How Southern Water Mapped Its Customer Experience Ecosystem

Companies that want to improve their customer experience need to understand the intertwined and ever-evolving relationships among their internal employees, external partners, and customers. Forrester calls this complex set of relationships the customer experience ecosystem.

As I said in a previous post, to get a grip on your own ecosystem, you need to map it, co-create it, and socialize it. And when I say “map it,” I mean that you need to systematically uncover and document the ecosystem's hidden dynamics. 

Here’s a story of a company that did just that: English utility provider Southern Water. (If you live in the southeast of England, you don’t get your water without these guys.)

For a long time, Southern Water was handling about 50 water-meter installations per week, all at its customers’ requests. But a few years ago, the company decided to roll out universal metering street by street across the region, moving toward 500 installations a week.

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The Best Airline Experience You Haven’t Heard Of Yet

There’s a personal story behind why we invited one of our speakers to be on the main stage at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011.

A few months back, I had to take a trip from Boston to Toronto. My colleague Jeff Thurston said, “You’ve got to fly Porter.” I asked why, and he just said “trust me.” Well, I do trust Jeff so I went ahead and booked a flight on Porter Airlines.

When I got back to Boston I concluded two things. First, the only way I was going to fly to Toronto from now on was via Porter. Second, I needed to get someone from Porter on stage to talk about the butt-kicking customer experience I’d just had.

What’s so great about Porter? Let me give you my take. It starts with flying into Billy Bishop airport, which is basically in the city of Toronto — as opposed to Toronto Pearson International airport, which is a long cab ride outside of Toronto. So when you get off the plane at Billy Bishop, you just saved yourself about 15 miles worth of traffic.

That’s the convenient part. Now for the cool part. The flight experience is retro 1960s (maybe earlier, I wasn’t flying in the 60s). The seats are wide and comfortable. The crew treats you like they want your business. You get snacks that are basically meals plus wine or beer — and it’s complimentary! I almost fell out of my leather seat when  the flight attendant told me that.

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Call Center Customer Experience Transformation At American Express — And THAT'S The Way It’s Done

Last year we published not just one but two reports that featured the outstanding customer experience transformation process that took place in the American Express call centers. The first report described the winning entry submitted by American Express for a 2010 Voice Of The Customer Award — the data from that VoC program drove many of their call center improvements.  The second report was a profile of the transformation itself based on a talk by Reena Panikar, vice president and business leader of American Express' Customer Service Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

We were so impressed by this story that we invited Jim Bush, executive vice president of world service at American Express to speak at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum 2011.

Jim is responsible for leading the company’s global customer servicing operation — which includes 25 proprietary locations across the globe and a team of tens of thousands of customer care professionals who provide service to more than 63 million customers. He was the driving force behind the American Express call center transformation.

Listen in as Jim describes how it all went down.

The Chief Customer Officer For The Financial Services Company With The Best Customer Experience

One of the challenges in putting together Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum is that we have a very limited number of main-stage speaker slots. And that’s frustrating because as the content champion for the event, I wanted to put the top bank, the top credit card provider, and the top insurance provider on stage.

Lucky for me our Customer Experience Index data tells us that’s all the same company: USAA.

And that’s why we were so happy to have Wayne Peacock as a speaker.

Wayne is executive vice president of member experience at USAA, where he oversees its marketing, channel management, sales, and service functions. We profiled him earlier this year as part of our series “Conversations With Chief Customer Officers.”

As always, the USAA story is inspiring. As Wayne put it, it accomplishes its mission by focusing on three things that are deceptively simple but very hard to execute well:

  • Know your customer.
  • Organize your business around your customer’s need.
  • Make it about a bigger mission.

To which I will only add: If you do those things, you might also have a year-over-year customer retention rate of 97% to 98% like USAA.

But don’t take my word — listen to Wayne yourself. Enjoy!

The Real “Undercover Boss” — Office Depot’s Kevin Peters

No offense meant to any of the other great speakers at Forrester’s recent Customer Experience Forum 2011, but I have to admit that I had a favorite: Kevin Peters, Office Depot’s president, North American retail.

Kevin had some stiff competition from executives like USAA’s Wayne Peacock, Jim Bush from American Express, the members of our chief customer officer panel, and others. But Kevin won me over by giving one of the best speeches I have ever seen anywhere.

As someone who A) gives speeches on a pretty regular basis, B) attends a lot of events where I see other people give speeches, and C) feels compelled to analyze everything, I’ve been thinking a lot about why Kevin was so good.

Let’s start with the fact that he rocked it old school by standing up and delivering a speech without slides or any other kind of visual aids. Yeah, that’s right — he stood up and told a story so interesting that I just sat there riveted.

How did he manage that trick? It was a combination of great content and passion about that content. Let me be clear: If you’ve ever wondered what an executive who is deeply committed to his customers looks like, just watch this.

The Rise Of The Chief Customer Officer . . . Panel!

I was recently fortunate enough to host a panel of three chief customer officers (CCOs) on the main stage of Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum 2011.

They’re all quite different. Fred Leichter from Fidelity Investments has a background in customer experience, having guided the design of Fidelity websites for many years (and as a Fidelity customer, I can say that those sites are pretty darn good). In contrast, Jim Merlino of The Cleveland Clinic is a practicing surgeon as well as CCO, and Jeff Harvey of SAP (who was recently promoted out of the CCO position) has a diversified leadership background that’s more typical of the customer experience executives we recently studied.

Interestingly, despite their differences, they all spend time as CCOs on evangelizing customer experience, building empathy for customers among their organizations’ employees, and embedding customer-centricity into projects.

Check out this video excerpt from our session and share your own thoughts about this emerging role!

Get A Grip On Your Customer Experience Ecosystem

Many customer experience initiatives don't meet their full potential — or worse, fail completely — because companies don’t have a complete picture of what the customer experience actually entails or the dynamics that go into creating it. In order to break from their tunnel vision, companies need to understand their customer experience ecosystem: the complex set of relationships among a company's employees, partners, and customers that determines the quality of all customer interactions.

Here's a clip from my keynote at Forrester's recent Customer Experience Forum that explains this complexity in more detail:

In order to deliver great customer experiences across all customer touchpoints, companies must understand and take control of their customer experience ecosystem. How?

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A Few Clips About Strategy From The Customer Experience Forum

Around 51% of customer experience leaders say that the lack of a customer experience strategy is their biggest barrier to their efforts. That's like being a music conductor who tells his musicians and backstage people to "delight the audience" but doesn't tell them what to play. If you missed the Customer Experience Forum in New York a coupleof weeks ago, you can still see a few clips of me riffing on my conductor metaphor at the forum below . . . or you can read some of the core elements of the speech in my report, "What Is The Right Customer Experience Strategy?"