The explosion of smartphones and tablet computers has companies frantic to build useful apps for serving their customers. Forrester agrees that companies should be building ways for customers to interact with them at the time and place that’s most relevant to them.
If you called American Express a few years ago to report a lost credit card, you got the card cancelled right on the spot. If it appeared under the couch a few minutes later, you were out of luck. You still had to wait several days for a new card to arrive. It was bad for you. It was bad for AmEx. Luckily, a customer care professional (CCP) noticed this phenomenon. And, luckily, AmEx had a formal program for CCPs to suggest policy changes to improve customer experience. If you call to report a lost card today, you can put a 24-hour hold on your card instead of cancelling it. If it turns up, you can have it reinstated — and then go use it. Everybody wins.
This solution may seem obvious looking back, but only an employee with unique contextual insight could spot it at the time. If your company isn’t taking advantage of this insight, you’re missing out.
As I describe in my new report, employees hold the key to great customer experiences. Why? Here are three reasons:
Many employees observe customer interactions directly, so they can spot emerging customer needs and issues before they surface in traditional customer research.
Employees also understand internal operations, so they’re in a natural position to identify root causes of customer problems and suggest solutions. Back-office employees have just as much to offer here as customer-facing employees do.
In addition to having valuable insight, employees have enormous influence. They directly shape the processes and interactions that affect customers, so they can make arms-length changes to quickly improve customer experience.
Lately it’s become en vogue to talk about how to “surprise and delight” your customers. And why not? If companies are competing on experience, they need to find ways to impress and engage their customers. Figuring out how to do this is difficult but doable.
I recently had the pleasure of editing a report that Vidya Drego wrote that outlined three categories of customer research techniques: exploratory, evolutionary, and evaluative (read or download the report here). That process led me to think about my own research on Emotional Experience Design, which asserts that in order to engage their customers, companies have to craft interactions that address real goals, craft a cohesive personality, and deliver the right sensory experience. It’s this first principle of addressing real goals that I’ve looked into more deeply in a new report called, “Mastering Emotional Experience Design: Address Customers’ Real Goals.” Here are a few examples of companies that address real goals by extending value beyond the functional needs of a single interaction:
Over the past five years, Forrester has observed an increase in the number of companies that have a single executive leading customer experience efforts across a business unit or an entire company. Whether firms call these individuals a chief customer officer (CCO) or give them some other label, these leaders sit at high levels of power at companies as diverse as Allstate, Dunkin’ Brands, Oracle, and USAA.
We define the CCO as: “A top executive with the mandate and power to design, orchestrate, and improve customer experiences across every customer interaction.”
Who are these new customer experience executives? Why do companies appoint them? And does your company need one? To answer these questions for a newly released report called “The Rise of the Chief Customer Officer,” we gathered data on 155 CCOs, surveyed a panel of customer experience decision-makers from large North American firms, and conducted in-depth interviews with CCOs from both B2C and B2B companies. Here are a few of the nuggets we found:
Title. Forty-four percent have the title of “chief customer officer,” 23% are called “chief client officer,” and 8% go by “chief experience officer.” The many, highly varied titles of the remaining 26% highlight the extreme difficulty of trying to spot CCO-level people by title alone, such as USAA’s “executive vice president, member experience” and Sirva’s “customer experience, operational excellence, and chief innovation officer.”
Customer experience transformation efforts don’t happen overnight. It can take years to develop the right customer experience strategy and roll out improvements across interaction points. But the screaming pace of technology innovation over the past year has sparked major changes in customer behavior and expectations. The net result? 2011 will be a pivotal year for the customer experience field.
In our latest report, Ron Rogowski and I outline what these changes mean for customer experience professionals in the year ahead — and what they’ll need to do to keep up. The report includes predictions for the customer experience ecosystem, its impact on organizations, and the resulting implications for customer experience vendors. For example:
The complexity of the customer experience ecosystem will mushroom. 2011 will bring major changes in the number of devices consumers have at their disposal as well as the types of interactions they’ll expect on those devices. Forrester expects the number of connected TV sales to double in 2011 — and consumers say they’ll be gobbling up eReaders and tablet computers at the roughly same pace that they’ll purchase new laptops. This will force customer experience professionals to expand — and differentiate — their reach. Despite the growing popularity of mobile and tablet devices, the Web (no, it’s not dead) will continue to be a vital part of the customer experience ecosystem in 2011.
How should you measure customer experience? Is it even possible to measure something that feels as squishy as customer experience?
As it turns out, you can measure it, you should measure it, and you even have some decent options for measuring it. Your alternatives range from monitoring the real-world interactions your customers have with your firm (like clicks on a site or the length of a call) to asking your customers for their perceptions of those interactions (the real customer experience) to tracking what your customers do as a result of the experience (like making another purchase or recommending you).
At Forrester, we have our own direct measure of customer experience that we’ve been using since 2007: the Customer Experience Index (CxPi). Today we published the results for 2011, which are based on research conducted at the end of 2010.
To help understand those results, let me explain how the CxPi works. We ask more than 7,000 consumers to identify companies they do business with in 13 different industries. We then ask respondents to tell us how well each firm met their needs, how easy the firm was to work with, and how enjoyable it was to work with (questions that correspond to the three levels of the classic customer experience pyramid). Then for all three questions, we calculate each firm’s CxPi score by subtracting the percentage of its customers who reported a bad experience from the percentage who reported a good experience. The overall CxPi is an average of those three results.
Back in October, I traveled to Berlin and Cambridge, Mass., to attend the annual conferences of the Service Design Network, an international organization for professionals and academics working in the field of service design.
Um . . . What’s service design?
Great question! Service designers broadly define what they do as a collaborative process of researching, envisioning, and then orchestrating experiences that happen over time and across multiple touchpoints. Unlike traditional design disciplines, service designers typically examine — and often re-engineer — the strategy behind a service as well as the operational systems, processes, and resources that deliver it.
Um . . . Can you give me an example?
Sure! There are lots of examples in my latest report. But one story in particular stands out because it includes some very cool design solutions for a very unsexy industry: utilities. When the UK recently mandated that water billing switch from estimated to actual use, English utility company Southern Water faced a massive meter installation project. The company turned to service design agencies for help – and through several interrelated projects that spanned roughly 18 months, the Southern Water teamexplored how meter installation could be a positive experience and how consumer behavior toward saving water could be influenced.
In the end, they streamlined the rollout of 500,000 new water meters. (That’s about 400 new meters a day over a period of five years!) Here are some of the project highlights: