So, I just got back from Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum in New York. This year, it was at the Marriott Marquis, right in the heart of Times Square. Now, if you’re like me and have lived in a rural (ok, backwoods) town for the past 10 years, Times Square can be pretty overwhelming. You feel like you’re wading through a sea of people with every step. You hear more languages and see more diverse cultures in a block than in an around-the-world trip. And the neon and pictures and street-hawkers and . . . and . . . and. It’s total information overload.
Even worse, I had arranged to meet clients in the middle of this chaos. I was lost and running late. The call was short but clear: “Can you hear us? We’re here. Where are you? We need to leave soon.”
For many market insights professionals, my experience in Times Square is a microcosm of reality. Many have been stuck in the back office, already struggling to meet present stakeholders' needs. Suddenly, you're thrust into an overwhelming sea of new data sources with an executive mandate to find the customers and figure out their needs. Worse, if you don’t do this quickly, your customers are going to leave.
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.
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.