I am not one to suffer poor customer service in silence. Regrettably, the last week has provided me with the opportunity to be unusually prolific. I’ve written an email to the furniture retailer who didn’t deliver on time, sent several tweets while on hold with an airline, and followed up with an email to that airline about the multiple errors in my bookings. Last week’s restaurant with the wonderful chef was noted on Yelp, as well as the interminably slow service. The florist who sent me near-dead lilies was also called out on Yelp. And I’ve responded to two online surveys, offering both companies what I hope was constructive advice on how they could improve their service for future customers — of whom I am unlikely to be among.
I am not alone. According to Forrester’s North American Technographics Customer Experience Online Survey, Q4 2009 (US), 68% of North American consumers say that they've had unsatisfactory service interactions in the past 12 months. And many of us are not suffering in silence: 71% of these consumers have provided feedback directly to the company through surveys, phone calls, emails, or letters. Further, 16% of these consumers who have had bad service experiences have vented through social channels, such as online customer reviews, Facebook status updates, or blog posts.
“How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”
The key word I want to focus on here is “perceive.” While business success is viewed by metrics like conversions or average order size, for customers, their level of satisfaction is tied to the sum total of all interactions they have with a company from the first time they click on a link from an online ad all the way to opening and experiencing a product. That satisfaction is based on some rational justifications such as price, but it’s also largely based on the overall feeling customers have about those interactions. It’s that emotional component that can be the X factor in how consumers report whether or not they are satisfied with a brand — and more importantly determine whether they’ll do business with you again.
Think about it, emotions drive needs, wants, and desires and are the triggers that are the basis for most interactions consumers have with a company. Think about something as seemingly mundane as cleaning products. Why do people care about cleaning products? Because maybe they want to have a clean house that smells nice because they’re going to entertain soon and, secretly, they want to leave their guests not with an image of their home, but of how they keep their home. Or, maybe there’s a concern over the ingredients that are in the cleaning supplies that people use because they have young children and want to keep them safe from harmful chemicals. The bottom line is that people bring all sorts of baggage to every experience and that baggage is emotional — even the things that cannot be explicitly stated.
Our team is pretty floored by everything that’s happening in the customer experience space right now. We’re seeing massive changes in technology, which are enabling personal and social experiences unlike any we’ve ever seen. In addition, customer experience is gaining unprecedented importance across the enterprise. We think the combination of these influences is going to make for a pretty spectacular 2011.
Ron Rogowski and I are collaborating on a report that will outline Forrester’s thoughts on what 2011 has in store for customer experience professionals. Among our predictions:
Customer experience will (finally) connect with marketing. If you read my last blog post, it’ll be no surprise that I think there’s a pretty strong connection between customer experience and marketing. For CCOs and CMOs, 2011 will come in like a lion (with tension between their two groups) and go out like a lamb (with true collaboration).
Brands will (wrongfully) rush to abandon their Web sites. With the skyrocketing market for mobile phones and tablets, firms will look to engage users through differentiated experiences on these devices. But in the process, many will neglect a critical touchpoint — the Web — in favor of apps that have less reach.
Quantifies the correlation between a rise in a company’s Customer Experience Index score and the corresponding increase in three loyalty metrics that every company cares about: purchase intent, likelihood to switch business to a competitor, and likelihood to recommend.
Makes conservative but realistic assumptions about the business fundamentals of companies in 13 different industries.
Produces eyepopping projections of increased annual revenue as a result of realistically attainable improvements in customer experience — by industry.
I love social media. I appreciate the way it's allowed me to stay close to family and friends, even though I live 2,200 miles from my hometown. I'm grateful for the constant flow of amusing, helpful and interesting information it provides. I am thankful for the many interesting people I've met and gotten to know via social media (including but not limited to Jeremiah, Steve, Anna, Amber, David, Ian, Ben, Stefano, Brian and others). I love the professional opportunities it has furnished to me, particularly my role here at Forrester. And I especially value the way social media is changing the world -- making it flatter and more transparent, challenging the ways we conduct business, elevating the importance of relationships and affinity and encouraging more listening and responsiveness.
But there are some things I'm sick of in social media. Do you share these dislikes? Any you'd care to add?
A recent Forrester report "US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2010" forecasts online retail sales during the 2010 US holiday season to grow 16% year over year. Consumers are showing a willingness to spend this season, with affluent consumers driving the most growth. Respondents to our North American Technographics® Retail Online Survey, Q3 2010 (US) plan to complete 37% of their November/December holiday shopping through an online channel, up from 30% last year.
Let’s have a look at the post-mortem of the 2009 US holiday season to understand what is really important to customers: In spite of the economic slowdown last year, nearly three-quarters of US online holiday buyers maintained or increased their spending in the online channel compared with 2008. Online holiday buyers are buying more online for the same reasons that the online channel is a successful and growing component of retail in general: convenience, selection, and price.
As a sales leader, it’s difficult to help your sales team overcome the complexity around them. When buyers change and market forces change as well, there is no doubt that salespeople need to change their approach. In fact, many salespeople are recognizing that they need to adjust their approach to the buyer and change the way they sell in order to stay relevant. And, let’s face it, changing the way the sales team sells isn’t easy. As a sales leader, you have some choices to make. On one hand, you can retool sales processes, content, or tools to focus more effectively on the customer. On the other hand, you can retool the skills of your sales team members to have more effective sales conversations with buyers. The best approach may be to accomplish both. Either way, retooling the skills of the sales team requires a strategic approach.
Retooling the skills of the sales team can be broken down into two phases. One phase is the pre-hire phase, where your strategy should help you identify, select, and hire the right people into the right jobs. The second phase is the post-hire phase, where your strategy should help you develop and retain the people you hire. In an ideal world, both of these pre- and post-hire phases would be aligned to a solid understanding of the customer. Working backward from the customer’s needs, challenges, and business drivers, a sales talent management strategy can more effectively link business objectives to individual results.
If you’re reading this post, you’re someone who cares about customer experience. You might even be one of the professionals who works in the field of customer experience full-time.
So I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you occasionally get the question, “What is ‘customer experience?’”
Now maybe when you’re asked that question, it isn’t phrased so directly (or politely). For example, I get asked, “Isn’t customer experience just marketing?” And, “How is customer experience different from customer service?” But the bottom line is that people are looking for a definition that’s crisp, useful, and distinct from the definitions of other things that companies do. They are right and reasonable to ask for this — but collectively those of us who work to improve customer experience have failed to answer them.
I mean no offense to the many people out there who have tried to define “customer experience.” I’ve read many of the attempts that are out there, and the ones I’ve seen tend to be longer and more convoluted than necessary.
Not that customer experience is an easy concept to define. The customer experience team at Forrester has been debating the definition of customer experience for a while now, and it took us until recently to reach consensus. We now define customer experience as:
“How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”
I'd begun to think of LinkedIn as a sleeping giant -- a company that had achieved success and was resting on its laurels, and those laurels were resting on increasingly thin ice. LinkedIn has become the de facto standard for professional networking and recruiting, but what had it done lately? Its groups seemed spammy (a problem that weakened Monster, once the undisputed leader in recruiting), and at least outwardly LinkedIn wasn't assertively innovating (an ailment that caused the downfall of Myspace). But with a burst of new features, it seems the professional networking site isn't sleeping any longer, and I am particularly impressed with Signal, a new intelligence tool currently in beta.