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X, not CX or UX

August 2018 – Liam Keogh

You may be considering making the leap from UX to CX design. In this article I’ll be unpacking what I see as the similarities, the differences and what needs to be in place for you to make a successful transition between these related disciplines.

The ease with which you will transition depends on a number of factors; your level of seniority and current expertise, your desire to exercise a newly acquired skill or to pick up another. In my case it was the latter. As UX lead in a fast paced delivery-focussed environment I did not have enough influence on the overall strategy and discovery phases – I missed being instrumental in project direction. When I saw an opportunity to join an innovation lab and change from modular systems thinking, to strategic design thinking, I leapt at the chance. My following observations stem from coming into the CX realm as a UXer. Your own journey may vary.

CX is a Road Trip

Let’s step back for a second and look at what distinguishes CX from UX. In practical terms, CX determines what combination of factors best serve a customer goal (strategically aligned with business goals), whereas UX is concerned with how those factors, both individually and in concert, work to facilitate the user actions that will achieve that goal. Let’s see if we can express it in a metaphor that might be easier to grasp: CX is a road trip.

The highway, the vehicle, the other road users, they are all part of CX. The steering wheel, the air con, the controls, and the dashboard data display – they are all part of UX. So, running out of fuel without realising the tank was running low in the middle of a highway is not bad CX. It’s bad UX. Not having a service station within a reasonable distance? That’s bad CX. UX is practical, measurable and atomic. CX is more longitudinal, aspirational and strategic. Lastly, in my own experience, CX has been predominantly about discovery and opportunity definition through qualitative research. UX has been about tools, prototypes and interfaces, testing and validation.

X not UX or CX

In less mature, or under-resourced environments, enforcing a distinction between CX and UX can be alienating and confusing to your non-design colleagues. Equally, in large, well resourced enterprises, that distinction can be enforced upon you. So where possible, I ditch both labels and just refer to myself as an Experience Designer.

At the end of the day our core strengths remain the same; empathy for people interacting with, and within a system, identifying their goals and helping them to achieve those goals. Both the CXer and the UXer create artefacts that describe our theories, we use personas of those interacting with the system and we employ storytelling to communicate our proposed solutions. However, that generalisation may not help recruiters, Human Resources or project managers to get the right resources in place on a project. In practical terms, you may well be an Experience Designer but with a specific skill set, the shorthand for that skill can be UX or CX.

How to Transition

The question you might want to ask yourself as a UXer is; how do you get legitimised as a CXer? One way is to try and get a secondment to a CX team (if it exists) within your current workplace. The CX Team are often crying out for concrete prototyping skills and the ability to realise the outputs of their ideation sessions and insights walls, a win-win situation.

If a CX function does not exist in your organisation but you observe that they are not looking at the wider customer experience, step up and get involved. There’s no use saying “that’s not my job” when you are the closest relation to the vital skills they are lacking. I’m sure you’ve seen that cliche movie scene where there’s a medical emergency in a remote location and there’s the “I’m not that kind of doctor” conversation. This is where the Veterinarian is eventually persuaded to go into the makeshift canvas tent and ends up saving the life of the injured party. Well, sometimes you have to be the Vet … sometimes you have to be the Vet (repeated for dramatic effect).

There are other ways to transition of course. How about jumping on a CX design course to top up your knowledge? Yet another way would be to do a self-directed CX exercise. If you have recently changed TV & Broadband suppliers for example, and encountered issues, document the pain points with your online and offline journey to getting it installed. Make suggestions on how it could be improved from a holistic experience point of view. Add your thinking and design output to your portfolio.

Silver Lining for UXers

The good news is that UXers can quickly get to up speed on CX as it is primarily a change of lexicon with some new adjacent methods to complement your existing suite of human centred design methodologies. This lexicon is crucial to master as it is specific to the political and financial landscape. CX is about aligning with an organisation’s goals to attract and retain customers through cost efficient service improvements. UX is about interpretation of interactions, time on task, measurable metrics that validate designs. The immediate, temporal metrics of UX are not so important to CX so get comfortable with the ambiguity. And good luck!

Liam Keogh is an Experience Designer with National Australia Bank Labs in Melbourne, Australia.

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