Why your customer experience efforts need a guiding principle

What’s driving your customer experience strategy? Are you playing by a set of rules, or making it up as you go along? These days, most companies have some sort of strategy or guidelines in place but taking that a step further is critical to improving your customer experience and avoiding negative experiences for your customers.

I’m a writer at Black & White Zebra, an indie media publishing company and the core of what we do is creating a community around topics and professions such as project management or software quality engineering. We focus on creating a customer experience for our community members that helps them achieve their goals.

Our customer experience efforts are directed by a single guiding principle: to help others succeed. Everything we do in customer experience is guided by this, as are our other activities that support our customer experience, like content creation and publishing, marketing, sales, and more.

That’s one example of a guiding principle that lays the foundation for what your customers experience in their interactions with your brand.

In this article, I’ll explain why your business needs a guiding principle for your customer experience (CX) efforts, the benefits, how to create and implement it, and a few examples to demonstrate principles in use.

First, a word of caution. There are lots of examples of general guiding principles out there that you might be tempted to adopt as they are ready-made, but you need to define one that’s specific to your business and your customers or clients to get the most out of it.

Customer Service vs CX: Both Apply To Your Guiding Principle

When we talk about a guiding principle, it’s important to note that while I refer to it as a guiding principle for CX, it also applies to your customer service strategy. In brief, the difference between CX and customer service is that customer service involves responding to customer questions, problems, and complaints as they occur, as well as anticipating needs so you can address them in advance.

CX is more proactive and focused on designing a good experience for the customer that meets their needs before a potential customer or client even interacts with the brand. CX also encompasses non-customer service interactions that a customer has with a brand, such as advertising, product use, and more. Here’s a more in-depth differentiation between the two, if you’re looking for more information.

Your guiding principle needs to apply to both — without alignment between your customer experience and customer service efforts, both will suffer. Your customer service won’t align with the rest of your customer experience, confusing customers, and a less-than-ideal customer experience brings down your customer service efforts with it, as customers will be put-off from the get-go.

Why Your CX Guiding Principle is Not A Vision Statement

Before we dive into the benefits of having a guiding principle for your CX efforts, it’s important to clarify that a guiding principle is different from a vision statement. Most companies have some sort of vision statement that proposes a vision for their company but doesn’t necessarily note how the company is going to achieve that vision.

A guiding principle should be more specific and concrete so that it can direct your day-to-day activities as well as an overall strategy. It’s not about how your customer experience will look 1 or 2 years down the road, it’s about what you can do every day to achieve the customer experience your customers want.

Another difference is that the vision statement is often a big hairy audacious goal (BHAG). BHAGs are aspirational goals that might take your business years to achieve, like aiming for 80% of the market share in your industry or striving to earn one billion dollars in annual recurring revenue by a certain year.