customer experience strategic planThe annual planning cycle is an opportunity to review pluses and minuses in what’s currently in play, take a look at what’s new, and request resources to take your customer experience performance to the next level in the new year. And it’s more than that: it’s the time when you should step back and assess alignment. Make sure your approaches are aligned with what customers want, and make sure your strategy is aligned with your enterprise objectives. Be courageous to scale back or drop anything that is out of alignment. Be brutally honest in your assessment of what is helping customers help you.

In the spirit of the best-selling eating guide — Eat This, Not That — which spells out popular misconceptions about sensible choices, here are 3 recommendations for your customer experience planning: (1) Drive significant change in order to drive significant ROI, (2) Align methodologies with what customers want, and (3) Expand shared vision for customer experience excellence enterprise-wide and beyond.

1) Drive significant change in order to drive significant ROI: most customer experience efforts start out with a technology buy, taking cues from vendors about what customer experience management entails. In truth, it boils down to making your company irresistible to customers and prospects. That can’t happen by virtue of asking more questions, incenting more purchases, enticing referrals, and other typical customer experience management practices. And it can’t happen one survey respondent at a time, or through one department’s actions at a time. Making your company irresistible to customers and prospects requires significant change. Plan for it in your new year.

DO THIS: put the majority of your effort into cross-functional collaboration that will align processes, policies, and culture with customers’ well-being.

NOT THAT: over-invest in customer listening and engagement when you haven’t yet resolved what customers have told you to fix.

2) Align methodologies with what customers want: ease of doing business, robust solutions, and good all-round value while achieving their business/life needs. It’s ironic that most customer experience management techniques are far removed from this list: they may come across as invasive, remedial, ill-timed, self-serving, or illogical. Nobody thinks when they buy something: I hope I’ll enjoy the survey they send me, or the 800-number call I would prefer to never have to make, or the offers to engage me in downloading stuff and participating in social media with them. Yet, for customer experience professionals, those things are typically what we eat, drink and sleep.

Minimize invasion by making it easy for customers to give you feedback whenever and however they want, and by requesting specific feedback only as often as you make change happen. Minimize remedial, ill-timed, self-serving, and illogical methods by focusing on becoming preferred, not just referred. Preferred companies earn that status through trust-building, doing things right the first time and every time, giving the customer a hand-in-glove feeling of “right fit” for them. Human nature takes the path of least resistance and rewards “right fit”. Plan for it in your new year.

DO THIS: focus on doing things “for” customers to earn their long-term confidence (i.e. do things “to” your company that better serve customers’ well-being).

NOT THAT: over-rely on customer experience management technologies or over-rely on doing things “to” customers (i.e. getting them to do things “for” you).

3) Expand shared vision for customer experience excellence enterprise-wide and beyond: it not only “takes a village”, but also requires upstream prevention of issues for customers and front-line staff — the most awesome customer experiences are hassle-free. And that means every functional area and every managerial level plays a role. Nobody is excused from having a ripple effect on customer experience.

Think of customer experience excellence as a managerial context, just like stewardship of people and resources is a universal managerial context. This outlook alone will get you more mileage than you ever dreamed toward becoming a preferred, irresistible company. Plan for it in your new year.

DO THIS: ask every member of the C-team to specify their contribution to customer experience excellence goals, and weave customer experience insights into everything the company does.

NOT THAT: assume the C-team is fully engaged, relinquish customer experience management to certain people, build silos into the way customer experience is managed, or allow any process or ritual to operate without a customer experience context.

Carpe diem! Seize the day for turning a new leaf in the business results your customer experience planning efforts produce. This is not a plug-and-play endeavor. It’s not an assignment that a critical few can pull off. It’s not about manipulation or enticement. Customer experience excellence is a way of life. Embed it in your company through-and-through for maximum profitable growth.


1. Customer Experience Strategy is one of the six domains in the body of knowledge advocated by the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). (ClearAction offers a CXPA officially Authorized Resource & Training CCXP Exam Prep Course.)

2. The concept of “Do This, Not That” is borrowed from the popular book “Eat This, Not That“, where the weaknesses of common practices and myths are brought to light and sensible replacements are recommended.

3. Other articles in this series:

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