce friction and make this process easier?”

Then answer yourself in an open and honest way. Ignore all preconceptions and assumptions.

You might need you user to do something, or maybe it’s something they’d like to get from you. Either way, anticipating that action and reducing their mental workload will go a really long way!

For example, on December 25th (Christmas morning), Nest changed their homepage.

Instead of a clever introduction about what Nest is or what the thermostat or smoke detector can do, users who went to saw this message: “Looks like someone was very good this year.” It was followed by instructions to set up their new Nest product.


Nest's Homepage on Christmas Day

Nest’s Homepage on Christmas Morning


The thinking here is that users are much less likely to be browsing a product website to learn about that product on Christmas morning. They’re more likely excited to quickly get their new gift up and running.

This is a perfect example of a company saying “we think about you, and we respect your time and attention.”

If that’s not a good customer experience, I don’t know what is.

Who Else Does User Experience Well?

Apple does, for one. I’m actually going to skip them, though. Sometimes the experience of their software doesn’t quite match the detailed attention that their hardware gets (iTunes and iOS Calendar come to mind…).

Overall, though, Apple probably understands the impact of user experience on the bottom line more than any other company. I don’t want to start a comment war about Apple’s UX… too many heated opinions.

Instead, let’s look at Virgin America.

Have you ever booked a Virgin ticket through their responsive website?

First of all, they tell you to use their responsive website instead of an app. The first time I encountered that message, I thought I was in for some trouble.

Instead, they show that they fully understand the main use cases for their website in several different situations. (And, importantly, they understand that if I’m on a mobile phone buying a plane ticket, I’m probably in a hurry.)

The ticket buying process, besides being front and center, is well optimized and simplified to be super fast and reduce errors. They guide the user step by step, and they don’t cloud anything with confusing legalese. Buttons are large and focused, interfaces are siloed and well thought out.

It’s clear that they didn’t ask: “How do other companies display trips and prices?” Instead they asked: “What is the best and most useful way to display trips and prices?”

(Check out Richard Branson’s The Virgin Way if you’re interested in what true thought leadership, disruption and user/customer experience look like.)

Another good example is Caviar, an Uber-like food delivery service from Square.

Ordering food on their website or through their app is amazing compared to the other delivery services. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one is that they have professional photographs of every single dish that each restaurant offers.

I don’t know for sure, but I can almost guarantee that they had to send a photographer to each restaurant to get this done. Furthermore, since business owners don’t always value these types of things, they probably had to do it for free.

The end result, though, is that people order more food. This makes them happy, the restaurants happy and Caviar happy!

AirBnB did the same thing. They sent professional photographers out for free to photograph rental properties. It helped everyone– the property owner, the renter and the business itself.

Start Small

In the end, I wouldn’t encourage every business to go out and change all of their customer-facing materials today.

User experience is a large and important undertaking that likely requires the experience and skill of a UX or related professional.

Instead, just think about user experience as it applies to everything your business does. At least consider it an important part of the overall customer experience. That thought and attention to detail will show itself every time you implement something new or rethink something old.

The bottom line is if you respect your users, they’ll love you forever. Good user experience is good customer experience.

Here are some very specific UX tips:

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About the Author

Drew Thomas is the CTO and co-founder of Brolik. He oversees Brolik's technology projects, including Leverage, Brolik’s proprietary technology platform. Drew spends most of his free time on side projects and prefers to blend work and life into a balanced, enjoyable experience. He lives in Austin, TX.
Twitter: @drewbrolik
LinkedIn: Drew Thomas
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