Winning The Customer Experience Game

We all hear and read stories of terrible customer experiences; like me, you probably have had your own share of bad experiences. And social media has made it possible for these bad experiences to be shared instantly with millions of people. But in our journey through life, we also experience service that exceeds our expectations. And as we read reviews online, we're more likely to see a mixture of both good and bad experiences. For example, I recently posted a glowing review for a B&B in Bethel, ME, even though a few things about my stay would have typically caused me to deduct points. My five-star review was extremely positive because the proprietor had blown away my expectations on service, delivering an experience way beyond any I've had in a five-star hotel.

But excelling at the personal touch in a small-town B&B is far easier than doing it at scale in a multibillion-dollar business. Yet there are companies that consistently deliver great customer experiences. (My colleagues even wrote a book on them). They aren't perfect all the time, but, on average, they are better than their competitors. At Forrester, we identify these companies through our annual Customer Experience Index (CXi) research. Toward the top of the 2013 index, we find companies like Marshalls, Courtyard by Marriott, USAA, TD Bank, Southwest Airlines, Vanguard, Home Depot, Kohl's, Fidelity Investments, and FedEx.

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Energy Data Fuels Innovation (Pun Intended)

Smart meters provide consumers with granular data on how they are consuming energy — when is the meter spinning fastest, which appliances are the energy guzzlers, how much energy are those idling appliances consuming? Programs to increase consumer awareness and shift demand to off-peak times abound.  I delay the start of my dishwasher to after 11pm here in France to take advantage of off-peak tariffs. Most consumers, however, are not highly motivated by just knowing their own consumption. Good news: Opower, a provider of really smart energy solutions, has cracked the code.

The Opower solution draws on a study of how messages influence consumption. Turns out, if you tell people that they will save money by turning off their air conditioning and turning on a fan during peak hours they likely won’t. Those are typically the times when it is really hot.  Messages of “civic responsibility” and “saving the environment” also don’t really register. However, when consumers are told that 75% of their neighbors will turn off their air conditioning and turn on a fan, behavior changes. That message had a 6% drop in consumption. Opower now uses these types of comparisons in all of their offerings. 

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Disruptive CIOs Focus On Business Outcomes

The Renaissance was possible because of dissemination of ideas from the later 15th century. The availability of paper and the subsequent invention of the printing press in 1445 forever changed the lives of people in Europe and, eventually, all over the world. Previously, bookmaking entailed copying all the words and illustrations by hand, often onto parchment or animal skin. The labor that went into creating books made each one very expensive to make and acquire. The advent of the printing press helped produce books better, faster, and cheaper and led to disruptive cultural revolution.

We are experiencing a very similar phenomenon today. We are in the midst of digital disruption. The printing press of our time is platforms such as social, mobile, cloud and analytics that help propagate value to our customers better, faster and more cheaply than previously available options. So whether you are on board or not, this disruption is taking place; the two choices you have are: become a disruptive CIO or be disrupted.

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