Q&Agency: BGT Partners

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 May 10th, I spoke with David Clarke, co-founder and managing partner; Andrea Fishman, partner, VP of global strategy and head of BGT Chicago; and Michael Marsowicz, partner and VP of client services at BGT Partners.


Forrester: Tell me a little bit about BGT Partners?

David: We were founded in 1996 so we're celebrating our 15th anniversary this year. That makes us one of the oldest interactive agencies in the country. We have over 165 people in our main office in Miami and our newer office in Chicago. We’re a partnership that’s wholly owned by our 10 partners. Our focus is on experience design, digital marketing, strategy, and analytics. People hire us to solve business problems like increasing conversion, lowering abandonment, or increasing the number of people coming into the funnel. Strategy is where we start, but we take a project all the way through execution to advanced analytics.

Forrester: What is your elevator pitch?

Michael: BGT is a leading global interactive agency that focuses on making the complex simple. That might be through user experience by making a booking process simpler, or it might be with analytics by looking at data and culling out the most important information. We advance brands with advanced interactions.

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How Fidelity Co-Creates Its Customer Experience Ecosystem

To get a grip on your customer experience ecosystem — the complex set of relationships among your company's employees, partners, and customers that determines the quality of all customer interactions — you need to map it, co-create it, and socialize it

When I say “co-create it,” you might think of websites like My Starbucks Idea or Dell’s IdeaStorm — and those sites are great, but they’re not exactly what I’m talking about. Focus groups might also come to mind — but they’re not what I’m talking about, either.  When I talk about co-creation, I’m talking about active participation from employees, partners, and customers throughout the experience design process — from upfront research to in-person ideation sessions and concept testing.

As I mentioned in my keynote at Forrester’s recent Customer Experience Forum, this is an approach that Fidelity Investments has taken to heart. It's been working with the Stanford d.school — yup, that’s “d” as in “design” — to embed co-creation within Fidelity’s organization.

The picture below shows a workshop in which Fidelity employees have immersed themselves with pictures and notes from in-field research looking at how Gen Y consumers interact with money.

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Verint To Buy Vovici: Expect More Customer Insight Consolidation In Two Flavors

News recently broke that analytics firm Verint will acquire enterprise feedback management (EFM) vendor Vovici. I think the acquisition makes a lot of sense (we predicted that this type of consolidation would happen) and will benefit both firms. I also think it demonstrates a few major trends that customer experience folks should note:

Vendors are hungry to serve chief customer officers (CCOs). We all know that companies are taking customer experience more seriously these days, and many have established CCO positions accordingly. That has created a new target for the broad set of vendors playing in the customer experience space. Verint and Vovici are trying to meet this new buyer’s need for insight into customers’ end-to-end experiences by pulling together information from across channels, data sources, and data types. The press release even cites the rise of the CCO as a reason for the acquisition. Expect to see more companies go directly after CCOs this year.

There are many more EFM vendors on the mergers and acquisitions (M&A) menu. Like Vovici, most EFM vendors are relatively small tech companies with their eyes set on rapid growth. They’ve seen sales spike recently from companies embracing customer experience as a discipline and recognizing the need to use customer feedback more effectively. Now the vendors are pushing to enter the mainstream. To succeed, many will find suitors like Verint that have cash (not that much is needed here) and holes in their existing solutions to put EFM into a more complete package.  

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Want To Raise Your Net Promoter Score? Try Improving Your Customer Experience

Many of our clients work at companies that use Net Promoter. I recently had dinner with two of them at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011. Both are senior people at companies that have been recognized as customer experience leaders in their respective industries.

When a third guest (Forrester’s CEO) asked them why and how they use Net Promoter Score (NPS), they gave remarkably consistent answers. In brief, they use it as a simple, easy-to-understand metric — one number — for aligning the business. Its main appeal is that busy executives don’t need to spend hours studying tables and spreadsheets to get a sense of how their firms are doing. Similarly, frontline employees down to the lowest levels of the organization find that NPS makes intuitive sense.

But there’s a next big (and obvious) question for people like our dinner guests who work to improve the customer experience at their companies: Does improving customer experience raise NPS? Because let’s face it, if your firm ties its overall health back to NPS, then you better be able to connect the dots for what you do, or you won’t seem to matter.

We’ve been wondering about this issue ourselves. So much so that late last year when we ran the big consumer survey that drives our Customer Experience Index, we included the Net Promoter question for two of the 13 industries in our study: banks and retailers. We were looking for a correlation between how people rate the customer experience at a company they do business with and how likely they are to recommend that company to a friend or colleague.

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Your Guide To Video Highlights Of Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011

Over the past few weeks, Paul Hagen, Kerry Bodine, and I have been posting our takes on Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011. We’ve included video of moments we like from 10 out of the 11 main-stage sessions (sadly, we don’t have video of the Voice Of The Customer Awards, but at least we have a list of the winners!).

To give attendees and others an easy way to find the moments that matter to them, I’ve assembled this guide to our posts about the event. If you find these posts interesting, you can jump into the discussions that started at the forum in our online Forrester Community For Customer Experience Professionals.


“Customer Experience Is Personal”

Harley Manning, Vice President, Research Director, Forrester Research

Here’s the man-on-the-street video I used in my opening remarks. We took a camera crew to Harvard Square and asked people to describe their best and worst customer experiences. Yikes!

 “What Is the Right Customer Experience Strategy For Your Company?”

Paul Hagen, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research

What is a customer experience strategy? What is it good for? How can you recognize a good one? Hear Paul’s answer, which sets the theme for the rest of the event.

“A Relentless Focus On Members”

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It’s Time To Develop Your Digital Customer Experience Strategy

Today’s digital landscape is complex. As companies use digital interfaces to engage with customers and foster long-term relationships, customer interactions are spanning an increasing array of touchpoints, with customers often crossing multiple channels in the pursuit of a single goal. While this new reality is riddled with challenges, it’s also ripe with opportunities for companies that have a strategic plan for digital customer experience.  

In a recent report, and subsequent Mashable article, I made the case that companies need to develop and execute digital customer experience strategies. As opposed to digital marketing strategies that focus mostly on what a company will provide and where, a digital customer experience strategy determines the “what” and the “where” based on the “who” and the “how.” That is, a digital customer experience strategy balances company goals and strategy with user expectations (the “who”) and describes the intended experience (the “how”). This, in turn, guides specific investments based on what customers need and a well-thought-out way of delivering on those needs that leaves a lasting positive impression.  

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Customer Experience Is Personal

Late last year, I attended a workshop at a small but quite interesting conference in London. The two guys running the workshop separated the attendees into small groups where each of us took turns describing the worst customer experience we’d had, and then the best customer experience we’d had.

I thought it was a remarkably effective exercise, and I would have liked to try something like it at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011. Of course with roughly 1,200 attendees, we couldn’t do that so instead we did the next best thing. A few weeks before our event we took a camera crew out to Harvard Square and asked some people on the street to tell us about their experiences.

Let me tell you a little bit about Harvard Square. It’s right in the heart of the Harvard University campus, which is right in the heart of Cambridge, Mass. — a town that Amazon.com recently ranked as the country's most well-read city.

The day we were there, it was graduation week. So in addition to the usual students and tourists from around the world, we met parents there for their kids’ graduation and alumni there for reunions.

We heard some fascinating stories, which led us to a few conclusions. For example, it’s very hard to satisfy every customer, every time — even for a customer experience icon like Apple.

Hopefully that first segment scared you just a little because when companies get the customer experience wrong, it makes a big impact.

But of course, there’s good news, too. When companies get the customer experience right, that also makes a big impact.

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Would You Trust Your Son's Customer Experience To This Man?

Although he just turned 10, my son is very serious about his finances. And his entire life savings (such as it is — he only gets $3 per week for his allowance) is at Citizens Bank. 

Personally I'm more interested in how my kid gets treated by his bank than I am about his account balance. So I was quite keen to hear from Nick Primola from Citizens Financial Group, one of the speakers at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum, 2011.

Nick is senior vice president of direct marketing at Citizens Financial Group, where he’s responsible for enterprisewide direct marketing efforts supporting all of the bank’s business lines. As a self-confessed "data guy," that could have put us at odds. Was he going to be the driving force behind a spam attack on my kid? But as it turns out, Nick has a very enlightened view of how data gets used.

Check him out.

The Nikon Customer Experience Acid Test

You all know Nikon, which has more than $8 billion in annual revenue and 26,000 employees worldwide. At Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011, we also got to know David Dentry, general manager of customer relations for Nikon.

David’s a lucky guy. He’s been interested in photography since he was a small child, so working at Nikon is a dream job for him. He was a photographer and photo teacher in the US Navy for eight years, which had him shooting (in a way that’s different from the way most military personnel shoot) everything from aerial reconnaissance photos to cake-cutting events. In fact, he joined the Navy based on his recruiter’s assurance that if he signed up he’d get to be a photographer.

Today David’s responsible for all aspects of customer support for Nikon in the Americas. His team manages Nikon’s call center operations and the nikonusa.com website. That’s quite an interesting challenge because he gets the customer service experience challenge in stereo from two very different types of channels. Not to worry, though, because he has a technique he uses to suss out the lowest common denominator when it comes to customer experience challenges: ask Grandma.

Here's how he describes his approach.

Q&Agency: ISITE Design

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 April 15th, I talked with Jeff Cram, chief strategy officer and co-founder of ISITE Design. Edited excerpts from that conversation follow.

Forrester: Tell me a little bit about ISITE Design?

Jeff: ISITE Design is a digital agency founded in 1997 in Portland, Oregon. We’ve grown to 55 employees and opened up additional offices in Boston and Los Angeles. We’re fortunate to work with fantastic organizations like Zipcar, Jive Software, Genzyme, and MIT, to name a few. We operate at the exciting intersection of digital strategy, experience design, marketing technology, and measurement. We also just broke ground on a new 18,000-square-foot headquarters in Portland that will be the creative hub for the next chapter of our growth.

Forrester: What is your elevator pitch?

Jeff: We are a digital agency that helps companies rethink how business gets done online. Our mission is to teach organizations how to thrive in a digital age, and we take that seriously. We feel that digital has reached escape velocity from marketing and that organizations need a new type of partner that can help connect smart digital execution to business operations and growth.

Forrester: What are the three key things that differentiate you from your competitors?

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