Why Is Citizen Experience Missing From The Midterm Elections?

Imagine how different the healthcare debate would have been if trips to the Registry of Motor Vehicles were a breeze.

Here in the US, midterm elections are in full swing. The themes feel familiar: Voters dislike various social and economic situations; candidates promise change. Across parties, many people seem to agree that the current government can't do what's necessary, a belief crystallized in comments about "politics as usual" and "Washington insiders."

The call for an overhaul makes me wonder: Why do we feel so unsatisfied with the government's performance and so unhopeful about its chances for improvement? A number of big reasons come to mind, such as high unemployment, rising public debt, various domestic and foreign policies . . . To me, those issues matter, but they have little impact on my day-to-day relationship with the government.

Most of my interactions with the government happen around taxes and transportation. Most of those interactions stink. At the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), the experience is marked by long lines, complex processes, and dismissive employees. On the subway, it's much of the same. I once asked a subway attendant here in Boston if a ticketing kiosk would give me change for a $20. She responded, "Yeah, it'll give you change. It'll give you lots of change." Then the kiosk spit out 18 one-dollar coins.

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Strategy Should Guide Learning From Voice Of The Customer Programs

Listening to customers through a well-established voice of the customer (VOC) program is critical. However, without a customer experience strategy rooted in a company strategy, it’s easy for a firm to lose track of its core value proposition to key target customers.

Don Norman tells a wonderful story about a conversation he had with Southwest Airlines chairman Herbert Kelleher that speaks directly to my latest report on customer experience strategy:

"Use Southwest Airlines as the model. When customers demanded reserved seating, inter-line baggage transfer, and food service, they refused (and only now, are reluctantly providing semi-reserved seating). Why? It is not because they ignore their customers. On the contrary, it is because they understood that their customers had a much more critical need. Southwest realized that what the customers really wanted was low fares and on-time service, and these other things would have interfered with those goals.

 I once had a lively, entertaining dinner with Herbert Kelleher, Chairman and co-founder of Southwest Airlines. I asked him why they had ignored the requests of their customers. Herb looked me up and down sternly, sighed, took another sip of his drink, uttered a few obscenities, and patiently explained. His marketing people asked the wrong question. They should have asked, would you pay $100 more for inter-airline baggage transfers? $50 more for reserved seating? No, the customers wouldn't have. They valued on-time, low-cost flights, and that is what Southwest delivers.

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iPhone Versus Droid: A Personal Perspective

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while. What got me past the tipping point was receiving yet another in the series of hilarious videos in the iPhone versus Evo wars. (I love those, no matter which side they come down on.)

Let me first disclaim that I do not cover mobile devices for Forrester so I am speaking strictly as an end user. Okay, I have disclaimed! Now for the story . . .

Way back in the spring, I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Ohio. My sister had recently gotten herself a Droid and was not very happy with it. She let me play with it for a while, and I have to say that I did not like its weight, the sharp corners, and the little vibratory “thunk” of physical feedback that probably seemed like a good idea to the designers but came off as annoying after about the third time it happened. The GUI was okay but didn’t strike me as an improvement over my iPhone — in fact, I thought it was a little worse.

My sister had come to similar conclusions. She had purchased the phone so she could stay with Verizon as her wireless service provider. Her biggest complaint, though, was the lack of a decent app store. And when I say “decent,” I mean that literally. When she called up her app store, she got a really bad interface that didn’t help her find relevant apps without a struggle. Worse, about every third listing was a porno app. (I guess that’s what happens when you don’t curate content.)

Anyway, she regretted her choice but felt locked in by her contract.

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The Intersection Of Healthcare And Aging-In-Place

For many years now, Forrester has been tracking a market we call healthcare unbound (sometimes also called remote monitoring or connected health). These are technologies and services that consumers and caregivers can use to track, manage, and improve health conditions outside of the traditional institutional walls of healthcare. It’s an interesting market to observe — filled with solutions that promise to address real health problems, boost consumers’ engagement and self-awareness, and ultimately save costs while improving quality of life.  What’s not to like?

Well, watching this market is a little like watching a snail race — or paint dry. Despite efforts to advance industry collaboration by groups such as Continua, and new ventures by tech-industry behemoths such as Intel and GE, there has been very little actual movement in this market. Consumers remain largely ignorant about healthcare-unbound solutions, and players have struggled to find the right confluence of need, willingness to pay, and infrastructure that will let these products and services flourish.

Recently, however, I’ve sensed a shift in the energy in this market — a revitalization, if you will. This can be partly attributed to the inexorable aging of baby boomers, and partly to the realization that the current healthcare and retirement funding systems are crumbling under their own weight. But I think it’s also due to an infusion of fresh thinking and a recognition that this market isn’t as straightforward as many once believed.

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Southwest Fares ONLY Available On Southwest.com

Many you have probably read that Forrester believes that online experiences of the future will be: customized by the end user, aggregated at the point of use, relevant to the device and to the moment, and social as a rule (CARS). We've been seeing a number of companies — Avis, eBay, USAA, Weather.com, and many others — developing experiences that demonstrate attributes of our CARS model today. And we expect to see more and more given trends in consumer behavior, technology development, and the number of potential competitive threats companies face.

All that said, yesterday, I saw a commercial that was decidedly un-CARS-like. One of the things several of us who are thinking about CARS have found is that the A (standing for aggregated) is really a critical attribute. Not only are consumers getting more savvy about the online research they do (using multiple sources), but also the availability of data is allowing them to comparison shop more than ever before and the number of competitors that enable this type of comparison shopping is growing too. What we think this means is that companies' Web sites are no longer going to be the only go-to places to experience their brand — instead, they're going to have to be creative about how their content (or product) is aggregated elsewhere. But I digress . . .

So this commercial from Southwest Airlines wants consumers to know that its fares are ONLY available on its site. In fact, Southwest is so jazzed up about it, it filmed a musical of sorts to convey this idea.

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Now More Than Ever, Firms Need Frameworks For Managing Global Online Standards

I’ve recently had several conversations with companies that are looking to improve how they standardize online experiences around the globe. It’s something I’ve been helping firms with for some time. It’s always been a complex issue, but now it’s getting even more challenging because we’re moving to a new era of online experience.

As outlined in the Forrester report, “The Future Of Online Customer Experience,” consumers will increasingly demand experiences that are customized for their context, aggregated from multiple sources, relevant at the point of consumption, and social by rule, not exception. As touchpoints proliferate across a range of devices, it will become increasingly difficult to manage the online experience in a single country, let alone in dozens of them. Add to that the increasing need for more specialized (and, by extension, localized) experiences, and it’s easy to see how a cookie-cutter online experience will be difficult to duplicate from one country to the next with maximum relevance.

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The Trader Joe’s Experience: Simplicity For A Cost Leader

I came across a recent Fortune article describing the activities behind Trader Joe’s experience, which illustrate well many aspects I talk about for Cost Leaders in my latest customer experience strategy report. One aspect I found interesting was Trader Joe’s general absence of self-service that I pointed to for low-cost leaders. Rather, the company focuses more on simplicity and layers over it a distinct culture embedded in employees. It pays employees well — meaning it can be more selective in finding individuals who embody its culture — while keeping prices low through other means, such as limiting its selection. The company makes tradeoffs to deliver on low-cost expectations.

My take: There’s no single customer experience strategy, just as there is no single company strategy. The point for both is to find the mix of aligned activities that provide a company with competitive advantage.

Great Customer Experiences Balance Empathy With Problem Solving

I recently wrote a post describing an experience I had with an Empowered customer service rep at American Express. To sum it up, my 2-year-old was getting credit card applications in the mail so I called to get it stopped. The agent was surprised that this could have happened and moved quickly to get my daughter’s name off the marketing list. She was genuine and helpful. It was a great experience.

Since then, I’ve had a couple of not-so-positive experiences with other companies that have amplified the impact of the experience I had with American Express. I’ve also witnessed another that a colleague of mine had that made the American Express experience even more genuine.

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Brand Experience Workshop: Learn The Tools Of Web Site Brand Experience Reviews (October 27th, Hilton Chicago)

Ever wonder why Web sites offer such lackluster brand experiences? Want to know how your site can help you differentiate your brand online?

If you care about how your brand succeeds online and are attending Forrester’s Consumer Forum 2010, I encourage you to consider attending our Web Site Brand Review workshop on Wednesday, October 27th (the day before the forum) at the Hilton Chicago.

During this one-day session, I will be presenting insights into the dos and don’ts of creating Web sites that effectively build brands. Attendees will learn the same methodology Forrester uses to evaluate how well sites build brands as published in reports such as “Best And Worst Of Brand Building Web Sites, 2008,” “Best And Worst Of Financial Services Brand Building Web Sites, 2009,” and "Web Site Brand Experience 2010: Hotels." 

This promises to be an educational, interactive, and entertaining way to learn the tools that will help you create the online experience your brand deserves. And, if you are attending the forum, we are offering a special discounted rate. For more information, and a detailed agenda, please visit the event page.

(By Any Other Name) RIAs Will Power Future Online Experiences

For a long time, people have debated the meaning of every part of the acronym RIA (rich Internet application). What is rich? What do you mean by "Internet"? What's an application as opposed to a site that renders content? (The last one has become clearer for some apps that sit outside of the browser but is still contested for functionality that runs within a browser.) The debate was really a way of making the case for player-based technologies like Flash and Silverlight vs. AJAX and dynamic HTML. While the former powered experiences that were more akin to software than sites (generally speaking), the latter enabled more dynamic, yet still page-based, experiences (again, generally speaking). But the lines are about to blur even further as we look at experiences that are increasingly fragmented across interaction points.

What does the future look like? Forrester believes that four attributes will characterize the online experience of the future. As my colleague Moira Dorsey points out in her report, "The Future Of Online Customer Experience," experiences will be: customized by the end user, aggregated at the point of use, relevant to the moment, and social as a rule, not an exception. 

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