Here’s a typical conversation we have with businesspeople when trying to gauge the level of customer experience maturity at their company:

Forrester analyst: “Do you have a customer experience strategy?”

Manager: “We sure do!”

Forrester analyst: “Great! What’s in it? What’s the intended experience that it describes?”

Manager: “Well, uh, hmmm… You know, maybe we don’t have a customer experience strategy.”

The fact is, people at most companies are in the same boat as that manager (or director or VP or SVP or…). Why? For the most part, it’s because it never occurred to them that customer experience – like other business disciplines such as marketing and branding – requires a strategy to keep it on track.

Here’s why your organization needs a customer experience strategy: Without one, you’ll tend to mix and match best practices that may be great for someone but don’t align at all with the customer experience that you want to deliver.

People love those genius bars in Apple stores, right? And Apple is known for delivering a great customer experience. So why doesn’t Costco put genius bars in their stores? Simple: A genius bar provides an experience that aligns with Apple’s overall strategy of differentiating through innovation but flies in the face of Costco’s overarching strategy to be a cost leader.

That type of mistake may seem obvious. However, our research uncovers missteps like that one on a regular basis. For example, we profile wireless services company T-Mobile Germany in our new book, Outside In. At one point, it had call center agents spending extra time trying to “delight” customers – even customers with low-cost plans. Guess what giving a high level of personal attention to customers with bare bones products accomplished? It confused the heck out of them. (And a smart executive at T-Mobile figured that out and changed the strategy.)

How do you know when you have a real customer experience strategy and that you’re using it to stay on track? You just need to be able to answer “yes” to these four questions:

1)     Does your customer experience strategy describe the customer experience you want to deliver – in detail?

2)     Does your customer experience strategy align with your overall company strategy?

3)     Does your customer experience strategy align with your company's brand attributes?

4)     Have you shared the customer experience strategy with all employees (e.g., distribute documentation, conduct training sessions)?

For an example of how Holiday Inn used customer experience strategy to re-invent and save an important part of its business, check out this video by my co-author, Kerry Bodine. And if you’d like to share examples of how you’ve used CX strategy to help your business profit, drop us a line – you could end up as the subject of an upcoming post!