At Propeller, we know that delivering customer-centric experiences has the power to unlock superior business returns for companies. But too often, we observe hollow vision statements fall flat when it comes to companies executing on their brand promise.

Yet, customer experience (CX) continues to trend upward as the dimension companies expect to compete with their peers on. (look into starting with a number) 75% of organizations are now able to show that customer satisfaction leads to revenue growth through increased customer retention or lifetime value according to a Gartner study. The same study found that 74% of organizations expect increases in their CX budgets in 2020.

Companies not already on the CX transformation path take note. To excel in this environment, business leaders should consider these three things:

  1. Systematically unlock innovation – new and better experiences – through human-centered design
  2. Align people, processes, and technologies to deliver value at each touchpoint along the customer journey
  3. Continuously optimize interactions, across channels, through customer insights and action

So, is your brand promise aligned with what customers experience in reality? Whether you’re an executive or front-line employee, are you following through with that promise?

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel. — American Poet, Maya Angelou

One of the biggest questions when it comes to engaging in a CX transformation is where to begin. If you’re curious about starting on this journey (and we hope that you are), we’ve provided a simple framework that will help you set a customer experience aspiration for all employees to get behind and develop a plan to activate your organization around customer- centricity.

Here are three ways to help connect your brand promise to reality:

1. Define Your Aspiration 

You can't set a plan for designing thoughtful experiences until you know where you want to go. Start by posing this question:

“How do you want to show up for your customers, consistently, in a way that delivers compelling experiences every single time?”

A CX vision memorializes that aspiration for your employees in a structured way. It’s an internal statement that clearly articulates the intended customer experience. The benefits of a strong CX vision include:

Prioritization – Helps leaders effectively make tradeoffs in their portfolio of technology and other investments to extend their customer relationships

Alignment – Frames areas where operational realignment may be needed in order to consistently deliver compelling experiences to customers

Action – Encourages employees to adopt a customer-centric mentality and provides clarity on ways to interact with customers that spark connection

Companies with a great customer experience have strong visions rooted in their brand promise. At the executive level, it guides decision making to address customer pain points. At the manager level, it guides training and communications to front-line employees. And for employees that carry the torch for your brand each day, it guides their behaviors. Developing a solid CX vision answers these questions:

  1. What is your company's vision or brand promise?
  2. What words do you want customers to use to describe interactions with your brand?
  3. What do you want them to feel?
  4. What does it look and sound like to interact with customers that inspire those feelings?

Example of a CX vision in Action

New Seasons is an example I can appreciate as a shopper. They’re a Portland-based grocer with 20 locations, mainly in Portland, with locations in Seattle and San Jose. New Seasons’ vision statement strives to "be the ultimate neighborhood grocery store not only for our customers, but also for our staff.”

All their stores feature some variation of their “fine print” principles, an external manifestation of their internal mission to be the ultimate neighborhood grocery store.

New Seasons' "Fine Print" Values
Photo courtesy: Yelp


When it comes to customer experiences, moments of friction, as well as bright spots, are imprinted on the mind as memorized stories.

Sometimes those moments of friction are quite literal, which New Seasons seeks to remove with its Squeaky Wheel Policy”:

Our shopping carts will be oiled and maintained so they don’t drag, squeak or otherwise annoy you. - New Seasons "fine print" policy

All these small details delivered over time makes a big impact on how you show up for customers. These are specific behaviors that you as a shopper should expect to see, and how the company empowers its employees to interact with you in the moment, even down to opening up something on the shelf for you to try before you buy. It also gives shoppers a starting point to share feedback with you on social or other channels when employee interactions are misaligned with “the fine print” – and that feedback is gold!

For me to personally interact with and feel their cheese mongers and checkout clerks embody and adopt this direction from their leadership team — that’s evidence that the company is thinking intentionally about how they want their people to show up and interact in the store. I think it's a compelling example and certainly resonates with me as a shopper.

And the efforts have a measurable return. New Seasons was named one of Oregon's Most Admired Companies in 2019 and continues to have strong business growth and expansion plans as a result of their intentional experience design.

2. Activate Your CX Transformation

So how do you activate something like this in your organization? If you're just starting out, it's incredibly important to understand who your allies or champions are for this CX transformation effort will be.

We strongly encourage leaders to set up time to meet with those potential allies. Walk them through what that call to action is, or business case for a CX transformation.

What is your “north star”? Do you have a point of view or position on how you want to consistently create differentiation in the marketplace for customer experience that is aligned to your brand and is authentic, inspiring, and empowering?

Who are the centers of influence from a customer experience perspective? Maybe it's in marketing, or product or another function — reach out to them and see if your organization has developed something like this, and then build on that foundation.

What are key business events or upcoming milestones that you can tie this effort to? Or are there key areas of strategic investment that a CX transformation pilot might support? Timing is key. The closer you can alignvthis effort with what’s on deck for this year or next fiscal year, the better the chances of adoption and success.

The focus early on should be to generate some quick wins that prove value to leadership, thereby increasing your chances that teams will benefit from increased time and resources to explore further enhancements to the customer journey.

3. Think in Terms of a “Minimal Lovable Experience”

What is your minimum lovable experience (MLE)? A concept adapted from Agile, this relates to the idea of developing a minimum viable product (MVP). In software development, Agile teams typically build a product that fulfills or solves some very basic need for the customer – it’s functional. Then teams continue to iterate on that product, adding new features over time to fully realize the product vision. Similar to an MVP, what is the minimum lovable experience that you would want to deliver to a customer?

There are three basic ways to evaluate the quality of an experience: 

Did it meet a need? You solve the customer’s problem or help them achieve a goal.

Was it easy? You enable the customer to transact with ease, reducing their time and effort spent.

Did it spark a connection? You created an emotional connection with the customer, leaving them with a feeling of joy, confidence, or trust.


The Minimum Lovable Experience


Building that emotional connection is extremely important. If a customer has that connection with a brand, they are more likely to stay with that brand long term — resulting in a 306% higher customer lifetime value according to one study.

The emotional connection shouldn't be viewed as the final touch of an experience, but rather built in from the beginning. That's what we mean by taking a vertical view. Incorporate a little slice of each layer – emotional, usable, and functional – into your product or service.

Summary

One thing I’m most reflective about is how hungry people are for examples of this in practice.

Companies that deliver great customer experiences have a CX vision that unites every layer of the organization, generates common purpose and goals, and is championed by the highest levels of leadership. Now is always a good time to be thinking about the system needed to deliver on your customer experience goals and make your brand promise a reality for your customers.  

We've created some structure to help you start down the CX transformation path with your teams. Download our CX vision setting templates here.