The customer experience does not end with a good (or bad) UX

Posted in User Experience | 16 January 2017

The scenario is familiar. Not far from us a new restaurant has just opened: the promotional campaign shows a rich menu with competitive prices while the brand image is captivating. The venue catches our attention with its nice showcase and elegant interiors. The fact of being brand new with no reviews is not an issue and we decide to give it a try.

Once inside, a waitress hastily makes us to accommodate without paying particular attention. We select the dishes from the well detailed menu and make our order: nevertheless, it will take a while before someone is back at our table. And the waiting time does not improve when we finally get the dishes: overall, an average meal that does not stand out from the competition. We leave the restaurant with a sensation of not being fully satisfied. Our customer experience did not meet the initial user experience.

The UX is not just digital

In this example, the interaction with the product and the customer experience occurr in the same physical context: too often we tend to delimit the UX in a digital environment while the CX is what we think will happen next. Actually, the difference between ordering a dish online or on a printed menu is the medium itself and the form of interaction not the experience.
A UX designer (or the person who is in charge of the user experience) should keep in mind how the product is consistently presented and experienced in all possible contexts of use. Which are not exclusively digital contexts. Similarly, the customer care should not solve the drawbacks of a confusing menu or an incorrect price list.

There is more than the kpi

The issue is further complicated since companies, especially those in highly competitive markets, might underestimate the customer experience and/or evaluate the level of effectiveness of the user experience only in terms of conversion rate and key quantitative performance indicators. To achieve this, they often rely on aggressive price policies and marketing campaigns against their major competitors by leveraging scale economies. As long as the site or app (or any other medium) generates a constant volume of sales and the costs are competitive then there is no need to take further action with the CX (which encompasses the UX).

In other words, they ignore or underestimate the emotional and cognitive variables of the user experience. And they forget (perhaps deliberately) those customers / users who are more concerned about their overall experience rather than just a better price or shorter delivery times.

UX and CX priorities

Not long ago I found myself in a paradox situation. I was contacted by a major hotel booking site to fill the role of UX designer (although the job position was more suitable for a front-end developer with limited UX skills).
At the selection stage, I was asked to analyze their site and identify critical areas for improvement. I conducted a usability review and notified, among others, the overload of information (especially the number of choices), the presence of intrusive visual alerts and the inconsistency of some UI elements (for example, a breadcrumb navigation where I would have expected a structural menu bar and/or a tabbed navigation that did not work as such). 

While all these elements needed to be verified against a user testing, it became clear to me that they did not represent an issue for the UX team just because they were not supported by empirical data. Actually, they were based on a standard usability checklist that can be applied on existing products or services to grab relevant data before any user testing.

Later, by a strange coincidence I stayed in a hotel booked through their site. The location that looked good in the pictures did not prove to be particularly clean and safe. 
In this case, on top of having a bad user experience I also had a very unpleasant customer experience.  

My “experience” brought me to a conclusion: from a user perspective, for a product (or service) to be truly successful two conditions need to be met among others:

  • we must align the UX and the CX seamlessly throughout all the steps and channels of the product fruition.
  • we should not assess the product performance only through quantitative indicators but also considering the cognitive dimension, listening more and giving a valid feedback to the end-user.

With this in mind, it is important that product owners, marketing managers and designers share constantly the information and take action to overcome the problems and harmonize the customer experience.