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A beginner’s guide to customer experience design

13 min read
How do you keep customers engaged and involved in your brand? Learn how to continually design your customer experiences around their emotions, needs, and desires, to provide a seamless experience.

Written by: Rosemin Anderson
Reviewed byShivani Parikh

Customer experience (CX) design is the foundation of great customer experiences. But how do you create a customer experience design strategy, and once you’ve implemented it, how do you continue to create new experiences your customers will delight in?

Read on to understand how to build an effective customer experience design program, and how to implement experiences your customers will love.

What is customer experience design?

Customer experience design is the process of creating an integrated and engaging customer journey, taking into account how the customer might view every interaction they have with a brand. It’s about putting yourself in your customer’s shoes to create experiences that will fulfill needs and make your customers happy.

A customer experience design strategy ensures that your customers have the greatest possible experience when buying a product or service, engaging with contact centre agents and more. Great customer experience design incorporates all the touchpoints a customer might encounter before, during and after conversion, such as advertising campaigns and customer service moments, and ensures they are satisfying, enjoyable experiences.

Free guide: Reimagining omnichannel CX in the age of AI

Customer experience (CX) design vs. user experience (UX) design

User experience (UX) design is focused on how smooth users’ interactions are with your platforms, ensuring that there are no technical issues, visual stumbling blocks or other more tangible hiccups that might affect a customer navigating through your platform. It’s also more likely to be fixed on specific interactions, rather than taking a holistic overview of the entire customer journey map..

In contrast, customer experience (CX) design is shaping the overall view customers have of your product or service and ensuring their experiences meets customer expectations. This might include tailoring the end-to-end customer journey, marketing, sales and customer service to meet customer needs.

Why is customer experience design important?

There are several benefits for implementing customer experience design. Here are the main benefits below:

It increases customer loyalty and spend

Customer experience design is vital for capturing the attention of those who encounter your brand. Not only that, it helps to shape the perception of your services or products, helping to engage customers in a way that they like and meeting their needs in a way they can appreciate.

Building experiences that customers enjoy positively impacts brand loyalty and spend, because customers will reward seamless, enjoyable experiences with repeat purchases and higher brand engagement. Customers who consider an experience 5/5 stars are more than twice as likely to make a repeat purchase, with 80% of satisfied consumers spending more.

By focusing on a customer-centric approach for your customer experience design process, you can create amasing experiences that will bring your customers back time and time again.

It helps reduce customer churn and negative feedback

Now more than ever, organisations need to meet and exceed customer expectations or risk losing customers to the competition. When each interaction is created with customer sentiment, emotion and feedback  in mind, you’re able to better fulfill customer expectations and provide experiences that delight. Customers are less likely to churn with a more considered approach to brand touchpoints, and negative feedback can be reduced if customers have their needs met consistently. Existing customers can become loyal customers, and new customers can benefit from the implementation of updated experiences based on prior customer feedback.

Designing your customer experience program

Customer experience design process

Create relevant design principles

To create the most effective strategy for creating new experiences, you need to ensure that you set and meet customer experience design principles. These are based on your brand’s CX vision, its mission, and its promises to its customers. Your principles guide how your products and services are designed and delivered, and how your customers should feel.

These principles could be:

  • That the customer journey is simple to understand, no matter how complex the journey becomes
  • That experience goals are always specified with key performance indicators planned in advance to ensure standards are always met
  • That all experiences are designed with a customer-centric approach, taking into account customer insights and employee feedback
  • That all customer experiences should feel complete and satisfying

Once you’ve established what principles will guide you, you can start designing and implementing high quality customer experiences, and have confidence that they will resonate.

When creating new experiences, you should always refer back to these principles – and if you’re finding it hard to engage your customers, consider updating them to match new needs.

Build or update your customer personas

To understand how your customers will interact with your brand, customer personas can be a helpful tool to help you imagine their needs, feelings and likely responses to the experiences you design. Customer personas are fictional characters based upon customer research, encapsulating the most common attributes of a particular group of customers. These can be for customers you have already, or customers you’re aiming to bring on board.

Whether initially creating these personas or updating them for new audiences or experiences,  you’ll need to gather the persona research you need through the collection of data and analysis. You’ll need to find the themes and insights that will be helpful for informing your design. For example, are your customers always using their mobiles to make purchases? Will they prefer to pay via card, or will they prefer a credit option? You can collect this data through interviews, customer feedback forms, polls and more.

Be sure to update your data on a regular basis. How has your customer persona changed? What are their new needs? How have external factors changed what they respond to? Make sure to change your experiences based on the latest input.

Plot out customer journey maps and create new touchpoints

Once you have your updated personas firmly in place, you can start to map customer behavior and find gaps. These gaps can help you provide a more seamless experience, or help you decide where to create a new customer experience touchpoint.

When plotting out the customer journey, you can see how a customer interacts with your platforms, content, products and services. Having a continually updated awareness of your customer journey channels and every touchpoint within your brand, from your website, social media, to phone calls and more will help you make decisions – and create experiences – your customers will appreciate.

Purchasing decisions and other actions taken by your customers should always be linked to their customer persona, and changes should be noted. This will help you to build a deeper understanding of who is interacting with your brand and what they are doing. Once that’s clear, you can start linking it to why your customers are reacting well to your customer experience design strategy.

Map empathy and understand new pain points

Customer experience shouldn’t just revolve around problem-solving, though that can be a strong part of why a customer enjoys your products or services. They can also centre on fulfilling emotional needs.

Empathy mapping, as described by the Nielsen Norman Group, is a visualisation of what we know about customers’ actions. It shows what customers say, think, do and feel, and simplifies complex emotions for better understanding of customers’ needs and wants.

Mapping out your customers’ empathy helps you to ensure customer emotions remain current. To begin empathy mapping, you can run surveys or interview sessions on an ongoing basis to continually flesh out or narrow down the “why” behind customer actions. Asking your customers about what they thought or said about a specific experience, or how they felt and what they did as a result, can help you to make sure your CX design aligns with customer expectations.

As for pain points, above all else, measuring the results of your CX design is vital for understanding where these are. When you create customer journey maps that accurately pinpoint where customers might be leaving your platforms, you can narrow down the gaps where customers might be losing interest or encountering friction.

With empathy maps and pain points measured, you can then tweak the messaging, change the calls to action, and present customers with different options to test what works better for customers who might otherwise be lost.

Ensure your organisation is on board and experiences are uniform

This process isn’t just where a customer experience designer focuses on output, just as customer experience management isn’t just a task for customer service. It’s important to make sure your entire organisation is design-oriented and customer–minded to provide a holistic customer experience.

Developing a quality framework to work within, based on your design principles, helps to ensure that your customers’ experiences are uniform. It’s important that your customer experience be consistent, whether your customers are interacting with you on social media, on your website, or on the telephone to your customer support team. Consistency helps to drive repeat engagement, as customers know what to expect.

Even with the best customer touchpoints in the world, one bad experience can put off customers quickly. Make sure your social media channels live up to the same standards as your customer service, and your strategy will be more likely to delight and engage.

Implementing your new customer experience strategy

Once you’ve revisited your customer data and operational data, confirmed your customer personas, adjusted customer journey maps, completed empathy mapping, and understood any new pain points, you can implement your updated strategy.

Designing new, exciting customer experiences requires inventive thinking to take all the knowledge gained on your customers and apply it in a way they will find engaging. Reviewing what has worked and why it has worked is the best method for creating satisfying new experiences.

Measure the impact of your customer experience design

Your design principles should have given you a goal for your customer experience design to strive towards. When you’ve implemented your customer experience program, you should also create a system for measuring the positive impact your new experiences should have, with specific KPIs to attain. This might be higher levels of customer satisfaction as measured by CSAT surveys, lower customer churn, higher revenue or similar.

Test your program and repeat

Effective customer experience design is tested, and tested regularly. Add in live chat tools, follow up emails, and implement post-interaction surveys to get live (or near-live) feedback on how your strategy is working. Repeat what works, and adjust what doesn’t. Look to continually improve.

Customer feedback is the easiest way to get real insights into your CX design program, and with it, you can continue to delight your customers with an integrated journey and a seamless experience.

Free guide: Reimagining omnichannel CX in the age of AI