Customers’ perception of a company depends on their experiences with the organization at every point of contact. Companies can try to change how customers view a brand in a number of ways, such as a new mobile app or an improved complaint-handling process. However, to really improve customer perception, every interaction at every touchpoint must answer questions, suggest new services, and deepen the relationship. Many firms fail to tap into business opportunities that their front-line employees encounter because their processes and technology are antiquated.
Enterprise architecture (EA) programs can lead the effort to address these limitations and deliver benefits to customers. British Gas, one of the winners of the 2015 Forrester/InfoWorld EA Awards, is a firm that seized its opportunity. My recent report, Enterprise Architects Transform Customer Engagement, analyzes the key practices enterprise architects at British Gas made to serve as brand ambassadors and to improve customer satisfaction levels and highlights key lessons for EA leaders. These practices include:
APIs, cloud, and big data technologies power the new engagement platform. To build an engagement platform that delivers customer insights to front-line engineers, the British Gas EA team developed a platform architecture that uses APIs and cloud and big data technologies to support a new engagement platform and the applications on top of it. The API mechanism simplifies digital connections to business applications; cloud infrastructure provides robustness and agility for business operations; big data technology arms field engineers with customer insights; and policies and multitenancy ensure flexibility and security.
Google this week added yet another chat app to the mix with Duo, a smartphone-only video chat application that bridges the gap between iOS and Android devices. Rather than solve the problem of interoperation between different video chat applications, though, it made another application altogether.
The killer video chat app will be the one that works like a telephone. Regardless of your carrier, device, or network, you can dial a number anywhere in the world and talk to someone on the other end. Google, Apple, Facebook, Snapchat and others who offer video calling: take a page from the enterprise. The problems that consumers face now with video chat applications are the same ones that enterprises overcame years ago with interoperation standards. Enterprise videoconferencing systems for years have boasted interoperation standards like H.323 and SIP so that systems from Cisco, Polycom, and other vendors could all talk to each other. The consumerization of IT is flipped in this case. Traditionally we’re used to having a better experience outside of the enterprise than within, but when it comes to video chat the enterprise wins.
The good news about Duo is that it connects Android and iOS users. Apple’s Facetime doesn’t. With Duo you can talk to anyone, regardless of their OS.
CXDC 2016is just around the corner, and we have an incredible agenda featuring 25+ Federal CX leaders and top Forrester analysts.
I asked two of our speakers from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Sarah Brooks, Director, Insight & Design and Julia Kim, Chief of Staff, Veterans Experience – to chat about some of the ways VA is improving the customer experience (CX) for veterans.
Rick: The CX team at VA has been very busy! What two or three CX improvements over the past year are you most proud of? Why?
Sarah and Julia: It has been busy! Especially when we are trying to build the office while also doing the work. We are proud of many things (more than we can put into a blog post!), but here are a few things we’ll highlight:
Reframing the Disability Compensation and Pension application process from Veterans’ points of view. There were only five people in our office, and Secretary Bob asked us to look into this thing that he was getting a lot of calls and emails about. What we found is that VA is not managing our Veteran-facing touchpoints during this process – in fact, we have very few front stage touchpoints at all. We have done a lot of work to optimize the back stage (see figure 1). We were not thinking about how to help Veterans understand what was happening and why it was happening. This was our first exposure to what has become a recurring theme at VA.
Marketers have more choices then they really need when it comes to social marketing tools. Market fragmentation and consolidation, along with the internal organizational struggles we all face, make it a challenging time to be a marketer.
But don’t worry — we’re here to help! After analyzing the marketplace and interviewing 35 companies ranging from brands to agencies to vendors, my “Unraveling The Social Technology Web” report discusses:
The evolution of the social marketing technology landscape
Principles for determining if you truly need a particular technology
An overview of technologies that support specific social tactics across the customer life cycle
Our team will continue writing reports analyzing this space, so feel free to share the topics that interest you along with the challenges you face with social technologies.
Some of you may have seen my earlier blog post on why you should attend CX Marketing Singapore 2016! Our annual Forrester Singapore event returns in less than two weeks, and I'm excited to hear from our own Forrester experts as well as esteemed industry speakers on how customer experience is and will continue to be the key differentiator for organizations to succeed in the age of the customer.
I hope to see you at the Marina Mandarin on August 25 — register here if you haven't already! In the meantime, here's a sneak peek of what to expect at the Forum. I had the opportunity to speak with David Peller, Director, Strategic Partnerships, Asia Pacific at Booking.com, who gave us the inside scoop on how Booking.com has organized itself to be customer-obsessed, which it believes gives it an edge today. Here's what he had to say:
How has the age of the customer affected the travel industry? How have you seen your customer needs evolve?
If you think back to the time when travel was essentially an offline shopping experience, the customer used to spend hours deliberating with imperfect information, guided by a travel agent. Today, technology democratizes the travel experience — and you don't just have to take the view of one person for granted. On Booking.com, we have more than 100 million verified reviews of properties, places and activities, which provides engaging content for every potential traveler to explore.
Can you tell us briefly about Booking.com's digital transformation program and the approach that you've taken?
At Forrester, “EO + 6” is code for the publication status of a playbook. It stands for Executive Overview plus six reports – at which point, we formally launch the playbook with its special links and landing page on Forrester.com. Playbooks are designed to help clients succeed with complex programs, such as organizational transformation.
Get Ready For The B2B Marketing Renaissance
The next wave of competitive advantage for B2B companies will come from deepening customer knowledge and taking action based on an obsessive desire to deliver what their customers want before their competitors do. This fundamentally changes the role of B2B marketers; they need to evolve from brand stewards, lead generation machines, and sales supporters to architects of customer engagement across the customer life cycle. The B2B marketing playbook provides practical guidance for B2B professionals who are leading and living that transformation.
Today, everyone is a content producer. At Forrester, we’ve seen many companies do this- whether it’s Virgin America’s Hollywood-produced in-flight videos, Kohler’s partnership with parent bloggers to create YouTube content, or Lego’s webisodes available on their website. Customers' interactions with your firm rely on the content you produce at every interaction point.
Rich media content adds the soul to these experiences. While text and copy are still prevalent and important, rich media like videos and images are unparalleled in their ability to drive customer attention and create emotional connections. Specifically, rich media helps drive more interactive marketing campaigns, enrich the brand experience, and support customer experiences driven by sales, product, commerce, and lines-of-business groups (not just marketing!).
DAM will be a critical technology to help enable the creation, management, usage, and retention of these rich media assets. Our latest evaluation in the DAM space found that many vendors are attempting to serve these needs, but few lead. The major differentiators we found are around:
Cloud and agility. Today, enterprise customers are embracing, and demanding, DAM solutions managed in the cloud. They demand cloud-first DAM solutions so that they can rapidly deploy solutions, always run on the latest code (no more painful upgrades!), leave operations to someone else, support scalability, and replace capital expenditures with monthly operating expenses. But too many DAM vendors are behind.
Marketers often voice their frustration to me about the rate of turnover at their agencies. It is hard to lose a great team member, but it’s more difficult to be left holding the bag for bringing someone new up to speed on the business.
And this happens frequently. Agencies compete with each other, tech companies, startups and brands to attract and retain the best employees. Many use culture as a differentiator in the talent wars. In fact, 77% of agencies we surveyed listed culture as a way to engage and retain employees. Even with these efforts, agencies suffer from low employee morale and rising employee turnover.
For this reason, it’s critical for marketers to pay attention to an agency’s efforts towards building and nurturing its culture. Marketers that build this evaluation into the agency vetting process and look for a cultural fit will experience less turnover on accounts, higher quality work and a better relationship with their agency.
And agencies that connect leadership behavior, hiring efforts, employee engagement and new business efforts to culture will build working environments that attract and retain talent, while delivering superior client experience.
So I visit this coffee shop close to office pretty often. The other day I was waiting in line and I paused to ask myself – why do I keep coming here? I mean, everything about the exercise including the taste is pretty unremarkable. I order, I’m served, I leave. So then why do I repeatedly give them my business?
You guessed it. I go there day after day, month after month because it is – wait for it… convenient. And predictable. Certainly not because it’s “awesome”. I’m not looking for a fake smile or a scripted line. It’s a really tiny part of my day. My expectations are minimal, they are met, and I’m satisfied. That’s it.
Globally, companies swoon over the superior experience delivered by the likes of Amazon and Apple; paeans have been written about Zappos’ legendary customer service. Last time I looked, a Zappos service associate apparently spent over 10 hours on a service call! Good for them!
Should you follow suit? May be not.
Of course CX is critical. In fact, in the Age of the Customer, we propose it’s the only way forward.
Employees are the lifeblood of a customer-obsessed enterprise. No matter how advanced a company's technology, how big its data, or how trendy it’s marketing, businesses today simply cannot succeed without employees who devote themselves to customers. However, many companies struggle to build a customer-obsessed workforce because they:
Hire for skills and experience. Siloed hiring managers focus primarily on job candidates' technical skills and experience and seek little input from applicants' potential colleagues. Knowing how well candidates can code, lift boxes, or write marketing copy is important. However, skillset alone doesn't tell employers if applicants are willing and able to use their skills and cooperate with their coworkers in customer-obsessed ways.
Have weak training programs. Most training programs consist of long and dry classroom, online, and coaching sessions rather than short and engaging sound bites that employees can access when they need to. Even worse, training focuses solely on employees' job responsibilities, businesses processes, and operation of technical systems — topics that rarely help employees become more customer-obsessed.
Fail to recognize and reward customer obsession. Our data shows that although 42% of companies claim that excellent customer treatment is one of their core values, only one-third of companies actually hold employees accountable and tie employees' incentives to customer experience (CX) metrics.