CEO As Chief Customer Officer

In preparation for our upcoming Customer Experience Forum in New York at the end of June, I’ve been having phone discussions with our speakers and their people. Yesterday Robinette Dixon from Sprint pointed out something I hadn’t quite realized. Two of the companies that are speaking have a lot in common despite the fact that they could hardly be in more different industries.

First there’s Sprint. Dan Hesse took over as CEO of Sprint, which is headquartered in Kansas, in December of 2007.  He immediately made customer experience a priority and set out to ingrain customer experience into the company’s culture and processes. You can see evidence of the results in the 15 percentage point rise Sprint made this year in our Customer Experience Index.

Then there’s H&R Block. Our Day Two speaker, Sabrina Wiewel, is Chief Tax Network Officer at that company, which is also based in Kansas. But the bigger coincidence (no, this isn’t a post about Kansas) is that H&R Block also got a new CEO recently: Russ Smyth, who took over in August of 2008. Like Hesse, Smyth made customer experience a priority. Among other changes he literally flipped the corporate org chart upside down to put customers at the top, and re-engineered how the field offices interact with customers.

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Q&Agency: Universal Mind

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 May 18th, I talked with Brett Cortese, CEO, and Erik Loehfelm, Director of User Experience, of Universal Mind. Edited excerps from that conversation follow.

Forrester: Tell me a little bit about your agency?

Brett: Universal Mind is an award winning digital solutions agency. We work with our clients to create best in class solutions that deliver an exceptional user experience while overcoming complex technical challenges across a wide variety of devices. That’s going to include the browser, desktop, tablet, connected appliances, all those types of things. Our focus is on the enterprise; we have a very deep understanding of how to expose complex systems and processes in an engaging and effective way.

We have a team of over 100 strong, spread out through the United States. That includes offices in San Francisco, California; Golden, Colorado; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Westfield, Massachusetts.

Forrester: What is your elevator pitch?

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US Consumers Aren't Satisfied With Web-Store Shopping

Forrester surveyed US consumers about their satisfaction with Web-to-store and store-to-Web transitions in three retail segments — apparel/accessories/footwear, consumer electronics, and wireless phones and service.

The results: Satisfaction with both Web-to-store and store-to-Web shopping is low.

  • Consumer electronics: 66% satisfied with Web-to-store shopping, and 55% satisfied with store-to-Web shopping.
  • Apparel/footwear/accessories: 60% satisfied with Web-to-store shopping, and 53% satisfied with store-to-Web shopping.
  • Wireless products and services: 54% satisfied with Web-to-store shopping, and 48% satisfied with store-to-Web shopping.

Some of our other findings:

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The Myth Of Consumer-Directed Healthcare

At the heart of every healthcare expenditure is a consumer. This consumer determines whether and where to seek diagnosis, undergo tests, and follow up on the advice and treatment suggestions of medical professionals. Thus consumers have an enormous influence over medical costs. This fact is not lost on health plans, technology vendors, or even policy makers, all of whom have been seeking to enable "consumerism" by giving consumers tools to take more control over their healthcare decisions. But somehow these tools — which include tax-advantaged health savings accounts (HSAs), personal health records (PHRs), and even health coaching and behavior change support programs — never seem to unleash the consumer-driven revolution that proponents promise. For example, Forrester's research shows a decline in consumer engagement in the "consumer-directed health plan" market, even as adoption of health savings accounts increases. And despite pushes by both Google and Microsoft, only about 3% of US online consumers report having an Internet-based PHR.

Why is this? Are consumers incapable of taking charge of their healthcare decisions? Are they still shackled to the legacy of the Marcus Welby-era passive patient paradigm? Not likely. Successful campaigns by patient groups to accelerate market availability of treatments in the AIDS market suggest that motivated and empowered healthcare consumers can and do exist. And they can move mountains.

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What Makes A Centralized Customer Experience Team Successful?

Last week I met with a group in charge of driving improvements to the company’s enterprise customer experience. They’re a small team with a big task – make the company culture more customer-centric. What makes the challenge even harder is that this team lacks the formal authority to force other organizations to change the way they do business. Instead they have to make people want to do things differently.

During the meeting they asked a question that I often hear from clients – what have other people like us done that has worked?  I had just completed a new report on that topic and was able to share some of the key findings from that research. Here’s a quick summary of what I told them:

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What Should Customer Experience Professionals Do About HTML5?

The increasing popularity of Apple’s iPhone and iPad – neither of which supports Adobe Flash and Microsoft Silverlight – has piqued interest in HTML5 as an open source solution for creating Rich Internet Applications (RIAs).  Steve Jobs’ recent attack on Flash as being unfit for the iPhone calls into question the long-term value of player-based application platforms. But can HTML5 really replace Flash and Silverlight? 

To understand the user experience pros and cons of HTML5, Rich Gans – one of our Researchers serving customer experience professionals – talked to designers and developers at Cynergy Systems, EffectiveUI, Roundarch, and Yahoo! who are building complex online functionality. We have just published the results of this research in a report entitled “HTML 5: Is There Any Truth To The Hype?”

The truth is that while HTML5 is promising and can help improve experiences for text-based content, it is not yet a viable alternative to player-based technologies for designing rich, highly functional user experiences. 

The downside to using HTML5 today is that it:

  • Could lead to inconsistent experiences across today’s browsers
  • Will require that users download a browser that supports the technology
  • Compromises performance for graphics-heavy experiences

 

 However, there are a few places where HTML5 can help improve user experiences today, including: 

  • Experiences for people with disabilities
  • Apps that are solely intended for Apple devices
  • Producing text-heavy sites that require text resizing

 

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Q&Agency: Roundarch

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 May 5th, I talked with Jeff Maling the President and Chief Experience Officer and Geoffrey Cubitt the President and Chief Technology Officer of Roundarch. Edited excerpts from that conversation follow.

Forrester: Tell me a little bit about your agency?

Jeff: Roundarch was founded in 2000 by Deloitte and WPP. At that time, the idea was to bring together the technology and program management skills of Deloitte with the creative skills of WPP to tackle large web problems. Over the past year or more that has translated into large digital problems of many types including mobile, touch screen, etc. But for the most part, we’ve stayed true to the vision because we’re specialized in large-scale digital solutions for fortune 500 companies, the government, and large international organizations. We have about 220 full-time employees primarily in New York and Chicago, smaller offices in Denver and Boston, and a virtual office in DC (where we mostly work in secure locations). Like any good agency or consultancy, we also have a few nomads who refuse to move into one of our offices.

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How Good Is The Customer Experience At Canadian Bank Sites In 2010?

As part of a larger project that Harley Manning explained in a recent blog post, I've published a document that evaluated the customer experience at six top Canadian Bank Web sites. The premise was simple: we wanted to test how easy it is for a user who wants to find a checking account at a bank with a local branch that has weekend hours. We also wanted to know the fee structure and minimum balance requirements.

How did the sites perform? Overall, they did poorly, with no site achieving a passing score on our Web Site User Experience Review methodology. All of the bank sites we reviewed provided the necessary content and function needed to complete the goal, but none of them did so in a way that was contextual, findable, understandable, and trustworthy. Specific problems that plagued the sites included missing or misplaced content and function, inefficient task flows, and poor use of space, to name a few.

On the plus side, each of the sites provided a lesson for others to learn from. For example, while National Bank of Canada scored lowest in our evaluation, its page that sets up the application process clearly lists eligibility criteria, the information required to open an account, and a clear list of the steps in the online application process.

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Forrester’s 2010 Voice Of The Customer Award

Our research has shown that effectively collecting, analyzing, and acting on customer feedback is critical to successful customer experience efforts. That's why we created Forrester's annual Voice Of The Customer Award to recognize companies that are leading the way in this area.

This year's Award winners will be announced at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum in New York on June 29th.

We will collect nominations through Friday, June 4th.

Any company that wants to have their Voice of the Customer programs considered for the award should complete the online nomination form. Companies can also submit an additional PowerPoint presentation with up to five slides to voc@forrester.com.

Forrester analysts will grade each nomination based on four criteria: business value to the organization, positive impact on customer experience, innovative approach, and potential for other companies to repeat the practice. We may select more than one winner based on the strength of the submissions.

We received dozens of strong submissions last year, including those of last year's three winners. We look forward to seeing how companies have raised the bar since then.

For more information, please read the FAQs or email voc@forrester.com.

US Banks And Canadian Banks Under The Web Site User Experience Review Microscope

I’m quite pleased to announce that we just published two reports that grade the user experience at major US banks and major Canadian banks, respectively.  What makes these reports special is that our colleagues who serve the eBusiness role published their own complementary reports on the same day. You can see their US report here and their Canadian report here.

Here’s some background: For several years Forrester has published annual reports that ranked public-facing bank sites from the perspective of an eBusiness professional. This year our customer experience research team collaborated with our eBusiness research team to create our own grading reports tailored to the unique needs of customer experience professionals. The result is a stereoscopic view of 12 banks (six in each country) from the different perspectives of two professional roles that work closely together in real life.

The reports from the customer experience team dive deep into user experience issues. They grade how well customers can accomplish their goals on bank sites. The reports from the eBusiness team summarize some of these findings and add in a competitive benchmark of bank content and functionality.

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