Harvard Business Review (HBR) is currently running a month-long feature on its blog called Creating a Customer-Centered Organization. We’re thrilled that HBR is focusing on this topic, as it indicates that customer experience is finally rising to the attention of top business executives.
The HBR editors asked Forrester to contribute a couple of pieces to this feature based on our recent research, and we happily obliged.
My post, Focus on Your Customer’s Customer, looks at how B2B companies can be successful by taking a B2B2C approach. Here’s an excerpt: “Often, the best way for B2B companies to satisfy the multitude of business customers is to focus on the needs of their customers’ customers. That’s exactly what Portuguese airport operator ANA Aeroportos de Portugal did in its quest to attract more major airlines and connecting routes. To understand the work, first you need to understand an airport’s business model: Its real customer isn’t travelers, but the airlines that rent the gates and terminals, much like a mall owner leases space to retailers.”
Every year in January, Forrester publishes its Customer Experience Index (CxPi), which reports how customers rate their interactions with major companies. We learn a lot from studying leaders in various industries — like USAA, which was the top credit card provider, top bank, and top insurance provider this year.
Last week, we published a follow-up report, which examined companies that raised their CxPi scores by at least five points year over year. Among others, these brands included Aetna (up six points), Citi’s credit card business (up 12 points), Charter Communications (up 20 points as an ISP and up seven points as a TV service provider), and Office Depot (up nine points). Our goal was to discover what, if anything, these firms did to earn their improvements.
And as it turned out, their big gains came as a result of major efforts.
Our research uncovered customer experience initiatives that fell into two buckets. The first bucket was business process re-engineering. Efforts here included creating or enhancing voice of the customer programs, measuring customer experience consistently across the enterprise, and changing incentive programs to reward customer-centric behavior by employees.
But perhaps the biggest impact came from upgrading the customer experience governance process at the enterprise level. For example, Aetna transformed its decentralized part-time customer experience task force into a full-time enterprise customer experience team. Cox Communications made an even more drastic change, consolidating any function with material customer interactions into one group led by a new senior vice president of customer operations.
Lately I’ve noticed a theme in my conversations with customer experience professionals — they’re feeling a bit overwhelmed as to where to start the enterprise customer experience transformation process. Some aren’t sure what to do first, second, and third. Others have a plan but are struggling to get executives to understand it and lend their support (a.k.a. resources).
To help clients solve that problem, I'm leading a workshop called Transforming Your Firm’s Customer Experience on May 11th at Forrester's New York City office. It’s a one-day workshop that starts with an overview of the state of the practice in customer experience today and then takes attendees through our latest research on how to:
Choose the right customer experience strategy for your company.
Build a world-class voice of the customer program.
Generate active executive participation in customer experience programs.
Transform your company culture to be more customer-centric.
I’ll share what’s working inside real companies and lead a series of exercises designed to help attendees benchmark their own firms against best practices. At the end of the day, we'll put it all together into a set of customized, actionable steps designed to jump-start your customer experience program.
This session will be an educational, interactive, and entertaining way to figure out how to start turning your organization into a customer experience powerhouse. For more information and a detailed agenda, please visit the event page for this workshop. I hope to see you in New York!
According to contemporary wisdom (in other words, according to what I hear), customers who experience service failures followed by effective service recoveries actually become more satisfied and loyal than customers who experience no failures at all. This is called the service recovery paradox, and academic research suggests that it’s not as common or consistent as we might think. Many customers who experience solid service recoveries still end up less happy than their problem-free counterparts. Service failures are bad, after all. Otherwise, we’d call them pleasant surprises. Nonetheless, service recovery is still an important part of the customer experience. Paradox or not, there’s value in making things less bad than they were. Unfortunately, each service recovery interaction provides another opportunity for failure.
Here’s an example:
I recently traveled to the West Coast for a few meetings, and I decided to try an alternative airline to get a better in-flight experience. The flight out was great. I particularly enjoyed the seat-back entertainment console, which also accepted food and drink orders — sparing passengers from bathroom-blocking, elbow-crushing carts. On my way back to the airport three days later, I was excited to kick back, watch TV, and order a couple of drinks at my leisure. It was a Friday afternoon. Work wasn’t happening (no judgment, please). Then things went south when the entertainment system broke. I couldn’t watch TV, and I had to wait for a flight attendant to take drink orders. Boo hoo, I know. As Louie CK said about this kind of complaint, “Everything is amazing, and nobody’s happy.” Still, the airline didn’t deliver the experience it had promised. Service failed.
For example, satisfaction rates for the five banks in our study spanned nearly 40 percentage points. An independent credit union took top honors with an impressive satisfaction score of 90%, while Bank of America came in at just 53%. Ouch. The credit card industry fared similarly: Discover Bank took the top spot with 81% consumer satisfaction, while Citi and Capital One tied for last place with twin scores of 58%. Meanwhile, phone interactions with the four Internet service providers (ISPs) in our study — AT&T, Comcast, Road Runner (Time Warner Cable), and Verizon — were universally loathed. The average satisfaction score for the ISPs was the lowest of any industry, and scores for the individual brands saw only an eight percentage-point spread.
Low call center satisfaction is admittedly bad news for brands, agents, and callers alike. But it also means that firms have a near-term opportunity for big-time brand differentiation through the call center customer experience.
Like it or not, government services face many of the same pressures that companies face. Companies like Amazon.com, USAA, Disney, and Zappos.com raise customer expectations when they deliver stellar service. As they raise the bar, other companies and government agencies risk getting fired when they fail to deliver the value that customers expect, make customers jump through hoops to access it, or begrudgingly deliver it through unengaged employees. Customers and citizens simply choose to take their money elsewhere.
It’s through this lens that I’ve watched the recent battles over state budgets and public employees along with their unions. When citizens don’t perceive they're getting a good value for the buck, they take their money elsewhere, even if that is through the ballot box — no wonder, when the citizen experience is so often sub-par.
Here are a few examples I’ve witnessed just in the past couple weeks: A group of on-duty cops spend an hour drinking coffee in Starbucks when people don’t feel comfortable walking around the streets a few blocks away; DMV workers look bored and move at the pace of sloths while I spend an hour waiting in line, even though they’re likely making way more money than the waitress at a local restaurant who’s super-friendly and efficient; a public transportation worker holds a sign at a street car stop urging people to smile, even when the lines often experience large delays; a gruff postal worker begrudgingly gets off his stool to get my package and then throws it on the counter.
My colleague, Kerry Bodine recently posted about the lack of big brands with mobile apps available in the Apple App Store and offered several suggestions for how brands can create end-to-end value for their customers by supporting them through their mobile devices. Forrester VP Julie Ask takes this concept even farther in her research outlining how various industries can create mobile value propositions to support existing channels, extend other channels, or create unique mobile experiences. But of course creating the right mobile service is just part of the battle. Customer experience professionals are tasked to ensure that those experiences are useful, usable, and enjoyable. How do we do that?
Invest in understanding how your customers behave with their mobile devices. Surveys and focus groups aren't sufficient when trying to design an experience. While they might let you prioritize features or fixes, they don't get you an actual understanding of how your customers use their mobile devices, when and where they use them, and how you might offer value through the device. This doesn't need to be really expensive. The design team at britishairways.com (ba.com) occasionally visits its frequent-flier lounge with mock-ups and prototypes and tests design concepts with its most valuable customers.
Welcome to Q&Agency! Each week, I 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 midsize interactive and design agencies. If you'd like to see your agency or an agency you work with here, let me know!
On March 16th, I talked with Tony Fernandes, the CEO and chief instigator at UEgroup and StudioUE. Edited excerpts from that conversation follow.
Forrester: Tell me a little bit about your agencies? Why the two names?
Tony: UEgroup is focused on the research-to-design phase, and StudioUE is focused on the design-to-development phase of delivering digital experiences. The separation came about because I conducted research with potential clients and realized that companies wanted to work with firms that could specialize in specific areas. The two brands cater to two audiences and live in separate office space to engender the separate focus our clients are looking for. We have some customers that are very research-oriented customers and others that are much more production-oriented customers. We’re taking our own advice and using a customer-centric approach to the way our brand is being presented.
We use mobile devices throughout the day to communicate with each other, get timely information, and entertain ourselves. And, because they’re almost always within a few feet of us, these devices offer myriad opportunities for brands to insert themselves into our lives in meaningful ways. But brands have been slow to realize this opportunity.
Whenever I browse the Apple app store, I’m always shocked by the small number of apps that have been commissioned by big brands — and this holds true for the Android and BlackBerry app stores, too. The app landscape is absolutely dominated by new startups — and big brands are getting left in their dust.
Take, for example, Apple’s list of top free iPhone apps from 2010. Big brands were noticeably missing from the following categories, where only one of the top 10 apps was from a big brand:
Education (kudos to NASA, which was the only big brand)