The Difference Between CX, UX, and Customer Service

Thought Leadership

By Wells Stringham | January 23, 2020
Illustration of a connected digital product

The success of a product takes more than just good design, solid user experience (UX), and smart engineering. At Apply Digital, we support product development with actionable strategy, engaging branding and marketing, and dependable customer service (CS) in order to build effective customer experiences (CX). By orchestrating all of these parts into a symphony, we help companies map out and organize their processes into a CX model that ensures positive experiences for their customers.

When discussing digital product development, people often interchange the terms user experience (UX), customer service (CS), and customer experience (CX). Even though they’re closely related, they’re not the same thing. To help clear up the confusion, here’s a quick summary of each concept and how they interact with each other and the customer.

User experience focuses on a customer’s interaction with products and services. Every product and service has a UX layer that dictates how the customer interacts with that expression of the brand.

Customer service is focused directly on the customer. Its purpose is to provide a solution to the customer’s needs or problems. And since it’s a service, it also has a UX layer.

Together, along with products, services, branding, marketing, and sales, customer service and UX form the business’s customer experience model. The diagram below illustrates how they all interact.

CX UX Screen

To demonstrate the terms in a real-world scenario, here’s a familiar example many of us experienced: repairing or replacing a mobile phone.

Mark relies heavily on his mobile phone for both business and personal use. If he requires an upgrade to his plan or has an issue with his phone, Mark calls his carrier’s customer support or visits their website. Or, if he happens to be near one of their stores, he’ll stop by for in-person assistance.

Each time Mark comes in contact with his carrier, whether in person, online, or over the phone, he’s exposed to their user experience (UX) and customer service (CS). And he stays loyal to his carrier for a new or upgraded purchase or service because he’s had a positive customer experience (CX) with them in the past.

When Mark finds his phone battery is no longer holding a charge, he calls the carrier’s helpline and is connected to an interactive voice response system, which is the most visible UX layer of the company’s customer service. Mark tells the system what he wants and is connected to a live customer service rep who specializes in phone repair and maintenance.

As the customer service rep listens to Mark and asks him key questions, it’s clear it would be cheaper for Mark to upgrade to a new phone than to repair his out-of-warranty one. The rep tells him about the latest models and sends Mark links to the phones on the carrier website.

A old phone receiver with the wire in the shape of an inverted question mark

Mark’s interaction with the rep is an example of how good customer service is delivered. It’s a professional, pleasant, and helpful experience that answers his questions and guides him to the next step in solving his problem.

Mark wants to make sure he makes the right decision on a new phone. He opens the links sent by the rep, reads the features of various models, looks at images, and reads specifications. Mark is again engaging with the company’s UX, this time on the carrier’s website.

Behind the scenes, Mark’s interactions with the site are tracked to see what works and what doesn’t as he navigates through various pages. These metrics are used by the company to improve the UX of the website.

After thorough research online, Mark talks to his colleague Julie, who has similar mobile needs and uses the same carrier. Julie recently upgraded to a new phone, one of the same ones Mark’s considering, and says she’s impressed with its performance. Julie’s positive CX with the product and company is influencing Mark’s perception of the brand.

It turns out Julie’s phone model is on Mark’s shortlist, and he decides it’s the right choice for him too. Next, he wants to talk to a sales rep to understand how long it’ll take to get the new phone, how to get all his data from his old phone to his new phone, and whether there are any other costs involved. He calls the contact phone number on the product page and reaches a salesperson.

The rep explains what to expect when upgrading phones, tells him about current promotional offers, and sets him up with a plan that’s better value than his current plan for about the same monthly cost. Mark completes his purchase feeling confident he made the right choice.

The customer support Mark received, his UX with the company website, the repair rep, and the sales rep, and his talk with his colleague Julie make up the overall CX of the company.

When successful, CX demonstrates to customers how important they are to that business. A successful CX model should leave customers feeling valued and excited about their purchase, and should reinforce that buying from the business is a positive experience.

Man Smiling at Computer

To find out more about customer experience and see how it can help you grow your business, reach out to us at