Defining and Communicating Your Intended Customer Experience

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I originally wrote today’s post for the CXPA. It appeared on the CXPA site on April 15, 2020, as part of a series on CX as a Strategy for Resilience. Be sure to check out the entire series.

Emotions play a huge role
in the overall customer experience. Many would argue that emotions are really
the foundation of the experience and drive advocacy and future purchase decisions.
I’m fully on board with that.

So the question then becomes,
“What do you want customers to feel as they interact or transact with your brand?”
And yet you can’t answer that without asking, “How do customers want to feel as
they interact or transact with your brand?” Slight nuances, but it’s outside-in
and customer-centric thinking that rules the day. Consider both scenarios, as
they are both important.

Where am I headed? Well,
let’s start with a definition of customer experience. It is the sum of
all the interactions that a customer has over the life of the relationship with
a brand. (Some would argue that product and price are not included in
the definition, but how could that possibly be? Product and price are
absolutely a part of the experience!) But, importantly, the experience is also
the emotions, feelings, and perceptions that a customer has about those
interactions.

As you design and deliver
the experience, you must keep those emotions, feelings, and perceptions top of
mind. How does the customer feel? Does that match what we intended the customer
to feel? If not, we better get into alignment.

That takes us to the point of this article: your customer experience intent statement. I’ve traditionally referred to this as your customer experience vision statement. They are similar, but the vision statement is higher-level, forward-thinking, and linked to your corporate vision, while the intent statement is quite specific to designing individual interactions and transactions.

For the purpose of this
article, I’m writing about the intent statement. It is an inspirational and
aspirational – a stretch, yet achievable – statement of the desired emotional
and experiential journey your customers will have as they interact with your
brand. In a sentence or two (maybe a paragraph), this statement describes the
experience you plan to deliver, with a specific focus on the feelings and
emotions that the experience will elicit, at every touchpoint, during every
interaction with your organization.

The customer experience
intent statement is an internally-focused statement that helps to guide both
decisions and actions, i.e., how to best deliver the experience at each
interaction in order to elicit the desired emotions, how the customer will feel
at each interaction. This statement will inform and drive your customer
experience strategy. It’s a foundational element in your customer experience
design work.

In order to define
a statement of what you want customers to feel and experience at every
interaction, you must draw from two sources:

  1. Customers: the statement must be grounded in customer insights and understanding in order to ensure customer needs and expectations are incorporated. Write the statement from the customer’s perspective for a more-impactful message.
  2. Employees: you must include input from a cross-functional team of employees who understand how customers interact and transact with their parts of the business. The additional benefit of involving employees ensures that there will be buy-in and commitment going forward.

It’s wise to ensure your customer experience intent statement aligns with the brand promise, which is all about what the customer can expect, what value she will receive, when interacting with the brand.

Some tips to
keep in mind as you develop this statement. It must be:

  • Grounded in customer insights and understanding.
  • About the customer, not about your internal processes or policies.
  • About emotions to be elicited; it also helps make an emotional connection between employees and customers.
  • Specific to your business and, thus, becomes your differentiator.
  • Aligned with your corporate strategy.
  • Simple, clear, compelling, and easy to understand. It cannot be vague or ambiguous. It must clearly articulate the experience you intend to deliver.
  • Applicable to every channel or context in which you serve customers.
  • Motivational and inspirational, but if  it’s not realistic or achievable, it will do neither.
  • The basis for business decisions and (employee) behaviors.
  • Revisited at a regular interval to ensure that it still reflects the experience you want to deliver based on emerging trends, changing customer needs, etc.

Once
you’ve developed your customer experience intent statement, it must be blessed
by executives and then communicated to the entire company. Follow these
guidelines to socialize and to operationalize the customer experience intent
statement.

  • It is for internal purposes only, not to be shared with customers, competitors, etc.
  • It must be communicated to employees – across the entire organization, regardless of channel, business unit, etc.
  • Use storytelling to communicate, demonstrate, and connect employees to the customer and to the intended experience.
  • It must be modeled and reinforced by leaders but also by customer champions throughout the organization. Enlist your governance committees to help with this.
  • It must have commitment from those who live it and execute it.
  • All employees must know how they contribute to, and align with, it.
  • If needed, explain and model for employees, just so there is no question.
  • No design decisions can be made without incorporating the intent statement.
  • The statement is manageable and measurable. You can monitor and measure whether the experience lives up to the intent statement.

Your customer experience
intent statement is at the foundation of your customer experience strategy. If
you’re struggling to deliver a seamless and consistent experience across
touchpoints, this statement is your bellwether. If you’re hearing feedback that
is counter to this statement, it might be time to revisit and update your listening
posts and your journey maps to identify – and to improve – what’s not going
well.

If you haven’t yet created this statement for your organization, take the time to do it. Communicate it. Indoctrinate your employees. Live it and reinforce it. You won’t regret it.

Intent not followed by action is an insult to your design. Decide what you want, create a plan, and get your ass out there! -Steve Maraboli

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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