Way back in January I spoke at the Luxury FirstLook conference put on by Luxury Daily in New York (a terrific event, by the way). Several of the other speakers intrigued me. One, in particular, gave a speech that I immediately wanted to bring to attendees at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East: John T. A. Vanderslice, the global head of luxury and lifestyle brands at Hilton Worldwide (those brands being Waldorf Astoria and Conrad).
Here’s one of many things John said that struck me: "Today's luxury buyers make investments of passion." That’s a far cry from the way customer experience (CX) practitioners usually talk about emotional engagement. But it struck me as an authentic way to describe super-affluent buyers who’ll pay to reenact the life of a Roman gladiator or to take a trek through the wilds of Nepal.
I ambushed John on his way out the door and recruited him to speak at our forum, which he did earlier this week. He was great. And he was also gracious enough to answer some questions that we posed to him, which we’re now happy to share with you.
1. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
We just announced the winners of Forrester’s inaugural Outside In Awards at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East this afternoon. The awards recognize organizations that excel at the practices needed for planning, creating, and managing a great customer experience. We accepted nominations in six categories that align with the six customer experience disciplines in our research: strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and customer-centric culture.
To evaluate the submissions, each panel of judges graded each nomination form on five criteria: clarity of approach, impact on customers’ experiences, impact on business performance, degree of innovation, and lessons provided for other firms. Each category was judged independently, and there could be up to three winners in any category. Winners and finalists were chosen based on their scores.
And the winners are . . .
Ally Bank for design.
American Cancer Society for measurement.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for customer understanding.
Firms crave differentiation. But the truth is that even companies with dedicated time and budget for customer experience innovation focus most of their efforts on two things — whatever their competitors are doing and whatever the latest technology enables them to do. When companies blindly add shiny new features or trendy technologies to their mix of customer experiences, they’re innovating just for innovation’s sake.
To shed scattershot innovation efforts that produce little business value, customer experience professionals must examine their business challenges and associated opportunities in a different way — from the outside in. This first and vital step in the innovation process requires immersion in customers’ lives. The end goal? Developing empathy for your customers so that you can discover their unmet needs.
Someone who really understands this is Doug Dietz of General Electric Healthcare (GE Healthcare). Doug had been designing CT and MRI scanners at GE Healthcare for 20 years. As a product designer, he concentrated mostly on the aesthetics and the ergonomics of these machines, or what he calls “the shiny objects.” He was incredibly proud of these shiny objects. And he had good reason — on hospital visits, technicians would shower him with compliments.
But Doug’s machines didn’t so well work for one key customer segment: little kids.
On one particular visit to a children’s hospital, Doug watched a little girl walk in, holding her parents’ hands. She took one look at the MRI machine, which Doug had been so proud of just moments before, and she started to cry. Doug learned that a huge percentage of children get so panicked about their procedures that they actually require sedation. He says, “I thought to myself . . . I’m kind of a failure.”
Today’s customers are highly empowered, hyperactive, and incredibly distracted by all of the options available to them for connecting with the things and people that matter to them most. These customers come to you with highly complex goals that they themselves cannot always accurately define — goals for which they don’t necessarily follow the seemingly logical linear paths you’ve laid out for them. As customers multitask their way through stages of information gathering, evaluation, purchase, and servicing, they connect with multiple outside sources that influence and transform their goals if they don’t hijack them altogether.
Gone are the days of the funnel when companies could lure customers with big promises and push them through a set of steps that would lead to purchase. Today, customer processes are far more complicated than ever, and while many firms believe that the purchase is the endpoint of an experience, for many customers, it’s just the beginning. Instead of taking a fragmented approach, firms need to look at the broad customer journey and understand how they can meet their customers’ needs when and where their customers want to interact. They need to understand their customers’ context and weave together a unified experience that matches the expectations customers have of the brand according to their in-the-moment needs.
“It’s not about what’s your best option. This is your only option”
Those were the words of an airline employee in Pittsburgh, following the cancellation of my flight to Washington, D.C. The agent had put me onto the next available flight. There was nothing more to do about the situation, and my questions were a waste of her time. The pressure on me to accept my fate and let her go home could hardly have been less subtle.
Most of us would like to think that we’re more customer-centric than that individual. However, unless we check the self-centered tendencies of our organizations, we run the risk of being every bit as difficult to deal with — expecting customers to adapt to our language, practices, and policies. That won’t cut it anymore because customers have plenty of options. Companies that want to thrive today had better understand how to meet or exceed their customers' expectations throughout their journeys.
That’s where customer journey maps come in. These tools are proving their value to companies that want to improve customer experience. When they’re used in strategic discussions, training exercises, and design practices, they help stakeholders throughout the organization to keep in mind the processes, needs, and perceptions of customers who are trying to achieve their goals. In my recent research on "Tools For Mastering The Customer Experience Ecosystem," I explained how the packaged vacation firm, TUI, used journey maps to plan for the future of vacationers' end-to-end experiences and how a logistics firm used journey maps to improve customers' experience with its parcel tracking service.
Marketing and customer experience are two sides of the same coin: Marketers are responsible for communicating the brand promise, and customer experience professionals are responsible for making sure that the promise is kept.
It’s that synergy between marketing and CX that led us to invite Jamie Moldafsky, CMO at Wells Fargo, to speak at Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals in New York on the morning of June 25. As a run-up to our event, Jamie took the time to answer a few questions about why Wells Fargo cares about customer experience and how its approach to CX has evolved over the years.
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
Treating customers with courtesy and respect has been a core value at Wells Fargo for more than 160 years. Back in 1888, its agents were given the following instructions: “Proper respect must be shown to all — let them be men, women, or children, rich or poor, white or black—it must not be forgotten that the Company is dependent on these same people for its business.”
If you think that translating your website into Chinese will fully serve your Chinese customers’ needs, you’re wrong. In fact, there’s no guarantee that translated content will even meet your Chinese customers’ most basic needs. But even if the content is useful, firms need to ensure that localized sites meet the other two components of the customer experience pyramid — they must be easy to use and enjoyable.
Thousands of years of rich cultural heritage and Chinese consumers’ unique offline behaviors have shaped a set of needs, expectations, and perceptions that differ from those of their Western counterparts. Add the technical constraints that have defined Chinese site development, and customer experience professionals face an uphill battle in trying to solve the riddle of the Chinese online market. My new report, "What Chinese Consumers Expect From Website Experiences," answers three critical website design questions:
What makes a website useful to Chinese users?
What makes a website easy to use for Chinese users?