I think the term customer - a slightly controversial term in higher education still perhaps - is just used most frequently because the usability companies making money in this field are targeting the commercial sector.
So what is customer experience? Craig McCulloch says:
Customer experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a business or a brand. It embraces business awareness, discovery, attraction, association, interaction, transaction and advocacy. An ‘experience’ can be defined as a single event – or the sum of events – that a consumer has with a brand. It shapes the customers’ perception, expectation and interaction.His article is a great introduction and overview.
In the second article, the Webcredible team then go on to discuss how a great experience can lead to customer loyalty. This includes a great presentation which pulls in examples of user centred design techniques which can be employed to help you towards your goal of a great experience for your target audience.
Creating an optimal customer experience - article by Craig McCulloch for.net
“I’m sticking with you…” Can User Experience drive Customer Loyalty? - Article and presentation by Gemma Maidment for Webcredible