Announcing Forrester's 2013 Outside In Award Winners

We just announced the winners of Forrester’s inaugural Outside In Awards at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East this afternoon. The awards recognize organizations that excel at the practices needed for planning, creating, and managing a great customer experience. We accepted nominations in six categories that align with the six customer experience disciplines in our research: strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and customer-centric culture.

To evaluate the submissions, each panel of judges graded each nomination form on five criteria: clarity of approach, impact on customers’ experiences, impact on business performance, degree of innovation, and lessons provided for other firms. Each category was judged independently, and there could be up to three winners in any category. Winners and finalists were chosen based on their scores.

And the winners are . . . 

  • Ally Bank for design.
  • American Cancer Society for measurement.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for customer understanding.
  • The Lego Group for measurement.
  • Pitney Bowes for measurement.
  • PwC Australia for design.
  • Safelite AutoGlass for customer-centric culture.
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Hear From Outside In Award Winners At Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum On June 25

The nomination period has officially closed for the new Forrester Outside In Awards for customer experience excellence. The companies nominating themselves have done their hard work, and now it’s the judges’ turn to evaluate the submissions and pick the winners.

We’ve been getting some questions about the Outside In Awards and what to expect on stage at our June Forum. First of all, we’ll be handing out the awards the morning of June 25th at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum in New York City. If you’ve been on the edge of your seats wondering who will win, the suspense will finally be over.

The awards ceremony itself is so short, though, that you’ll only get a taste of what makes these programs award-winning material. Bummer, right? Not so fast!

What we found with our other award programs — the Voice Of The Customer Awards and the Groundswell Awards — is that companies tell us great stories about what they’re doing. In their nomination forms, we hear about all kinds of interesting practices that these companies have been able to link to business results, which is what we look for in the awards. Rather than keep all of the details to ourselves, we like to get them up on stage so that they can tell their own stories and answer questions from the audience about what they're doing.

The Outside In Awards will be no exception. On the afternoon of June 25th, I’ll be leading a track session panel with representatives from several of the winning companies. They’ll present more details about their award-winning practices and the results they’re getting, and you’ll get a chance to ask your burning questions and get some practical advice.

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Avoid The "All Listen And No Action" VoC Program Trap

Voice of the customer (VoC) data is alluring. Once you start to collect customer feedback, there's always something more you could be gathering. You think: What else can I learn? What else are customers saying and thinking? Where else are they saying it? You want to know more.

But collecting the data — listening — isn't enough.

At Forrester, we describe the continuous cycle of activities that make up VoC programs as: listen, interpret, react, and monitor. "Listen" is all the customer feedback you're collecting via listening posts like surveys, emails, calls, and comment cards. "Interpret" is the analysis you do on that feedback (and other related data) to understand what it all means. "React" is what you do to fix the experience based on the analysis you've done, and "monitor" is how you make sure that whatever you did to react is actually working.

It's critical to go through the full cycle with whatever data you're already collecting. Because here's the hard truth: You get no ROI from listening or interpreting. None. Zero. Zip. You only get business results from actually improving the experience.

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Announcing Forrester's Outside In Awards

We are pleased to announce that the nomination period has opened for a new Forrester award program: The Outside In Awards!

Forrester’s Outside In Awards are inspired by our recent book on customer experience, Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. They recognize organizations that excel at the practices needed for planning, creating, and managing a great customer experience. The awards will be presented on June 25th at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East in New York City.

There are six award categories for the Outside In Awards:

  • Best customer experience strategy.
  • Best customer understanding program.
  • Best customer experience design.
  • Best customer experience measurement program.
  • Best customer experience governance program.
  • Most customer-centric culture.

You can find all of the information you need on our Outside In Awards home page. The 2013 nomination forms are all available there, and nominations are due by 5:00 p.m. ET on May 3rd. You can also review this year's timeline, get answers to FAQs, and check out information about past customer experience award winners.

Good luck to all!

Build VoC Support From The Top Down . . . And From The Bottom Up

There’s no question that executive support can make or break a voice of the customer (VoC) program. With an executive (or several) onboard, VoC teams can get the funding and tools that they need to succeed. And VoC leaders from Forrester’s 2012 Voice Of The Customer Awards almost unanimously gave others the advice to build executive support.

If you’re struggling to get your program off the ground, heed their wise advice. Appeal to executives with evidence (metrics, business results) and with compelling stories about what might be going wrong for customers and how they’ve been delighted by the experience. Ask for execs to support you in collecting feedback from customers, analyzing that feedback, taking on projects to improve the experience, and monitoring to make sure that those projects are working.

But executives aren’t the only key to a successful program. Top-down support is important, but it has to be balanced with bottom-up support, too. What happens when execs mandate that everyone cares about customer feedback? People don’t really care. It feels like a fad. Employees have to feel some ownership and control — or they just won’t buy in.

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The Top 10 Pieces Of Advice From Voice Of The Customer Leaders

I was flipping through the 2012 Forrester Voice of the Customer Award nomination forms the other day, and I realized that I’ve been unwittingly holding on to an valuable resource — all the advice that we asked nominees to impart on other voice of the customer programs. The very last of the six questions on our nomination form is, “What advice would you give to other organizations to make their programs successful?” We got some great answers from the 40 or so nominated companies, so I pulled together the top 10 pieces of advice. If you’re looking for some inspiration for your own VoC program, look no further than the advice of your peers.

1. Build executive support. The majority of nominees offered this advice, and it’s consistent with Forrester’s own research showing that executive support builds a foundation for VoC success. Executive support helps CX pros put key building blocks in place, such as adequate tools to collect and analyze data and processes to systematically act on it. How do you build support? Prove the value of the program by demonstrating tangible business value. Track the results of service recovery efforts to save unhappy customers and aggregate the results of improvement projects initiated by VoC-collected data.

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Take Our Survey About Your Digital Experience Improvement Projects Planned For 2013

It’s time again for our annual survey about all of the digital customer experience improvements, redesigns, and new digital experiences you’re working on this year. Please consider taking the survey, where we’ll ask you about:

  • What projects, if any, you have planned for this year.
  • Details about those projects, like budgets, staffing, and research tools.
  • Incremental improvements you’re working on in addition to — or instead of — the big projects.
  • To what extent all those projects and improvements are integrated.

Not planning anything? That’s okay — we still want to hear from you! 

The info you provide will help shape an upcoming report. And good news: To thank you for your time, we’ll send you a copy of that report when we publish it.

So what are you waiting for? Take the survey!

Thanks so much.

(Agency folks and consultants, sorry — this survey isn't for you, unless you’re planning projects for your own digital properties.)

Surveys Are Here To Stay

By Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian and Adele Sage 

Allow us to paint a vision of the future for you: After interactions with your favorite companies, no one asks you how you liked those interactions. Your email inbox contains no requests for a few minutes of your time. No one asks you to wait on the phone line to answer a few questions. The word "survey" has vanished from your vocabulary.

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A Cure For Customers' Survey Fatigue

You just bought something at your favorite store. You walk out with a skip in your step thinking about when you might wear this new purchase. You give into your compulsion to check your email on your smartphone, and there, waiting for you, is a survey from that very company asking about your experience. You groan, but you click on the link. The survey isn't formatted for your phone, so you have to pinch to zoom in and out. You don't understand the first question. Or the second one. Frankly, you don't really care. You close your browser window, curse the company and every other company that has ever asked you to complete a survey, and vow never to shop anywhere ever again.

I'm no doctor, but I'm confident in my diagnosis: You are suffering from survey fatigue.

You're not alone. Survey fatigue has even made it into pop-culture as a known malady, thanks to articles like this one in USA Today. It's no surprise that consumers are irked; most companies' customer experience measurement programs and voice of the customer programs rely on surveys for the necessary data. As a result, consumers are getting barraged with requests for feedback, and, really, it's just because companies have good intentions. They want to know how they're doing and how they can improve the experience.

If you're one of these survey-reliant companies, what can you do? I'm working on some research right now on that very topic with our new analyst, Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian. We're exploring indicators of survey fatigue to help you spot the problem as well as best practices for reducing any fatigue that does exist.

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Your Customers Are Complaining. Do Something About It

I'm about to start a gut renovation of my kitchen, which, of course, is an incredibly stressful not to mention expensive project. For cabinets, we got a recommendation for a designer at a local cabinet store. We met with her, got some great ideas, and went home to wait for the quote.

After no word for a week, we reached out for an update. Several days later, she finally called and quoted a dollar amount over the phone. I was thrown off. No written quote? No detail? When I asked for more info, she emailed me a fantastic quote that included drawings and details on every component but had a slightly higher price at the end than what she'd quoted verbally. Odd. Then, as we made changes to the design, this miscommunication pattern repeated. We ultimately decided to get cabinets elsewhere.

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