Like the old cliché “If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know if you get there?” there is a benefit for everyone in your organization to have a clear, unclouded vision of the point on the horizon to which you are aiming. In the cliché the risk is overshooting the target. In business the risk is that individuals, functions or even your whole company could be unwittingly marching away from the outcomes that would yield the best performance for your company.

So why would business leaders run a company without identifying an ideal customer experience? Without knowing what they solve (not what they sell) for the customers who drive their growth and profits? Your guess is as good as mine. But unfortunately, it is a common problem.  The good news is that it’s never too late to define – and map – your company’s customer experience. You only stand to gain.

Here’s why:

You’ll be more effective. Imagine we were in London and agreed we should go south for our next project. You could be thinking France and I could be thinking Cape Town. Just call us two smart, well-intended people who will generate mixed results at best. Does this ring true for what happens when your marketing, IT, product, fulfillment, and HR teams all have their own definition of the customer experience that will drive the best performance for your organization? Making a U-turn when you know where you’re going solves a problem. But making a U-turn when you’re hopelessly lost is an exercise in frustration. My point simply being: if you know where you are headed, it is much easier to adjust your course, but making incremental changes without the end in sight is a waste of resources.

In Stephen Covey’s book, “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” the second chapter implores leaders to “begin with the end in mind.” Covey maintains that all things should be created twice – first through mental visualization and secondly through physical creation. By clearly mapping out the road to your ideal customer experience, you facilitate decision-making. You get a better return on every invested mile traveled. You can measure incremental results in value to customers and value to your organization. Every turn won’t be the right one, but if you realize that a decision doesn’t take you one step closer to your desired customer experience, turn around!

You’ll work on what matters.  A common theme we see in companies that have not defined an ideal experience is a well-intended focus on fixing the pain point of the moment. Leaders in these organizations achieve temporary relief of pain, and they are frustrated that efforts don’t show up in meaningful results.

An example for health insurers is fixing the current pain point of the “Explanation of Benefits”, or “EOB” — the statements insured consumers get after a doctor visit. These statements are woefully hard to understand, we often get one for the doctor, one for the lab, (etc!), and they’re not even a bill so most of us toss them aside. Worth fixing? Sure. But what consumers might ideally want is a single complete bill that says in plain English everything we’ll owe after a doctor or hospital visit.

So it’s better to invest just enough to make current pain points “ok” because more is a waste of money and talent. Focusing on the ideal experience instead. You’ll be working on what matters most to create better performance for your company and your customers.

You’ll stand out from the crowd. Do you want to be a company that customers choose because you’re their only option? Or would you rather that your target customers keep coming back because they want to? Many companies exist in a somewhat saturated market. When you solve a need or problem for your target customers better than anyone else, you win sustainable differentiation. Through a differentiated – and better – customer experience, you can gain market share above your competitors.

Your customer experience can transform your company’s performance.  At some point, companies that focus on fixing obvious performance gaps in the current experience hit a wall. Budgets can’t be stretched enough to improve service levels any more. Functions, or channels are silo’d and local improvements are aimed at different versions of “better” with limited impact on overall performance for customers or for the organization.

Leaders that use a shared vision of what the company solves for target customers, combined with what should ideally happen and how they should feel at each step of the journey are creating meaningful and sustained performance. Who wouldn’t want some of that?

Has your company found that visualizing a map of the ideal customer experience is effective? Share what benefits you’ve seen in the comments.