Last week at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, I gave a keynote titled "The Customer Experience Ecosystem," which is a framework for helping companies understand the complex set of interdependencies that are ultimately responsible for shaping all customer interactions.
After the forum, I gave an encore presentation to a group of customer experience leaders at Fidelity Investments. The coolest thing about this meeting? Fidelity had engaged an artist from Collective Next to help it visualize the outputs of the session. Fred Leichter, Fidelity’s chief customer experience officer, told me that these visualizations help the team members see and think about their work in a more creative way.
So as I spoke, master scribe Marsha Dunn illustrated my presentation:
For those of you who heard my keynote, I hope this helps you keep some of my main points top of mind. You can also download my keynote slides on our event site.
For anyone who was unable to attend the forum, let me know if this piques your curiosity about customer experience ecosystems — I’m happy to fill you in on the details! Or, check out the full report.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to map your own customer experience ecosystem, please join my teleconference on Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Eastern time (18:00-19:00 UK time).
Companies are waking up to the business value of customer experience. Many have made customer experience a strategic priority and have dedicated teams to oversee customer experience efforts. Yet consumers report that their customer experiences with roughly two-thirds of US brands range from just OK to downright bad. Lackluster interactions plague every industry and every channel.
The root cause of this dilemma? Tunnel vision.
Many organizations place too much emphasis on top-of-mind channels such as the Web and social media, ignoring hundreds of touchpoints that influence customers' perceptions of the brand — such as call-center conversations, retail displays, product packaging, shipping invoices, and physical receipts. In addition, companies place too much of the responsibility for customer service on frontline employees — but in reality, behind-the-scenes employees from departments as diverse as finance, legal, and marketing can play an equal or even greater role in determining the nature of customer interactions.
Take Sprint's marketing department as an example. Because this behind-the-scenes team did not promote the benefits of Sprint's network in its ads — and competitors' marketing departments did — customers perceived the Sprint network to be lagging, regardless of the actual network performance they experienced.
We just announced the winners of Forrester’s 2011 Voice Of The Customer Awards at our Customer Experience Forum this afternoon. We received more than 40 nominations, and the nominees really upped their games again this year — another sign that voice of the customer (VoC) programs are rapidly maturing.
To evaluate the submissions, each of our four judges graded each nomination based on five criteria: clarity of approach, impact on customers’ experiences, impact on business performance, degree of innovation, and lessons provided for other firms. The nominees with the 10 best scores were named finalists. The top three scorers were named winners.
And here are the results . . .
The 10 finalists (in alphabetical order) are:
The three winners (also in alphabetical order) are:
Adobe. The software provider stood out with its comprehensive approach and focus on executive engagement. In addition to other activities, the firm created a Customer Immersion Program where executives step into customers’ shoes for a day, attempt relevant customer scenarios, discuss opportunities for improvement with frontline employees, and engage with actual customers. This effort brings customer and employee experiences to life and keeps executives connected with the on-the-ground reality of Adobe’s business.
Teams perform better when they have more positive interactions than negative interactions. Why? Some might assume that teams that perform well have more to be positive about, so they end up having more positive interactions. But psychologists find that it’s actually the other way around: Positivity drives performance.
I’ve been reading up on positive psychology recently to understand how leaders should communicate with their employees to drive customer experience performance. My most recent read was The Happiness Advantage by Harvard’s Shawn Achor (highly recommended). The book describes one particular concept that I find helpful in planning internal communications: the Losada Line, named after its creator, Marcial Losada.
Losada’s research has found that high-performance teams tend to have at least 2.9013 more positive interactions than negative interactions. Fall below that line and people get mired in problems. Rise above it, and they think more creatively and productively, leading to better performance. Losada has subsequently used this concept to help companies improve their business results by changing how they communicate. For example, he helped a large mining company overcome significant process inefficiencies by getting managers to look for encouragement opportunities even while the company was suffering. The group’s positivity ratio moved from 1.15:1 to 3.56:1, and its performance skyrocketed soon after.
Forrester recently asked US consumers to rate their satisfaction with call center agents from companies across 11 industries. As a part of that survey, we also asked consumers about their loyalty to those same companies. Then we analyzed the correlation between the quality of call center customer experiences and customer loyalty.
What we found was pretty compelling.
As customer satisfaction with the call center goes up, the willingness of a consumer to make another purchase and to recommend that brand to others increases. In addition, likelihood to switch to another provider goes down.
These correlations were particularly high for PC manufacturers, parcel shippers, Internet service providers, TV service providers, and credit card issuers.
We also asked consumers about the usefulness, ease of use, and enjoyability of their interactions with these same companies. We used that data to analyze the correlation between the quality of call center conversations and consumers’ overall perception of the customer experience delivered by the brand.
Across every industry we looked at, call center satisfaction highly correlates with consumers’ perceptions of how well the company met their needs and how easy and enjoyable it was to work with the company.
Customer experience professionals, call center execs, and marketers need to start discussing these connections and developing a plan to improve the call center customer experience. Your brand and your customers’ loyalty might just depend on it.
There are a lot of vendors pitching their social media listening capabilities. And, the more that I hear these pitches, the more it has made me think that a bunch of companies jumping on the social media bandwagon are going down a dangerous road of using it as a customer service escalation strategy — which is a horrible idea.
Let me illustrate with a recent story I heard. A woman discovered that the VIN number of her car was improperly recorded on her last visit to the California DMV. As she tried to get it fixed, she found out it was going to require a lot more effort than she hoped (perhaps it included a visit back to a local office). She tweeted about it. Remarkably: The California DMV was listening!! It tweeted her back, contacted her, and helped her resolve the issue in a fraction of the time and energy it would have taken. The result: a happy customer.
There are a couple of strange things about this story. First, the DMV can’t fix its long waits and broken processes, but it has people listening to Twitter. Hmm. Second, it rewarded someone who complained to the entire world about its broken process. The next time I want a quick fix to a problem I have with the DMV, remind me to tweet about it!
Congratulations to companies that can respond to the relatively few tweets they get via this channel today. Are you prepared to scale this operation as you re-enforce people to get service from you this way? More importantly, is that really the venue in which you want to solve problems?
I don’t love the name enterprise feedback management (EFM) to describe the technologies that enable voice of the customer (VoC) programs. It’s just not sexy. Unfortunately, it still accurately represents what vendors in the space actually do. As my colleague Roxie Strohmenger and I explained in a March 1st report: “We believe EFM still accurately represents the category. Why? Because 1) the vendors are still primarily focused on feedback as their primary data source, and 2) managing that feedback extends to the various analytical, alerting, and reporting activities that they pursue beyond just supporting survey processes.”
Since then, we’ve been knee-deep in EFM solutions, preparing for a Forrester Wave due out this summer. The experience has totally validated our earlier decision. Here’s a brief explanation:
Enterprise: The vendors pull together data from across an organization, from contact center to web, store, and social. Many also incorporate data from noncustomers, such as prospects and employees. In other words, they provide enterprise solutions. Check.
Feedback: It’s widely accepted that feedback includes more than numerical survey responses. It includes unstructured and unsolicited feedback too. Many EFM vendors also go beyond what we typically regard as feedback by incorporating transactional and operational data. But their solutions are totally built around feedback. Other data is treated practically as feedback, and it’s used to put feedback into context. Check.
Back in the summer of 2007, I wrote a report called “Taking In-Person Self-Service From Blah To Brilliant.” Here’s an excerpt: “Speaking of steel-enclosed stale fruitcakes, there's been a dearth of evolution — let alone revolution — in kiosk fixture design. Forrester has attended semi-annual kiosk industry conferences since 2005, and the only thing staler than the kiosks’ designs have been the bagels.”
In addition to boring kiosk enclosures, my research from the time found kiosk software riddled with usability problems — like missing content, confusing language, bad grammar, inappropriate pacing, and weak and annoying feedback — in industries as varied as retail, financial services, and transportation.
Unfortunately, not a lot has changed since then. Until last week.
With the launch of the Apple Store 2.0, Apple ushered in a new era of in-store self-service. In my post about the news, I suggested that this might mark Apple’s entry into an in-store customer experience platform: “For years, Apple employees have had the seemingly magical ability to check customers out from anywhere in the store. Now, with the addition of relatively cheap interactive signage and employee paging, Apple is positioned to sell a more complete in-store customer experience solution to companies ranging from independent boutique owners to multinational banks.”
There are two main reasons why these two data points are not in conflict with each other. The first is that the site we reviewed was Humana’s public site. People who visit this site do not necessarily join a Humana plan and only comprise a fraction of the total Humana customers captured in the CxPi. Humana’s membership comes from a variety of sources, including employers and the military. None of those members would use the public quoting capability, which makes up most of the experience we tested. So members who do join Humana via the public site experience would ultimately be dwarfed statistically by those who didn’t.