As part of Forrester’s ongoing initiative to provide annual industry benchmarks of online customer experiences, we recently evaluated the Brand Experience of four hotel brands’ Web sites (Crowne Plaza, Hilton, Marriott, and Sheraton). Using our Web Site Brand Experience Review methodology, we set out to test 1) how well the sites supported their key brand attributes in a manner consistent with other channels (Brand Image), and 2) how well the site supported user goals (Brand Action).
The results were disappointing. None of the sites passed our Brand Action Review. Actually, that's not terribly surprising since our data show just how challenging the online booking experience is for travelers. Our review found that most sites suffered from common problems that plague sites across all industries, such as missing or misplaced content and illegible text. Again, not surprising. But what was surprising was that only one site, Sheraton, passed our Brand Image Review. After all, hotels (at least those on the nicer end of the spectrum like those we reviewed) take great pains to keep their lobbies clean, their grounds manicured, and their rooms inviting. But the underperforming sites suffered from poor quality in their visual designs, bland imagery, and just-the-facts content that failed to hit on key brand attributes. In contrast, Sheraton stood out for its high-quality visual design and messaging that's consistent with how the brand is presented in other channels.
Earlier this week, Rosetta announced that it acquired LEVEL Studios, an agency I recently profiled in my Q&Agency series. This is an interesting acquisition that demonstrates once again how marketing is becoming a more experience-driven business. Rosetta, a large interactive agency (one of the top 10 in size according to AdAge) that focuses on personality-based marketing, is looking to expand its impact to connected devices to broaden its capabilities to deliver quality customer experiences. To do this, it turned to an agency that has already had success with this: LEVEL Studios. LEVEL’s technology capabilities have allowed it to design and deliver relevant experiences across a variety of devices. My first reaction was that this would make a really strong partnership for both clients and each of the agencies, respectively.
When I was kid, when we thought someone was overreacting, we used to say “don’t make a Federal case out of it!” Maybe people still say this, but I haven’t heard it in a while. I suspect that it went into the Museum of Way-Historical Sayings. Still, I’m sure you get the idea: If the Federal Government is involved, it’s a big deal.
I thought of this expression this morning when I read an article in The Wall Street Journal. There is quite a battle going on over an attempt to make mortgage-disclosure documents easier to understand. On the one side, we find our Federal Government in the persons of Elizabeth Warren and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. On the other side, you find the mortgage industry (or at least a big chunk of it — the article could have offered some more details IMHO).
Now if you’ve ever taken out a mortgage, you know that the documentation you received was close to the polar opposite of “easy to understand.” You may have thought (as I did) that the difficulty stemmed from a failed attempt by lawyers and bankers to communicate effectively. But apparently not! (Or at least that’s not the only reason — I’m pretty sure that most lawyers don’t have John Grisham potential).
If I had a nickel for every time I read or talked about the importance of employee feedback during the past few months, I’d have an upsetting amount of change. Thankfully, the hype makes sense. Every employee in a company either directly or indirectly affects the customer experience, so every employee can offer some insight to help improve that experience.
I highlighted a few good examples of companies using employee feedback in a new report on overall voice of the customer trends. This research and my ongoing conversations on the topic got me thinking more about what kinds of employee feedback customer experience pros should incorporate into their efforts. I see three basic levels of the voice of the employee (VoE):
Customer observations. This is the most obvious category for customer experience. Essentially, firms turn their customer-facing employees into customer listening posts by giving them the tools and training to record what they hear from customers. Many companies do this by having employees categorize customer service calls as they come in or by running call center notes through text analytics engines. Other companies have dedicated tools set up for employees to log interesting insights they get from customers. This category has two big limitations: Only customer-facing employees can participate, and insights don’t leverage employees’ contextual knowledge.
I recently talked to a business analyst at Gaylord Hotels who shared how the company is changing its customer interactions using sentiment analysis derived from its Clarabridge software. Three points were particularly illustrative of a company maturing in its delivery of customer experience:
Success is about being great at key interactions, not every one. Originally the hotel believed that during a stay, guests experienced 100 different things — 80 that staff needed to do great and 20 that staff needed to do satisfactorily to satisfy customers. After watching sentiment data for the past couple years, the company realized that in fact only five activities most strongly correlate with guests recommending the hotel to others. For example, the first 20 minutes is absolutely essential, a period that the hotel had broken into several discreet steps but that guests viewed as a single experience. Hotel management now works with staff on executing on these five critical activities perfectly, while on the other 95, they only need to perform adequately.
Prioritizing investments based on target customer needs saves misspent money. While some managers felt that it was necessary to renovate rooms in a wing of the hotel to transform the property and improve customer satisfaction, analysis showed that the hotel was getting no negative comments about it, particularly from its most important segment of guests. Based on the findings, the hotel decided to invest that large sum of money in other areas, such as a technology solution that helped people find their way through the hotel, which was generating more negative sentiment.
Sam Stern from our Customer Experience Council recently sat down with me to talk about one of my favorite topics: voice of the customer (VoC). He must have been recording the conversation, because now it's a podcast.
Our discussion covers lessons learned from firms that participated in Forrester's Voice of the Customer Awards as well as more general best practices like making customer data relevant for employees, tying customer feedback scores to compensation, and measuring business results of VoC activities.
The podcast was originally developed for the Customer Experience Council, Forrester's executive network for customer experience professionals.