The Frustrating Pursuit Of Experience Design Excellence In Healthcare

I had a meeting yesterday with a very well-respected experience design agency. The purpose was to try to identify opportunities within the healthcare sector (writ large) for the kind of work that they do. Its approach sits between what a traditional agency does (which focuses on campaigns and visual design) and what a consultant/systems integrator does (which focuses on technical architecture and systems design). Its focus is on designing technology-based experiences that are engineered — from the back end to the front — to meet users’ needs.

We could collectively identify a plethora of opportunities where healthcare firms (payers and providers) could benefit from its services: health insurance member service sites that need a user-centered re-engineering to achieve their self-service mission; wellness initiatives that need to engage users in difficult and sometimes-unappealing tasks; patient communication platforms for hospitals; and even EMR interfaces to streamline clinician workflow.

Where we struggled was to find the buyers with the vision and appetite to undertake the kinds of changes these experience overhauls would entail. On the health insurance side, we stumbled up against the fact that the typical website/mobile solution owner has no control over the content presented on digital platforms (and most of that content can best be described as inscrutable). She also often has little ability to access the kinds of source data (read claims, billing, and benefits data and rules) that would enable her to display meaningful information online — as opposed to simply regurgitating the incomplete content that is distributed to health insurance consumers in offline media.

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Just Published: Forrester Wave™ Of Enterprise Feedback Management Satisfaction And Loyalty Solutions

Enterprise feedback management (EFM) solutions help voice of the customer (VoC) programs scale up. They enable customer experience professionals to gather customer feedback from a range of sources, make that feedback relevant and usable for a range of employees, and distribute the insight out to drive customer-centric decisions — without relying on excessive manual analysis and reporting.

Despite EFM’s value, the space has been difficult to navigate because of its dozens of small vendors, evolving market segments, and frequent mergers-and-acquisitions (M&A) activity. This has left customer experience pros with a lot of detective work to do. Even educated buyers have had a hard time coming up with logical shortlists, and vendors have regularly avoided going head to head with competitors.

To shed some light on the EFM space and help customer experience leaders find the right partners, we conducted an in-depth evaluation over the past several months and (finally!) published the results here: The Forrester Wave™: EFM Satisfaction And Loyalty Solutions, Q3 2011.

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B2B Customer Experience Scores Are Low And Excuses Ring Hollow

The customer experience for companies doing business with other companies stinks. Three independent studies that Forrester Research has conducted over the past year indicate that the business-to-business (B2B) experience is perceived as worse than that in the bottom-of-the-barrel consumer industries such as TV service providers and health insurance plans in Forrester’s 2011 Customer Experience Index. This is not surprising for several reasons. Many B2B firms believe that customer experience is something that only consumer-focused firms like Disney, Zappos, and Ritz Carlton need to consider. Moreover, many B2B companies argue that purchasing decisions are made for a complex set of reasons other than customer experience. Finally, they often say that because of the relatively low number of accounts, they already provide a personalized experience through account management teams.

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Customer Experience Ecosystem Mapping: The Workshop!

I’ve been talking a lot lately about customer experience ecosystems. And I’ve been getting tons of questions from people who would like to learn the tools and processes for mapping their own ecosystems.

Good news! Paul Hagen and I are hosting a Customer Experience Ecosystem Mapping workshop in San Francisco on Wednesday, November 16. During this full day of presentations, hands-on exercises, and discussions, you’ll learn how to use Forrester’s ecosystem framework to:

  • Detail a specific customer journey and key touchpoints. (If you’ve got them, bring your existing personas and customer journey maps.)
  • Identify the people, processes, policies, and technologies that influence those customer interactions — both the parts of the ecosystem that are in plain view of customers as well as those parts that influence the customer experience from behind the scenes.
  • Identify the root causes of customer experience problems.
  • Prioritize fixes to these problems.

You’ll leave with a solid start on your own ecosystem map — and the know-how to complete it back at the office with your extended team.

Ecosystem mapping is a collaborative exercise, and we feel you’ll get the most out of this workshop if a colleague joins you — so we’re offering a 10% discount to companies who send two attendees.

For more details, please check out the Customer Experience Ecosystem Mapping workshop page on our website.

We hope to see you in San Francisco!

Corporate Customer Experiences Need Startup Mojo

I’m a Dropbox customer. I originally signed up for the basic plan — 2 GB for free — but ran out of space quickly and decided to upgrade to 50 GB of storage. So I forked over my $99 and got the following confirmation page:

A gold star! A hand-drawn cartoon! Now I know this page wasn’t designed specifically for yours truly, but when I saw it, I felt special. Like the people at Dropbox actually gave a damn that I had just given them $99 of my hard-earned money. 

Compare that with the $700 I spent recently for several nights at a large hotel. My final bill was printed on a plain white sheet of paper and was so devoid of any brand messaging that I feared it would raise eyebrows with our finance department! Consider the $1,600 I just plunked down for a multi-leg transcontinental flight. The airline’s confirmation email didn’t waste any time trying to sell me on a rental car, hotel room, and credit card — but didn’t even wish me a pleasant trip. Or take my credit card company — which processes tens of thousands of dollars of business expenses for me each year. When I look at my bill, the things that pop out are how much I owe them, by when, and a late payment warning — key pieces of information, yes, but reading that bill leaves me feeling like I need a shower.

These small touchpoints — a receipt, a confirmation email, a bill — play a functional role in customer interactions. But they also represent prime opportunities for companies to reinforce their brands and (perhaps even more importantly) make customers feel good about where they spend their time and money.

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Smartphone To Call Center Agent: Seize The Cross-Channel Opportunity

In the US alone, Forrester is forecasting nearly 100 million smartphones by the end of 2011. And digital customer experience professionals are meeting the new mobile demand by creating or redesigning mobile experiences: 34 of the 48 customer experience professionals we surveyed at the end of last year said that they’re planning major mobile design projects in 2011.

In the rush to create great mobile experiences, most end up focused only on what occurs within the browser/app experience. But we know that consumers often call the call center when they can’t accomplish their goal on the Web. And that transition isn’t always seamless.

Let’s say we have a customer using a mobile banking app to look up the balance on his mortgage. Once he sees how much is left, he wonders what his options are to refinance at a better interest rate. He can get some basic refi rates in the app, but he wants to know whether, as a longtime customer, he can get a better rate. He goes to the "Contact Us" screen in the app and clicks on the phone number.

What happens next? He starts at the top of the IVR. He has to identify himself all over again and route to an appropriate agent. Talk about a frustrating experience for the customer and a waste of time for the agent to recapture what he was doing!

Remember: A smartphone is also a phone.

If the browser or app experiences are built for seamless transitions to phone agents, they should:

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A Great Customer Experience Depends On Customer Understanding

My colleague Andrew McInnes recently wrote a post about the tunnel vision that results when companies rely solely on analytics for understanding customers. By neglecting qualitative research methods like ethnography and related tools like personas and customer journey maps, firms run the risk of thinking they know what customers want and need but in reality not having a clue. And that’s the root cause of some of the worst customer experience problems — issues that can drag down a business.

Take the case of Kevin Peters, Office Depot’s president, North America. Kevin recently spoke at our Customer Experience Forum where he described the biggest puzzle that confronted him when he got his job. Even as sales declined, store mystery-shopping scores compiled by a third-party research firm were going through the roof. How could this be? How could customers be having a great in-store experience but not actually buying?  

As it turned out, the mystery shoppers had been asking the wrong questions. They were accurately reporting that the floors and bathrooms of Office Depot stores were clean and that the shelves were stocked with merchandise. But as Peters put it: “Who cares?” When he personally visited 70 stores incognito, walked the aisles, and talked to customers, he discovered his real problems. For example, the combination of very large stores, weak signage, and employees who weren’t all that helpful made it hard to find products. That resulted in customers who walked in determined to buy and walked out without a purchase.

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Voice Of The Customer Programs Need Better Understanding, Not Just Better Analytics

Voice of the customer (VoC) leaders are constantly on the hunt for better analytics to identify what customers are saying and doing and, in turn, where companies should focus their attention. For the most part, the hunt is worthwhile. Just think about the value that text mining has delivered during the past few years. However, this focus becomes a problem when it turns into tunnel vision, leading VoC pros to ignore other research tools that yield deep customer understanding.

Analytics based on customer feedback and interaction data can determine important things like which known experience attributes drive customer loyalty and where customers encounter problems, and these insights can lead to a variety of operational improvements. But big changes require deeper understanding. As we were all reminded recently, customers didn’t tell Steve Jobs to build an iPod, nor did any sophisticated analytics.

Fortunately, other customer understanding tools are well suited to fill gaps in traditional VoC activities. Qualitative research methods like ethnography and related tools like personas and customer journey maps dig into what customers really need on both emotional and functional levels. As a result, they can help VoC leaders figure out:

  • What to look for in feedback and interaction data. On the front end of VoC efforts, personas and journey maps can help identify the things that really matter to customers. VoC leaders can then ask about and look for those things in customer feedback and interaction data, leading to more relevant insights.
  • What to do based on the findings. On the back end of VoC efforts, these tools can help firms figure out what they should do in response to issues or trends identified through analytics, leading to more valuable solutions.
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