How Do Great Brands Deliver a Consistent Customer Experience?
Some brands deliver consistently delightful experiences for customers like magic. Other brands seem to base the experience on which employee answers the call.
How can some brands get it so right, so consistently? And others get it so wrong because there is no consistency?
The answer is a Customer Experience Mission.
A Customer Experience Mission is a guiding statement for your organization around what the experience should be for each customer, every time. It provides a consistent purpose around what the experience should be to your employees, whether they’re interacting directly with customers or not.
Every employee in an organization has to understand their role in delivering this ultimate customer experience. Magical experiences aren’t magical at all. They’re missions.
(You may have seen others talk about a CX Vision instead of a Mission. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I like Mission because it feels more active. The purpose is based on the outcome for customers and the brand.)
If your organization doesn’t have a clear customer experience mission, you’re asking employees to make a best guess on what the experience should look like. Your customer’s journey will be filled with inconsistencies.
Corporate Vision, Mission and Values Statements Don’t Always Get It Right
Your organization probably has some sort of combination of the corporate Vision, Mission, and Values.
They’re often defined in the following ways:
- A corporate vision statement is an aspirational statement about where the company is going, often created to speak to stakeholders.
- A corporate mission statement communicates the organization’s “reason for being” or purpose.
- Corporate values reflect what values the overall organization looks to uphold in order to deliver on the vision and mission.
These are all important organizational guideposts. But many of them never really address how to deliver on these visions or values for customers.
Even Service Vision Statements and Customer Experience Vision Statements are only aspirational statements, like a corporate vision, about the ideal service they’d like to provide.
I like to focus on Customer Experience Mission Statements because they look not only to what the experience is for customers, but also the unique ways your organization can provide them.
According to Principles of Management, “you can say that the mission statement lays out the organization’s ‘purpose for being,’ and the vision statement then says, ‘based on that purpose, this is what we want to become.’”
Some Corporate Vision, Mission & Values Statements Get Close…
Some corporate vision and mission statements can be a great jumping-off point for a Customer Experience Mission. Southwest Airlines, for example, has a mission that focuses squarely on customers and the way they should experience the brand:
“The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit.”
Their employees are known to be warm, friendly and fun. Their branding, including the logo with a heart in the middle, their advertising, and their customer communications consistently deliver on this mission.
Others Fail to Deliver on How to Deliver
Other corporate vision statements never quite get to the “how we’ll deliver to customers” part.
Many corporate vision statements sound something like this:
“To be recognized as an industry leader, earning higher profits for our stakeholders and loyalty from our customers.”
This type of statement is aiming for customer loyalty… but how will they get there?
That’s where a Customer Experience Mission can help.
I worked with a manufacturer who provided complex parts for large machinery, including healthcare devices like MRI machines as well as parts that go into rockets and other spacecraft. (Rockets!)
Their corporate vision was fine, if lackluster, and focused on the products. We simply added to that with a Customer Experience Mission that focused on Going Beyond. Their products already did that, in some cases quite literally!
Providing focus to the experience was something every employee could understand, connect to emotionally, and understand how their role helped. “Go beyond” became a shorthand for:
- Are we doing this well enough?
- Are we providing service that is responsive?
- Are we setting the right expectations so we can live up to and go beyond them?
That’s the goal. Create a language that employees can tuck inside their hearts and say out loud to check in on if they’re truly living up to the Customer Experience Mission.
How To Build a Customer Experience Mission Statement
Creating a CX mission can be as simple as answering five questions:
- What’s our Brand Promise?
- What’s in it for the customer?
- What experience can we deliver?
- What do we want our customers to feel?
- How will our mission tie to our products and process?
Ready to get started? Let’s review each question in greater detail.
1. What’s our Brand Promise?
A Brand Promise is what you’re telling customers to expect from your brand.
- Customers know to expect excellent hospitality and high-end service from a 5-star resort.
- Customers also understand they have a clean room and a place to stay the night at a lower-cost, no-frills hotel.
- The brands of those hotels are different, and the promise to customers is different, too.
In some cases, this shows up as the tagline customers see in marketing and advertising. Often, it goes beyond that. Nike’s example is one of my favorites:
“To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.”
(That asterisk is an explanation that if you have a body, you’re an athlete.)
Nike’s brand promise serves as their Customer Experience Mission by being inspirational and innovative.
Some brand promises aren’t that well articulated. Here’s an exercise for you to try:
- Ask one employee what your brand promise is and note their answer.
- Then ask another.
- Ask as many more employees as you’d like, keeping track of the responses you get.
It’s not unusual to receive inconsistent answers or even some shrugs. Many organizations don’t communicate this regularly, and some simply don’t have them.
Your customers still see and understand your brand and its promises, though. Maybe those are around speed, like delivering products faster than others. Or maybe it’s around white-glove treatment.
The first step towards a CX Mission is understanding what promises have already been made to customers, explicitly as a formal Brand Promise or not.
Not sure where to find this in your organization? Find your marketing leaders! Ask them what the brand promise is and where to find it. Or keep asking around, and collect the feedback you get from employees.
Listen for the words that reflect what the brand promised customers. Then look for what customers have said about expectations.
Find what you can around what promises have been made, either in formal statements or implied expectations.
2. What’s in it for the customer?
What vision does your organization have for what the customer will do, achieve or experience with your products and services?
Many attempts at CX Missions get stuck here, because corporate-speak, business outcomes and an inside-out focus are harder to avoid than we think. “Delivering best-in-class solutions” isn’t a customer experience mission. What will those solutions DO for your customers?
IKEA, the furniture brand, includes “to create a better everyday life for the many people” in their vision statement. This is focused squarely on what they hope their customer experience will do for their customers – long after the sale.
Since that’s what should be achieved for the customer, the experience should reflect that. How can the customer experience “create a better everyday” along the journey? In their stores, they have restaurants and shopping cart escalators. Some shoppers make it a destination for a day trip. That’s just one way their experience is reflecting their statement.
3. What experience can we deliver?
It can be easy to get caught up on the aspirational ideas of a CX Mission. But a Customer Experience Mission must be realistic.
Be cautious about CX Missions that state the BEST or “-EST” – fastest, easiest, etc. Those are hard to achieve 100% of the time. And the fastest BAD experience doesn’t help anyone!
As your CX Mission comes together, be aware of what is realistically achievable versus delusional. The goal is to have a Mission that is “always on.” Not just at certain points along the journey, but throughout the customer experience and the employee experience, too! Aiming for a super-aspirational, but not-even-close-to-reality goal is doomed to fail, and frustratingly so.
Ask if your CX Mission can be “always on?” If not today, is it realistic enough to aim there? Aim for words that are truly, deeply YOU. Some brands are formal. Some are known for fun. Push beyond words like “best” or “great service” and consider words that connect more to who your brand is.
A law firm went through this exercise and realized they set themselves apart from the competition by being humble. They couldn’t promise to win every case or never make a mistake, but they could promise an experience of “listening and learning with humility” with their clients, no matter what.
4. What do we want our customers to feel?
Stay connected to the emotions your customers will have when the experience with your brand lives up to the promise and the CX Mission.
Look to real-world examples of what customers have told you when they are happy and feel their expectations have been exceeded.
Look to the examples of customer complaints, too – what emotions are they showing? How can the experience of the future reverse that? What would you WANT them to say about their experience?
Andrew Mason, founder of Groupon, wrote in his farewell letter after unceremoniously being fired from Groupon, “…have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers.”
Emotions matter. As CX leaders, we should never lose sight of that.
Brainstorm four or five emotions you want your customers to feel. Use their words from reviews, testimonials, and communications. If they tell you over and over again they are overjoyed from a great result, aim for joy for every customer!
5. How will our mission tie to our products and process?
A great CX Mission is never just a campaign. It shows up throughout the organization.
At REI, the outdoor gear and apparel retailer, they state in their Who We Are statement:
“At Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.We believe that it’s in the wild, untamed and natural places that we find our best selves, so our purpose is to awaken a lifelong love of the outdoors, for all.”
This translates into action like their #OptOutside campaign. They close their stores on Black Friday, known as the biggest shopping day in the United States. This is one way they help their employees and customers enjoy the outdoors, as promised. Recently, this also turned into the Opt To Act campaign, focusing on 52 weeks of action to challenge employees and customers to reduce their environmental impact, get active, and leave the world better than they found it.
Your CX Mission might be aspirational at first, but it can be designed to deliver an experience way beyond selling products.
Build Your CX Mission Together
As you endeavor to put your Customer Experience Mission together, I encourage you to aim to meet the following criteria:
- Stay concise. The goal is to create a code and short-hand reference for those in your organization. Nobody internalizes 17 bullet points.
- Use real language. Corporate speak and obvious (and boring) ideas like “align our operations around best practices” isn’t the experience you want to deliver to customers.
- Avoid self-flattery. Watch out for statements based on inside-out thinking like “We’re the leader” or “Our customers love us.”
Your Customer Experience Mission might not be perfect at first. It might not incorporate every single idea into a perfect, pithy statement. And that’s perfectly okay. Do the best you can and you’ll be better off than you were before.
A Customer Experience Mission is about the partnership you have with your customers. Aim high for them!