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, the value it adds for the customer, and the desired outcomes.
  • 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/must 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

Annette Franz, CCXP is an internationally recognized customer experience thought leader, coach, speaker, and author. She recently published her first book, Customer Understanding: Three Ways to Put the “Customer” in Customer Experience (and at the Heart of Your Business); it’s available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats. Sign up for our newsletter for updates, insights, and other great content that you can use to up your CX game.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.