It's Not Easy Being Easy

Thanks for all your thoughtful responses to last week’s post about why companies fail to meet customer needs. Clearly there’s more work to be done in that department, but for now, I want to move on to the next Customer Experience Index (CXi) criteria: “easy.” Many firms claim to be easy to do business with, but which ones got the highest rating from customers?

This year, USAA (bank) and Kohl’s both earned a score of 92% in this category.

For USAA, there is definitely some overlap between its ability to identify latent customer needs and its level of easiness. For example, depositing a check via mobile phone makes the deposit process easier for everyone, not just the most geographically dispersed parts of the customer base. Strong customer understanding also led to creation of the Auto Circle experience, which is designed to make the entire car buying process easier for customers, not just the parts that a financial institution like USAA would typically have been involved in.

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Customer Experience Leaders Obsess Over Customer Needs

Last week, I took you through the top scorers in this year’s Customer Experience Index by industry. But 13% of customer experience professionals said that they aim to differentiate across all industries. Which brands do they need to beat to reach that goal? Let’s start with the “meets needs” category (I’ll cover the other two in future posts). High scorers on this criteria in 2012 were:

  • USAA (bank): 92%
  • Amazon.com: 91%
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Three CXM Trends For 2012

As I recently celebrated my fifth anniversary as a Forrester analyst, I reflected on how my coverage area has changed. For the past five years I've covered the web content management (WCM) market. This has been a healthy market, and I still get plenty of interest from my clients on this topic.

But the context of that interest has changed markedly, particularly over the past year. When clients used to ask about WCM, they wanted to know about WCM and WCM only. But these days, they ask about WCM in the context of other technologies supporting customer experience, such as commerce, CRM, and analytics. Our clients have reached a logical conclusion: WCM isn't the end-all-be-all for digital experiences but instead is one piece of the customer experience management (CXM) puzzle.

And the market will continue to evolve in 2012. In particular:

  • Watch for an avalanche of acquisitions, both big and small. Though larger vendors have multiple pieces of the CXM puzzle, no one has yet put together a complete portfolio. Vendors are still missing some critical pieces, such as rich media management (IBM), commerce (Adobe), and testing and optimization (Oracle, SDL). Watch for the CXM vendors to compete to fill these gaps. High-reaching best-of-breed WCMs such as Sitecore may not remain independent for long.
  • Contextualization will become the byword. Forget complicated business rules and template schemes. Technology to contextually adapt customer experiences based on user segment, browsing behavior, locale, and device will be high priority. Vendors will make strides so that customers can increasingly take an "automate + optimize" approach: automating contextualization for most experiences and manually optimizing it for a few high-profile experiences, such as home pages.
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Seven Steps To Get Started With Customer Experience

While I write frequently about the rise of the chief customer officer within firms advanced enough in their customer experience efforts to consider this kind of executive position, I often get questions at a much more basic level, such as: "Where do I get started?" Often an individual may get a mandate from an executive to spearhead creating a greater customer focus at the company. For those, here are seven steps for getting started:

  1. Put together a cross-functional work team of supporters. Getting involvement and buy-in from different functions across the organization is important . . . a working group can be a source of getting allies across the organization. Build a working group of 10 to 15 individuals who can help put together some foundational pieces of your customer experience effort. While having diverse functions represented in this group is important, more important at this stage are influential leaders who are putting their budgets and reputations on the line in support of the effort. Look for supportive leaders who are already actively supporting customer-focused efforts or are willing to with some direction. A great source of early supporters is the frontline, where customer care and call center organizations interact regularly with customers. In addition to main marketing/branding, sales, support, and operations organizations, others you may want to consider early on include market research or customer insights, IT, HR, and legal/compliance leaders.
     
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Watch Out…Customer Experience Innovations Can Come From Where You Least Expect Them

Last week I posted some of the most frequently asked questions we get about the Customer Experience Index, 2012. One question I didn’t include but should have is “Who got the highest score in my industry?”

I scanned the list of industry high scores and wasn’t surprised to see names like USAA (banks, credit card providers, insurance providers), Apple (consumer electronics manufacturers), and Southwest Airlines. But there were names we don’t hear about as much in customer experience like Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (investment firms), Bright House Networks (ISPs), US Cellular (Wireless service providers), and Dish Network/EchoStar (TV service providers)*. 

To me this says that brands trying to differentiate on the basis of customer experience need to look in a variety of places for possible competitive threats and standard-setters, not just the most obvious ones.  History is full of examples of small firms that could transform more quickly than their larger competitors or introduce a disruptive innovation that no one saw coming. I expect both those scenarios to play out in customer experience over the next few years. The question is just where and when.

As part of our research in 2012 you can be sure we’re going to look into what these lesser talked about brands are doing to raise the bar in their industries, but in the meantime here are two of my favorite examples of CX innovations that came from places I would have never thought to look:

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Citibank Moves Boldly Into The Tablet Banking Market

Hotcakes, you've got some competition: the phrase "selling like tablets" might soon enter the global lexicon. And it's not all hype — though there is a fair bit of that as well. Tablet users in the US are estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 51% from 2010 to 2015. That’s a fast-growing market for firms of all stripes.

As such, the tablet as a touchpoint is becoming a critical consideration for eBusiness & Channel strategists. This is especially true for executives at banks, as financial transactions benefit from the immediacy of the mobile channel, but users often struggle to make these transactions on smaller smartphone screens.

Enter tablet banking.

Forrester has previously identified best practices for tablet apps in financial services, but only in the past year have leading banks rolled out robust tablet banking efforts. One of the strongest tablet offerings we’ve seen is from Citibank.

In my new report, I outline the process Citibank went through in building its own tablet banking strategy, developing an iPad app, rolling it out to customers, and continually improving the service. We outline how Citi:

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When Was "You're Welcome" Replaced With "Uh-Huh"?

One of the essential differentiators of great customer service experiences is the human interaction.

Some folks want a chatty interaction with a full narrative on the weather. Others just want quick and friendly contact. But the bottom line is this we all want to have an experience that leads us to feel appreciated. This human interaction is key element to one of the three tenets of our Customer Experience Index: "How enjoyable were they to do business with?"

I considered this recently while at my neighborhood pharmacy. The company offers best-in-class customer service technology. They proactively remind me of prescription refills, they have a sophisticated mobile app, and their store layout is easy to navigate.

But I am invariably invited from the queue to the cash register by a shout of "Next!" and the only words offered to me are the sum I owe. For all their best-in-class retail and mobile strategies, I never walk away feeling that the company is enjoyable to do business with. Instead, I walk away wondering when was "you're welcome" replaced with "uh-huh"?

A great customer service experience is the result of the right technology, processes, and the human factor. To ensure the human factor isn’t marginalized, eBusiness leaders must:

  • Embed the ideal customer experience in your culture. Make it clear what customer service exchange will reflect your brand. Be explicit. Train and reward employees to personify your ideal brand experience.
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Why Google's Privacy Changes (And The 'Data Tidy Up') Moves Everything Forward

Google has handled its privacy debate by being disarmingly clear with a little note left on the fridge the other week.

We’re tidying up and love data too much to not want to connect it better.

Like it or lump it.

Love Google.

It’s their right - they are after all a private company and not the public service we somehow feel them to be. Google wants to “create a beautifully simple, intuitive user experience” and its data consolidation is what will help it do this. Facebook makes one product called Facebook while Google up until now has chosen to run many nom de plumes, betas, and side initiatives. I’d like to see a more capable ‘joined up’ Google sparring with Apple and Facebook on who can do the coolest and most useful things for people using data. In truth, the Google engineering team must be relieved to ditch the sticking plasters and chewing gum connecting the hitherto disparate data sets they manage.

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