Q&Agency: LEVEL Studios

Welcome to Q&Agency! Each week, I get to talk to agencies small and large and get to hear (in their words) what differentiates them and the experiences they create. To help bring some of that information to you, I'm showcasing an ongoing series of interviews with small to mid-size interactive and design agencies. If you'd like to see your agency or an agency you work with here, let me know!

On March 18th, I talked with Tom Adamski, President and CEO of LEVEL Studios. Edited excerpts from that conversation follow.

Forrester: Tell me a little bit about your agency?

Tom: LEVEL Studios was founded in 1995 in Santa Barbara. Today we’re headquartered in San Luis Obispo with offices in Los Angeles and San Jose. Across the three California studios we have about 200 people today. We’re focused exclusively on the digital space and we’re independently owned and operated. Like other digital agencies, strategy, creative design, technology, and the connection between those three areas is the key driver of our business. Today that means we’re working with marketing communications groups and we have a growing client segment in product development and design.

Forrester: What is your elevator pitch?

Tom: We’re an independent digital agency that produces products, services, and experience for brands as a way for those brands to build community and meaningful relationships with their customer base. Our three west coast studios focus on user experience, digital media, and application development. We’re a relationship based organization based on long term, retention based strategies both for our clients and our staff. Our 3 largest clients have been with us on average ten years. Those lasting relationships produce better business results for our clients and for our agency.

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CxPi vs. Stock Performance

We recently posted the results of a Watermark Consulting study that showed a correlation between Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CxPi) rankings and stock market performance.

We asked our researcher Andrew McInnes to run the numbers again and see whether they held up to close scrutiny. Here’s what he did:

  • Reviewed the 2007 CxPi rankings.
  • Identified the 10 highest-ranked public companies (CXP Leaders) and the 10 lowest-ranked public companies (CXP Laggards). 
  • Calculated the average annual total returns of the Leader group and the Laggard group
  • Compared the results for each group to the  S&P 500 index for years 2007 – 2009.


Andrew’s  analysis confirmed Watermark’s findings: The customer experience leaders consistently outperformed the other two groups; the customer experience laggards consistently fell short.

Does this prove that good customer experience leads to good stock performance (or that the CxPi picks hot stocks)? No. Stock performance relies on many factors, including human irrationality.

However, the correlation does highlight a relationship we all intuitively understand: Companies that treat their customers well perform better than companies that don’t.  (And it sure looks like treating your customers poorly is a very bad idea, especially in an economic downturn.)

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Q&Agency: EffectiveUI

Welcome to Q&Agency! Each week, I get to talk to agencies small and large and get to hear (in their words) what differentiates them and the experiences they create. To help bring some of that information to you, I plan to showcase an ongoing series of interviews with small to mid-size interactive and design agencies. If you'd like to see your agency or an agency you work with here, let me know!

On March 16th, I talked with Rebecca Flavin, CEO and Peyton Lindley, Executive Director of UX Design and Technology at EffectiveUI. Although they were both busy at SXSW, they were kind enough to chat with me. Edited excerpts from that conversation follow.

 

Forrester: Tell me a little bit about EffectiveUI?

Rebecca: EffectiveUI is a full service user experience agency based in Denver, Colorado with offices in Rochester, New York and Vancouver, British Columbia. We specialize in the custom design and development of Web, desktop, and mobile applications with a zealous focus on driving user adoption and loyalty. We primarily work with Fortune 1000 and enterprise companies across multiple industry verticals. Our team is passionate about improving the quality of people’s lives through their interactions with technology and brands.

Forrester: What’s your elevator pitch?

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Customer Experience Management In Europe

In preparation for my speeches in London and Stockholm, I examined the responses from our Q4 2009 customer experience survey of executives which was the basis for my research on North American companies called The State Of Customer Experience, 2010.

It turned out that there were 53 responses from Western European firms with annual income of at least $150 million. While this was not a large enough sample size for me to publish in a research report, it was certainly interesting enough for me to present during my speeches. So I thought I’d share some of the data here.

First of all, there’s definitely a lot of interest in customer experience in Europe. Forty-seven of the respondents said that customer experience was either critical or very important to their firm’s 2010 strategy and, as you can see below, three-quarters of the respondents said that there company is trying to differentiate itself with customer experience. 

Only 6% of the respondents said that they had a very disciplined approach to customer experience management. Here’s what they identified as major obstacles for improving customer experience:

  • Lack of a clear customer experience strategy (53%)
  • Lack of customer experience management processes (53%)
  • Lack of cooperation across organizations (43%)
  • Lack of budget (26%)
  • Lack of understanding about customers (40%)
  • Lack of urgency (21%)
  • Lack of executive involvement (17%)


Here are some customer experience activities that are underway:

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Take Stock In Customer Experience Leaders

Jon Picoult, the Founder of Watermark Consulting, just published a blog post called Yes, Virginia, There Is A Return On Customer Experience Investments. He looked at the stock performance of companies based on how well they did in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CxPi).

It’s great work! Here’s a graphic from his post that shows how customer experience leaders outperform customer experience laggards in the stock market. His analysis used the results from our 2007 CxPi.

(Customer Think) Yes, Virginia, There Is A Return On Customer Experience Investments

My take: Picoult’s work complements my findings from research called customer experience boosts revenue in which I analyzed last year’s CxPi. Here’s the difference in loyalty that I found between companies in the top quartile of customer experience (when measured against industry averages) and the companies in the lowest quartile:

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