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Your 7-Step Customer Experience Blueprint

Updated: May 6

Without a plan for Customer Experience (CX) you will never meet your sales and customer retention goals.

It’s hard to get started. Staring at the blank page, working though where to begin, and connecting the dots to where you want to go can be daunting.

Don’t worry, I’ve got you.

Let’s start by talking about why you should care about your Customer Experience Strategy and why any of this matters:

  • Customers in this evolving market are more discerning than ever and you can build ongoing loyalty and unlock their lifetime value through customer-centricity. Gartner reports that 74% of consumers are likely to buy based on experience alone.

  • Without a point of differentiation around overall experience, you could end up being a commodity in your industry, competing solely on price rather than value.

  • Focusing on people sets you up to prioritize your employee journey, thus supercharging your customer experience.


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Step 1: Prioritize your employee experience

Your team experience and engagement will drive your customer experience. Excelling at this as a leader isn’t complex in the slightest, yet there are so many employees out there who are dealing with supervisors who simply don’t treat them very well.

How you treat your team is how they will treat your customers and that will be the perception of your service and your brand.

  • Ensure you have a robust reward and recognition strategy that is gamified and enabled through technology.

  • Ensure open communication so that your team understands the priorities and how they contribute.

  • Prioritize your daily pre-shift huddles.

  • Remove hassles for your team wherever you can.

  • Be kind and supportive of your team, creating a welcoming community and culture.

  • Create opportunities for them to learn, grow, and advance.

  • Provide honest, clear, and supportive feedback of their performance, but never gloss over shortfalls or ignore successes.

  • Work in concert with your HR team to ensure alignment on rewards, recognition, compensation, career advancement strategy, and development opportunities.

Step 2: Understand your customers

Until you have a deep understanding of your customers' preferences and needs, you will have a very difficult time exceeding their expectations, much less meeting them.

  • Review your Voice of the Customer (V.OC.) data or deploy a feedback mechanism if you don’t currently have one.

  • Conduct customer focus groups and listening sessions.

  • Work with a cross functional team to create empathy, touch point, and journey maps for your customer and your team. Take care here, as often the company point of view is prioritized rather than the customer perspective. This is why it is important to have a CX professional lead the charge here. I would shy away from allowing the marketing or sales team to lead this, but they should be a part of the process.

  • Create your customer personae, again with a CX professional leading your work.

  • Develop an action plan (with detailed accountability) based on what you learn to integrate into your CX plan. Share widely within your organization to get buy in and alignment.

Step 3: Get your own house in order

You can't even think about creating an impactful customer experience until you are on the same page internally. That means aligning your technology, leadership, strategy, and overall processes with your customer experience vision.

  • Your executive team and key stakeholders must be aligned and onboard to prioritize customer centricity. Beware of those who have high levels of influence and low interest because they will be the ones that derail you along the way.

  • Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t let yourself get sidetracked with unimportant details such as naming rights and personal agendas.

  • Ensure that leadership at all levels is engaging the team in meaningful ways and prepared to lead by example.

  • Don't get mired in branding and design - it should be solid and professional, but shouldn't derail or delay your work. I have seen programs get sidelined for months over nomenclature and naming rights.

  • Make sure qualified CX professionals are leading journey mapping and persona development. You want someone qualified and certified to do so.

Step 4: Design your experience

Now that you have taken the time to understand your customers, it is time to architect the type of experience you want to create for your customers, guests, clients, and consumers. They will have given you a wealth of information about their needs, wants, and problems - now you must align with your brand.

  • Work to eliminate friction points based on what you learned within the customer journey and empathy mapping exercises.

  • Create moments of personalization (and hyper personalization) based on their persona and data segmentation from your research.

  • Find areas along the way to create moments of wow by exceeding expectations at certain touchpoints. Often these are small enhancements, such as your local bank providing dog biscuits at the drive thru for pets.

  • Integrate in technology to enable hospitality and experience, while keeping the holistic omnichannel experience aligned.

  • Design your steps of customer service and define service behaviors for your team.

  • Craft a set of shared promises or commitments to inspire your team.

  • Create a service recovery model to aid in problem solving and issue resolution.

Step 5: Craft and execute an intentional deployment strategy

This is where so many well-meaning CX programs go to die. I can remember deploying my very first program and this is where the wheels nearly came off the apple cart. It takes more than a great CX framework - it takes a plan. That plan must be detailed enough to communicate the vision, but not so comprehensive that is can't be digested. It also must have elements of accountability and internal marketing. Your goal is to have a pull from your customer facing locations because the content and tools are so helpful and well designed. This beats pushing and mandating from the executive level, but their overall support and reinforcement can be helpful.

  • You must create a strategic plan for deployment, complete with milestones, accountability, and timing. Not only should it be SMART, but it should be created and administered by a qualified Project Manager (PM). They bring specialized expertise around collaboration and will keep you on track along the process.

  • Demonstrating value for the business is crucial to getting the organization to buy in to the deployment of the program. Share what is in it for each level of the organization if they run the plays and adopt the ideals. Never forget how crucial it is to give your team the "why" behind something this important.

  • Ensure that your CX strategy is aligned with your organizational goals, mission, vision, and values. Discord between these foundational ethoses can create confusion amongst your team.

  • Engage your marketing and communications team to create an internal brand and communication cadence to get the word out. This must be a team sport so everyone has buy in.

  • Create a cross-functional deployment team that has representation from CX, marketing, HR, finance, operations, sales, and c-suite (or ownership). Without a c-suite or ownership sponsor you'll never get anywhere.

  • Communicate the program like crazy every chance you get - on every call, in every meeting, and every message you put in a bottle and toss in the ocean.

  • Provide the high quality tools and resources your team needs to scale the program. This could be videos, podcasts, coaching aids, training programs, micro-training, or daily topics to discuss.

  • You can start with a pilot program and then scale after your initial learnings through iteration, just don't drag your feet trying to get it "perfect" before launch.

Step 6: Develop and empower your team

In concert with team engagement, teams must be developed and inspired to ensure a customer-centric mindset. Your team is not just the backbone of your service culture, but the face of your brand to customers.

  • You likely already have a team in place, but the first tip is to select the right team for the right roles. That means managing performance on your current team and making sure they are in the right jobs.

  • Also, as you bring new team members on board, select those who have the best attitudes and teach the technical skills wherever you can.

  • Start talking about your customer-centric approach with new employees throughout their selection, onboarding, orientation, and initial learning sessions.

  • Once you have the right team in place, ensure an impactful learning journey - that means a blend of e-learning, in person training, virtual learning, leader-led training, pre-shift huddles, and micro-training. No one channel will be enough, particularly if you lead a large, dispersed organization - but in concert they have great impact.

  • Ensure the learning activities you create are shared with all levels of the organization, from c-suite and ownership to front line team.

  • Prioritize your team communication and ensure that they understand specifically how they personally impact the customer experience.

  • Encourage and empower your team to own the customer experience and to let their personalities shine through.

  • Reward and celebrate your team for demonstrating behaviors key to program success.

Step 7: Measure and iterate

Nothing good happens unless there is accountability and measurement. Understanding what success looks like will help your team see what is going well and where improvement is needed.

  • You must begin by establishing your Key Performance Indicators (K.P.I.s) to understand what will be measured and what your goals are for performance.

  • Establish a Voice of the Customer (V.O.C.) program to collect customer feedback (if you don't already have on). Keep the survey as short as possible to drive participation, even if you have to rotate questions randomly to keep it short and relevant.

  • Listen to your team internally for their feedback. They will share what is going well, what isn't working, and what tools they need to continue to improve.

  • Act on the feedback you receive - both internal and external. That means capturing the insights, crafting a plan to address, sharing organizationally, and closing the loop with stakeholders on the outcomes.

  • Continue to develop tools and training for your team to keep engagement high.

  • Gamify the program both for customers and employees wherever possible drive adoption.

  • Encourage a culture of ideation, knowledge sharing, and continuous improvement.

  • Communicate your successes both internally and externally to build your brand and thought leadership.

  • Never stop learning from the marketplace and improving your program.

If you have been waiting for the right time to build your CX and Hospitality Strategy, now is the time. As we continue the Great Service Comeback, it is the perfect opportunity to position yourself as the leader in your industry and own the market.

Remember, creating a customer experience program has one goal: To put your customers at the center of everything you do. That will lead to the sales growth you seek and the marketplace brand leadership you are working to build.

But your biggest obstacle is internal awareness and the fear of change. As a rule when big program like this come along, there is always cynicism that it will be the flavor of the month and that if you just wait long enough, it will go away.

That is why it is so crucial that you first build your team experience as that fuels trust. Then you will find the road a little smoother as you work to inspire your organization to focus on customer centricity and long term experience.

Tony Johnson

* Written by a real human, not A.I.


Tony is an award winning speaker and author on the topics of sales growth, customer experience, and leadership. Tony speaks to thousands annually and has been featured on ABC News and Fox News. He is available for business planning, motivational keynotes, leadership workshops, and employee service skills training.

Tony is the founder of Ignite Your Service and the Chief Experience Officer for 4xi Global Consulting.

Tony is available to help with your Customer Experience and Employee Engagement Strategies, inspirational keynote talks, team training and development, and executive leadership coaching.


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