Upcoming Workshop: Transforming Your Firm's Customer Experience (May 11th, New York City)

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!

Four Reasons Interactive Marketing Is Ready To Lead Your Brand

Brand marketers don’t spend much online. It’s been a long-time frustration for me, but it’s undeniably true: According to our most recent interactive marketing forecast, marketers in brand categories spend less than half as much of their marketing budgets online as marketers in direct response categories. Brand marketers also continue to spend a huge portion of their marketing budgets on TV.

I’ll be honest: Five or 10 years ago, this made sense. Although lot of us were shouting from the rooftops back in 2000 about the scale and power of the Internet, the truth is back then its scale and power were relatively limited. The majority of the population still wasn’t online, Internet usage averaged only a few hours per week, and the brand stories we could tell online were constrained by both tiny banner ads (anyone remember "half banners"?) and tiny bandwidth (broadband access, and with it online video and other rich creative, was years away from the mainstream).

In that environment, it made sense that TV was by far marketers’ most important channel for building brand. After all, it offered brand marketers by far the largest media opportunity (more total users, and way more total hours, than any other media channel) and by far the richest brand impact of any platform. Marketers would have had little choice even if they wanted it: 30-second TV spots were the be-all and end-all of how they explained the meaning of the brands, and all other channels — online, radio, print, outdoor, and everything else — were simply a chance to reinforce the messaging in the TV spots.

But the conditions that made TV the de facto heart of our brand messaging no longer exist. Today, interactive marketing is ready to lead your brand campaigns, for four key reasons:

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Don’t Let Service Recovery Become Another Service Failure

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.

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Stop Using NPS (Net Promoter Score) But Please Save The Question!

(Note: Due to concerns that the strong language of my original blog would overshadow the message, I have rewritten the first paragraph. The goal of this blog is to stimulate conversation – admittedly, through confrontation – in order to determine what correlation NPS really has and how to best use it, or not!)

As the Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) analyst in the Market Insights Team, I get a lot of questions about Net Promoter Score (NPS). As the “ultimate question,” NPS is being positioned as a cure to all business ills and a way to understand everything you need to know about your customers . . . with just one question. Most market insights professionals struggle with NPS as it goes against our training to accept data correlations which have not been proven. Presenting actionable insights tied to NPS when correlation has not been proven? It feels like selling snake oil and is likely one of the drivers for the view that “researchers hate this metric.”

Has NPS — like Britney Spears’ singing — been overhyped?

My professional colleagues — including Timothy L. Keiningham, Bruce Cooil, Tor Wallin Andreassen and Lerzan Aksoy (A Longitudinal Examination of Net Promoter and Firm Revenue Growth) and Jeffrey Henning (Net Promoter Score [NPS] Criticisms and Best Practices) — have already beautifully, and very analytically, dissected and disproven NPS. They are not alone in their views or criticisms. So, why do we still use NPS when there is no clear statistical conclusions as to its effectiveness?!

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The Data Digest: Which Type Of Apps Do Europeans Download Most?

My colleague Thomas Husson wrote a report last year in which he looked at ”The Future Of Application Stores.” Overall, uptake of apps is limited: Only 15% of European smartphone owners report downloading an app on a monthly basis. By contrast, 64% of European iPhone users download apps on a monthly basis. Looking at what consumers are interested in most, Forrester's Technographics® data shows that games, music, weather, news, and social networking top the list for both iPhone and other smartphone users.

Companies that want to develop a mobile strategy should begin with a solid understanding of how mobile-advanced their brand's consumers are and will be. Mobile Technographics® places consumers into groups based on their mobile phone usage. The groups are defined by the extent to which the mobile phone user has adopted mobile data services, the frequency of use of these services, and the level of sophistication in the mobile applications he or she uses.

RIM’s BlackBerry PlayBook Tablet: A Racecar Missing A Wheel

I’ve just come from RIM’s launch event for the BlackBerry PlayBook tablet. The tablet has evolved since CES, but my impressions of it remain the same. In short, it’s a racecar that’s missing a wheel. The PlayBook is a powerful device with solid hardware, lighter and more compact than the iPad. But by requiring a Bluetooth connection to a BlackBerry phone for basic applications like email, calendar, and IM, RIM has sacrificed consumer-friendliness for CIO peace-of-mind. As Walt Mossberg notes in his review, other apps users would expect like video-chat are also noticeably absent but will be provided via software updates in the near future. 

Why, then, would RIM risk lukewarm reviews to launch a v1 product? My view is that the PlayBook is more of a proof point of what's coming for RIM than it is an iPad competitor. The PlayBook demonstrates the power of RIM's recently-acquired QNX operating system. It's an engine revving to go, and the PlayBook's 7-inch screen gives it room to make some noise. For example, the PlayBook browser handles Flash flawlessly, and the ability to switch apps and keep a video or game running in the background is truly impressive.

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Seize Your Opportunity For Big-Time Brand Differentiation Through The Call Center Customer Experience

Back in March, I blogged about how bad call center experiences spoil millions of daily opportunities to drive business value. But the business value of improving these interactions varies, of course, by industry and by individual company — and my most recent report, "Call Center Experiences Leave Consumers On Hold For Something Better," sheds some light on this.

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.

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Spotify No Longer Too Unlimited*

Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek today announced via his company’s blog that free access to Spotify is being cut back, with total free listening limited to 10 hours a month and any song being limited to just 5 plays a month. The comments on the blog post are interestingly polarized between those who claim they’ll start pirating again and those who are vociferously in favour of the move.

For Spotify, this is a sound business move. It will buy the firm breathing space and will tilt its operating margins closer to sustainability. It will even make it easier to position a scaled-back US offering as not being a Spotify-lite in comparison to Europe.

But as much as it makes strong business sense for Spotify, it is a shame that the legal music market has lost its second most popular unlimited free on-demand service (after YouTube). As things currently stand, the economics of free simply do not add up: The amount of money that streaming music services can generate from advertising falls short of what they need to pay rights holders. Until that changes, we won’t see mass-market free on-demand music services here for the duration. And this is nothing new; I made the same comments years ago about those ad-supported free music trailblazers Spiral Frog and Qtrax (view my MusicIndustryBlog post here).

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Agile Commerce: Three Questions For Craig Shields, Vice President Of eCommerce At Jewelry Television


I recently had the chance to catch up with Craig Shields, vice president of eCommerce at Jewelry Television, to understand what impact the transition to agile commerce is having on Jewelry Television, its business strategy, and its organizational structure.

Jewelry Television was founded in 1993 and is the only television home shopping network focused entirely on jewelry and gemstones. Today the Internet plays a large role in the company's growth strategy including JTV.com, auction site JTVauctions.com, and the newly launched DiamondDesignGallery.com.  

Forrester: Craig, thanks for taking some time out to talk to us about agile commerce. We have been talking to clients about the evolution of their business from channels to touchpoints that span mobile devices, social networks, advertising, marketing, traditional channels, and various places online. Your business is a little unique with your use of TV as a direct response marketer. How are you looking at agile commerce and in particular the potential impact of iTV and other consumer devices such as tablets?

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What The Arrival Of Contract-Free £20 ($32) Smartphones Mean

T-Mobile UK has put on sale an Android smartphone for just £19.99 ($32) on pre-pay, with no contract commitment whatsoever. This price for the Pulse Mini includes 20% UK sales tax (VAT) as well as six months of free mobile Internet access, but excludes a compulsory £10 airtime top-up.

This pricing places smartphones into the mainstream. And, as consumers no longer have to pay a premium for the phone over a basic phone or a featurephone and nor do they have to choose to pay extra for a data tariff, many consumers will buy the Pulse Mini without even realising it is a smartphone.

Other smartphones remain a little more expensive for now. A number of smartphone models from Samsung, LG, HTC, SonyEricsson, and RIM are on sale in the £80-£150 range on pre-pay in the UK. Over the next few years, these prices will reduce and will place big-name-brand smartphones into the mainstream phone market pricing, too.

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