On Customer Experience and User Experience: A Q&A with Chris Brown

I spoke with Chris Brown, who manages research for the Customer Experience team at Wiley, the company I work for. Our conversation covered Chris’s professional experience and role at Wiley. We talked about the meaning of the term “customer experience” and how it differs from “user experience.” The terms are confusing to many of us: for example, at Wiley, UX research methods and deliverables such as personas and journey mapping fall under the CX team more so than the UX team.

My program at Pratt is about user experience. What is customer experience?

Well, UX folks are concerned with an element of a customer’s experience [and not the whole]. They’ll look at an interface, what’s working and not working, what the user is trying to accomplish. They’ll identify use cases and gather requirements and things of that nature that will make their way into a product roadmap. They’ll test software and do all of that kind of thing… The word “usability” gets at the difference. How is the navigation? Does it work? Is it efficient?

Customer experience is a broader thing. We’re looking at customer groups vs. individual user experiences. And it’s looking at the customer’s journey along a path from discovery of a particular product or offering, looking at the customer’s needs and aspirations, and the pain points, attitudes, and behaviors in the context of a program or something broader—one of the things we try to do is to narrow it down… So if you’re a customer you’ve got a particular set of needs, aspirations, and attitudes about what’s available: discovery, evaluations, and purchasing.

And this is from a marketing perspective. In terms of a program, we try to understand what the experience is like. We do research at the front end to understand customers. That body of knowledge is applied in different ways, in terms of developing new programs and revising existing programs in an ongoing way.

We look at the customer’s journey at different touchpoints. For example, beginning of term surveys go out at the beginning of the semester. End of term surveys are at the end of the semester. This roundly is about the voice of the customer.

[On the customer experience team]… we’re looking at customer groups vs. individual user experiences.

How are personas used at Wiley?

It’s one of the tools we use. Foundationally, it’s about insight. It’s about understanding your customers so that the actions you take are customer focused. You need to really dive in deep and develop your personas.

The value is in the process and the actual doing. To develop personas you do it collaboratively with the teams here who are developing the products and programs. Wiley’s education group is doing it with instructors and students, and other groups are doing it with librarians, journal authors, and elsewhere.

A personal is a deep description of a type of person. It has elements of their journey and it has other elements.


Personas are created for students, instructors, and journal authors. 

How are journey maps used at Wiley? What are they? Are they actual deliverables?  

Journey maps are used to make sure you’re getting the right questions. The value is in the application of the journey map. You can call the thing a deliverable but that doesn’t mean it’s actually done. They’re representations, emblematic of customer types and discrete customer needs, and so you’d apply them when you’re thinking about new programs and services you’ll develop for your market.  For product designers, they help make the customers come alive and it’s a useful tool for them.

[Personas and journey maps] can be used to focus a marketing plan as well.  

But marketers can use it as well—they can be used to focus a marketing communication plan as well. It helps sales and marketing teams communicate with certain segments of customers.

You have to be careful with personas and journey maps. People are complex. They’re not the same thing all the time. Good personas should be recognizable and should be easy to differentiate from one another. That’s not always the case when you read some of them.


Sample journey mapping, includes “stages,” “thinking,” and “feeling” for this instructor persona. 

Can you tell me a little about your career path?

I started working in market research for a supplier, doing a bunch of different things, more consumer oriented. Then I started working for a publisher in research and management roles. A lot of it had to with product development and marketing, some with academic research. My previous job was heading research for the Pearson Foundation. We looked at various things like innovative assessment, language learning… the intersection of technology and learning, AI stuff related to how languages can be taught in an online environment. This research informed product development at Pearson. How research gets translated into product development is a real challenge.