CX ≠ UX = Simple answer

By @Sri_A

I constantly encounter CXOs on one end and designers at the other of the spectrum who are confused about the difference between User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX). I recently attended an awesome CX meetup at WebMD featuring the unique UX approach by Ben Greenberg and Sri Rajan in designing their interface, functionality and features. It also inevitably brought forth a discussion on the subject of UX and CX. Having worked through the evolution of User Experience till Customer Experience became a thing, I settled on a simple solution based on how companies approach “experience” or the X factor in UX vs. CX.

User Experience usually originates from the study of psychology, human factors, usability studies and cognitive analysis (and many more complex terminologies used by Ph.Ds). The approach is generally based around the belief that “we know what the customer wants best at a subconscious level even if they can’t put a finger on it”.

Customer Experience, on the other hand is based on what the customer is telling us through their feedback, surveys, verbatims, text and speech analytics, emotions, loyalty, closing the loop with the customer, etc. Here the approach is based on the belief that “the customer knows what they want, need and feel”.

Simply put, UX design is building from inside out while CX design is building from outside in. While it is generally accepted that UX is a subset of CX, the most successful approaches I have encountered are when teams begin with CX first then apply UX principles to fine tune and offer customers the most delightful experience at a conscious and subconscious level. The trick, however, is to parse out the specifics in customer feedback and usage data and read between the lines to identify the intent, perceptions and emotions. I use Ben’s great example when he quoted Ford who said that if he asked the customers what they wanted they would have said, “a faster horse”. The point is to interpret the word ‘horse’ as ‘transport’.  It is these seemingly abstract factors like intent, perception and emotion that provide the best answer to the value of ‘X’. And that, is directly proportional to revenue, growth and shareholder value.

My commute with a leader who creates magical experiences.

The last few days, my drive to work and back has been a journey into what makes the most magical place on earth give its visitors an experience of a lifetime. The morning and evening commutes have been filled with Lee Cockerell telling me about the 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From A Life At Disney, through his audio-book, “Creating Magic”.

You see, Lee is the former Executive Vice President of Operations for the Walt Disney World Resort. To many it is truly the happiest place on earth, filled with fantasies, dreams, and of course, magical experiences. Not to mention, one of the most efficiently managed customer service operations on the planet. 4 theme parks, 2 water parks, 20 resort hotels, a shopping & entertainment village and a sports and recreation complex and a host of ancillary operations. 40,000 employees and 7,000 leaders. Together, earning the well-deserved title of “the number one vacation destination in the world”. Listening to this man explain what it takes for a leader to give his customers an experience of a lifetime and yet strive to overachieve that standard is an amazing learning experience in and of itself. Personally, it’s a culmination of everything creative and corporate I strive to achieve.

I’m still not through with his book but I’m beginning to realize that chapter after chapter Lee focuses on the leadership qualities that put employees at the same level as customers. He swears by the concept of leading a well cared-for and empowered workforce results in a fantastic customer experience and robust financial returns. The four expectations that Disney leaders have to meet for their “cast members” (employees) are exactly the ones that apply to their “guests” (customers).

  1. Make Me Feel Special
  2. Treat Me as an Individual
  3. Respect Me
  4. Make Me Knowledgeable, Develop Me, Know My Role

What makes his book compelling is that it is packed with actual examples, business cases, anecdotes and draws on his own missteps and learnings in life. It’s also one of his more powerful messages to leaders. Share your weaknesses, challenges and your efforts to overcome them with your employees and you will earn their trust and loyalty like nothing else. What’s most intriguing to me is that, so far (I’m on CD 5 of 6), never once has he mentioned the advantage of the huge creative content at his disposal to ensure a great customer experience. That truly is a sign of a great teacher who demonstrates how to successfully lead, regardless of your business, industry, product or service.

As with most audio-books, I’m never done with one hearing. New concepts and applications to my work and life jump out at me every time I listen. Most leadership concepts Lee talks about are nothing new. However, their application in real-life situations is what drives it home for me. With his unmistakable southern drawl, Lee has made my commute a great experience.

This blog and everything it represents could not have had a better book to rave about. Lee Cockerell’s “Creating Magic – 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies From A Life At Disney”.

Story telling at it’s best. Wait! Is it the movie or the critic?

Take a tragedy and weave a story around it. You cannot see many examples as notable as “Titanic”. James Cameron told a story with a cinematic experience arguably unseen before and after. The accuracy in the depiction of elements in the story was a priority of Cameron. Except, he missed one tiny detail of cosmic proportions. 

Enter, another master story-teller, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, a renowned astrophysicist. He takes another ‘tragedy’ and weaves an amazing story around it. The tragedy being Cameron’s blasphemous depiction of the wrong sky in the movie. As I watched Dr. Tyson narration and triumphant end about Cameron’s titanic oversight I could not but join in the applause. You’ve got to experience Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson – Titanic 3D and Cameron “Wrong Sky”.

Who, me?

Sri Alathur. No, I’m Peter Pan. Ok, not really. He got away without growing up at all, while I think I’m the kid who reluctantly grew up.

I love magic. Story-telling.  Being creative. Creating experiences. Love art, theater, movies. Again, magic. I moderately practice some of it. Thoroughly enjoy the wonder in the eyes of children being entertained.

Life is beautiful. Ever thankful for my family, mentors, people I’ve met, opportunities given, life’s experiences and lessons learnt.

Electronics Engineer with an MBA in Business Strategy, my entire career has been in and around creating visual, interactive and delightful experiences starting with computer graphics, animation, TV and movie special effects, multimedia, and now creating and managing valuable experiences for customers of Fortune 50 companies. Along the way, I honed skills in people and project management, operations, analytics, strategy and leadership. View full profile.

My goals? Near and far term alike, is to always appreciate life and create magic. Anything that makes happiness the center point of life. For me and everyone else. That, which I took for granted as a kid. Hence, still reluctant to grow up. Peter Pan, Aladdin’s Genie ~:} and I.

What I learnt at the Forrester CX Measurement workshop.

Interesting takeaways from the Forrester Workshop on Customer Experience Measurement. Held on March 14, 2012 in New York City, Megan Burns the Principal Analyst at Forrester skillful guided us through the fundamentals and measuring CX quality. Where it really helped hone my skills was understanding the construct of what makes for a good CX metrics, and that includes making it actionable and creating dashboards that spur action.

Megan’s research, that validates what I always belived, shows that it’s lost on a lot of managers that the customer’s perception ‘is’ their experience. What that means is that it doesn’t matter as much what the customer actually DID. It’s what they THINK they did and what they THINK was the company’s interaction with them. Note that I am not talking about what the company’s records show that the experience was in terms of actual transactions.  Nor is it what the company’s intentions were when it designed the interface. The customer’s future actions (loyalty, attrition, willingness to recommend, etc.) can based on their assessment, subjective as it may be, of their last interaction. Measure the qualitative results of that last interaction and you get an experience metrics of that touch point. Factor in the qualitative measures of all touch points over time and you get a relationship metrics. The ultimate relationship metric being the willingness to recommend from which we get the ubiquitous Net Promoter Score.

Being a visual thinker it made total sense to me when Megan suggested that we can get a holistic view using Journey maps and CX eco-system maps. A visual layout of cross-touch point customer flows interlaid with people, processes, policies, and technologies that influence those customer interactions. We’d know where the bright spots are to replicate and the areas of opportunities to fix. An awesome concept indeed.

Totally in line with my belief that one must always look at CX in 3D, Forrester insists that mining of unstructured feedback is vital to conduct a reliable root-cause analysis. Megan admits that “it’s a hunt”, but well worth it. Some more interesting takeaways for me were the engagement of customers in co-creation and validation of new/improved experiences. Not much is left to chance when that happens. You’re pretty much on the road to creating a best-in-class customer experience, and dashboards to show for it.  

Peppered with wonderful analogies and exercises, my perception is that the workshop was extremely useful and effective. Hey, that ‘is’ my experience and I’m more than willing to recommend Forrester’s workshops. 🙂

Does it help to view your customer experience in 3D?

It’s very easy for managers to measure their successes and make decisions based on just one source of customer experience data. The most common being the record of actions taken by the customer on visiting a certain customer touchpoint, such as store, website, call center. Sometimes referred to as Transaction Analytics it usually includes orders, traffic, churn, resolution rate, etc. Some managers factor in a second, very valuable data source – Satisfaction Surveys. These provide us with the perception of the customer, their satisfaction, loyalty, willingness to recommend and propensity to repurchase.  Not many look at their customer experience in three dimensions. The third dimension being Usability Studies. This source reveals the most critical component of the customer experience – ‘intent’. Without ‘intent’ we can never know for sure what exactly the user had in mind when they tried  to perform a transaction or gave us a certain satisfaction score.

As we begin to add each dimension to our analysis, it tends to get resource intensive and coordinating inputs between them appears to be a daunting research operation. However, position these three dimensions along with competitive intelligence and you have the making of a truly comprehensive view of your customer experience and its competitive advantages, or lack thereof. By triangulating the information from three sources you can map entire user-flows, originating with the intent, followed by the actions performed and the resultant satisfaction (See Figure). This model appears to be scalable. You could apply it to a specific niche area of customer transaction or to entire journey maps (a favorite topic of mine) across customer touchpoints, channels or platforms. I believe this makes the beginnings of a robust competitive customer experience strategy. More on that at another time.

Experience is everything

Life is an experience. Everything we see, touch, hear, feel, taste, smell, do, learn, speak is an experience. Appreciating the magic behind each experience makes life worth living.

 I quote Deepak Chopra from his book “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success”. “True success is therefore the experience of the miraculous. It is the unfolding of the divinity within us. It is the perception of divinity wherever we go, in whatever we perceive — in the eyes of a child, in the beauty of a flower, in the flight of a bird. When we begin to experience our life as the miraculous expression of divinity — not occasionally, but all the time — then we will know the true meaning of success.”

Thanks to my dear friend Avis, who gave me this book a year and half ago. And miraculously, while looking for something to read on this gorgeous Sunday morning, I chanced upon the very essence this blog is about.