The discipline of design remains largely misunderstood in the business world. Let me dispel a couple of myths for you: Design isn't simply about picking the right shade of blue for the company logo. And it’s not solely the domain of black-turtleneck-wearing creative types.
Design is a straightforward and repeatable problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of customers, employees, and business stakeholders. It’s also a way of working that focuses on making and refining tangible solutions. Everyone in an organization can learn and leverage design to meet or exceed their customers’ needs and desires. That’s key, because great customer experiences don’t magically spring into existence — they need to be actively designed.
In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of design through a case study about Mayo Clinic. The physical layout of Mayo’s outpatient rooms has basically remained static over the past six decades. The equipment for physical examinations — the reclining table, dressing area, sink, and tools like scopes and blood-pressure cuffs — still dominates each room, but these days, the bulk of each appointment is simply a conversation between the doctor and patient.
A team working to improve the outpatient experience came up with the idea of creating separate consultation and exam rooms. But that solution wasn’t going to work. There simply wasn’t enough floor space in the Clinic’s facilities to accommodate the number of separate rooms required to serve patients.
Right now, companies around the world are barreling down a perilous path — one that isn’t illuminated by customer insights. These companies might think they know what their customers want, but Forrester’s research shows that most companies today have an incomplete — or worse, downright wrong — understanding of who their customers are, how they perceive the current interactions, and what they want and need in the future.
In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of customer understanding through a case study about Virgin Mobile Australia. The company recently earned the No. 1 spot in customer satisfaction in its market. But in their hearts, Virgin Mobile’s execs knew that the customer experience they provided was pretty much indistinguishable from those of their competitors. And for a company operating under the Virgin brand name, that was a big problem.
Matt Anderson, the former COO of Virgin Mobile, told me, “We weren’t interested in being up to par with industry standards. We wanted to create a differentiated customer experience: one that was uniquely Virgin.” To do that, the company had to take an outside-in view and examine what the Virgin brand meant from the customer perspective.
So Virgin asked some of its customers to create online diaries, and every day for a week asked them questions about Virgin’s brand values: simplicity, fairness, and control. (Words we all naturally associate with our wireless carriers, right?)
If you are trolling around our website, you may have seen that we’ve introduced a new way to organize our research, something that we call playbooks.
We made this change because for years we’ve been producing reports that connect to each other in many ways. The connections are obvious to those of us who create the research, but until now, they may not have been as obvious to our many readers.
Playbooks make it easier for you to find the research we have about every one of your customer experience challenges. What’s more, playbooks suggest related research on topics that you might not have even thought to look for. For example, if you’re looking for best practices for how to improve your Customer Experience Index Score, you’ll also see advice on how to sustain continuous improvement once you take the first step.
Thanks to everyone who made our customer experience event a success! That includes both our many industry speakers as well as our terrific, highly engaged audience and sponsors. You rock!
On June 26th to 27th, we had just under 1,400 people at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square. That was up slightly from last year, even though we're offering a second customer experience forum in November in Los Angeles as an alternative (we've pretty much reached capacity at the Marriott). The packed house was a tribute to just how many companies have woken up to the importance of customer experience (CX) as a way of doing business. Personally, I love the positive energy that comes from being around so many people who care about CX.
Our production team just finished editing the video highlights of our main-stage speakers from the event and collecting them on a single page for your viewing pleasure. You'll notice that all of the speeches were themed around Forrester's upcoming book about customer experience, Outside In, which will be available to the general public on August 28th. Forum attendees didn't have to wait until August, though, because we gave them a free digital copy of the uncorrected proof at the event. (With an uncorrected proof, you get a bonus: typos and formatting errors!)
So for all of you who attended, here's a reminder of what we saw. And for those who didn't attend, I hope these videos convey some of the energy and insight that we felt in New York. Enjoy!
Great customer experiences are the result of countless deliberate decisions made by every single person in your organization on a daily basis. To align those decisions, employees and partners need a shared vision: a customer experience strategy.
When most people talk about strategy, they’ve often got a road map or some sort of plan in mind. But your customer experience strategy is actually a description of the experience that you want to deliver. Without that beacon, employees are forced to set out on a random walk, and their decisions and actions will inevitably be at odds with each other, despite all best intentions.
In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of a customer experience strategy through a case study about the Holiday Inn. In the majority of its 750 properties with on-site restaurants, the iconic hotel chain was losing dinner customers to casual restaurants like Outback Steakhouse and Chili’s. Even worse, it was losing breakfast customers to nearby gas stations — and you better believe that Holiday Inn got worried when gas stations started to provide better breakfast options than it did.
So what did Holiday Inn do?
Well, I’ll tell you what it didn’t do. It didn’t start randomly making one-off changes to the menu or the pricing. Instead, Holiday Inn stepped back to define a customer experience strategy.
The Supreme Court decision upholding virtually all of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (AKA “Obamacare”) shifted a balance for customer experience professionals in the healthcare industry. Now they — and the executives they report up to — know that it’s more risky to do nothing than to respond by taking action.
Keeping in mind that “the healthcare industry” is really three industries, here are some of the most important actions that healthcare organizations will need to take.
Health Insurance Providers (Payers)
As we point out in our upcoming book, Outside In, the health insurance industry has owned the cellar of our Customer Experience Index (CXi) since we began that study five years ago. The main reason for its dismal performance is that the CXi is a consumer study, and for health insurance providers, the customer has not been a consumer but a business — or more accurately, a person at a business, like a benefits manager.
The result was that payers didn’t need to focus much on the end users of their products — consumers — so most of them didn’t. But starting in 2014, a greater percentage of their business will come from consumers. That will drive health insurance providers to better understand consumers so they can attract and retain the healthiest ones, who are the most profitable. Payers will also want to get consumers to change their behavior as a way to keep costs down. For example, they’ll want them to opt for generic drugs and to take better care of themselves. But none of that will happen unless the health insurers build a trusting relationship by providing a far better experience than they have to date.
Apparently Citigroup is about to join a “growing number of banks and credit unions” that have adopted some version of a one-page disclosure form. That form makes it easier for customers to see and understand fees.
Now don’t get me wrong: Making it easier to understand fees is a step forward. After all, ease of doing business is the second level of the customer experience pyramid and only slightly less important than meeting customer needs.
What has me shaking my head is the next part of the article. It says that these new summary pages come in response to complaints about rising fees, including fees that few customers knew about in the first place, like a fee for getting a paper statement and — my personal favorite — a fee for closing an account.
A fee for closing an account? Really? I may be old-fashioned, but I’m used to paying people to perform a service for me, not paying them to stop performing a service for me.
Here’s why the whole “fee transparency” thing misses the point: Your bank really, really wants you to open more fee-generating accounts with it. When you add a savings account or CD to your checking account, or take out an auto loan or a home equity loan, you ring its cash register.
I’m still digging out from all the things that I put off until after last week’s Customer Experience Forum in New York. Even so, I didn’t want to let too much time pass before sharing some unexpected fun we had on Wednesday morning.
It actually started on Tuesday afternoon when I received an email from the co-author of our upcoming book, Kerry Bodine, which said:
The short note included a link to a blog post with a song. The blogger, Ed Hadley, a senior marketing manager at Neolane, had written new lyrics to the Eve 6 song “Inside Out,” turning it into “Outside In.” I was skeptical, but I trust Kerry’s judgment, so I played the song and loved it.
After some quick back-and-forth between our event producer (Katie Petroff), Neolane’s vice president of marketing (Kristin Hambelton), and one of our backstage producers (the unflappably cool Dave), we had the song ready to play as part of my Wednesday morning opening remarks. As it played, Dave scrolled the lyrics karaoke-style. The audience clearly thought it was fun — lots of laughter and a big round of applause at the end.