Developers And Their Business Counterparts Are Caught In A Trap
They swim in game-changing new technologies that can access more than a billion hyperconnected customers, but they struggle to design and develop applications that delight customers and dazzle shareholders with annuity-like streams of revenue. The challenge isn’t application development; app developers can ingest and use new technologies as fast as they come. The challenge is that developers are stuck in a design paradigm that reduces app design to making functionality and content decisions based on a few defined customer personas or segments.
Personas Are Sorely Insufficient
How could there be anything wrong with this conventional design paradigm? Functionality? Check. Content? Check. Customer personas? Ah — herein lies the problem. These aggregate representations of your customers can prove valuable when designing apps and are supposedly the state of the art when it comes to customer experience and app design, but personas are blind to the needs of the individual user. Personas were fine in 1999 and maybe even in 2009 — but no longer, because we live in a world of 7 billion “me”s. Customers increasingly expect and deserve to a have a personal relationship with the hundreds of brands in their lives. Companies that increasingly ratchet up individual experience will succeed. Those that don’t will increasingly become strangers to their customers.
Firms must actively engage external vendors and third-party partners to deliver a unified customer experience (CX). Why? Because partners across the supply chain influence the quality of customer interactions. Sometimes these partners are the face of your company on the front lines in the form of agents, dealerships, value-added-resellers (VARS), distributors, and outsourced call center reps or technicians. Alternatively, they might act behind-the-scenes in the case of suppliers, outsourced credit or risk services, or billing and invoicing vendors. These 3rd parties are a critical component of what Forrester calls the customer experience ecosystem: the complex, interdependent set of relationships and interactions between customers, employees, and partners that determine the quality of every customer experience.
Failing to engage partners not only degrades customer experiences, it costs companies money. Here are a few examples:
Supply chain issues that plagued Google around its Nexus devices through this past holiday season left countless customers empty handed, undermining sales numbers. It also resulted in the UK managing director at Google to issue a personal apology to British customers and offer a refund for shipping to those who were able to purchase a device.
So, I’m working with Sam Stern, an analyst on our Customer Experience research team, to examine how companies can better align employee behaviors with desired customer experience outcomes. Sam is looking at the types of rewards and recognition that fundamentally shift corporate culture towards customer-centricity. It builds on Paul Hagen’s culture research, How to Build a Customer-Centric Culture and Nine Ways to Reward Employees to Reinforce Customer-Centric Behaviors. Paul highlighted a number of great examples of how companies reinforce customer-centric culture through employee incentives and perks. I’m looking at the technology underpinnings of customer experience management and how these technology solutions can be applied to the workforce.
To better compete in the US luxury automotive landscape, leadership at Audi of America had focused on improving three fundamental areas: the brand, the products, and the dealership. And they had made huge progress.
But according to Jeri Ward, director of customer experience at Audi of America, “The customer experience had not kept pace.”
Troubling data points made that clear: Customer loyalty was at 40%, and sales satisfaction was in 26th place out of 31 brands. But what really drove the problem home was this quote from an Audi customer: “The whole time the salesman spoke with me, he was eating Skittles out of a bag in front of me.”
Just imagine that you’re trying to buy a $60,000 to $90,000 car from someone who can’t be bothered to stop cramming junk food into his mouth. Would that work for you? I didn’t think so.
In this excerpt from Jeri’s speech at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East, she describes some of the tangible actions Audi took to solve this problem by creating a customer-centric culture that inspires passion for the Audi experience. The results the firm’s efforts produced are a testimony to its success: In just three years, sales satisfaction went from 26th place to 12th place, and the company has experienced 30 months of record sales.
As always, we welcome your comments! And if you're interested in seeing more great speakers like Jeri, check out our upcoming Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in Los Angeles in October and London in November.
Like CX Forum East, the theme of our Los Angeles event is “Boost Your Customer Experience To The Next Level.” We picked that theme to showcase examples of companies that improved the customer experience they provide, whether they were just starting out, already leading their industry, or somewhere in between.
To kick off the event, Forrester Vice President and Principal Analyst Megan Burns will describe the four-step path to customer experience maturity that she details in her new report. The fascinating thing about this study is that when we started it, we thought we’d uncover several paths that companies have followed to get to success. But what we found instead is that there is only one path that’s proven to work, and many paths that lead to dead ends and failure.
In addition to speeches and track sessions by Forrester analysts like Megan and my co-author Kerry Bodine, our speaker lineup features senior leaders from companies that recently made major improvements to their customer experience. These executives include the president of Days Inn Worldwide, the CMO and VP of CRM at Sears, the chief customer officer at Eli Lilly, and the president and CEO of Safelite Autoglass.
Like it or not, the success of your customer experience initiatives depends on business technology.
That’s because the quality of customer interactions with your brand results from a complex system of interdependent people, processes, policies, and technology that we call the “customer experience ecosystem.” And just like a natural ecosystem, when your CX ecosystem gets out of balance, every part of it suffers — especially your customers.
An increasing number of CIOs, enterprise architects, and application developers get this. That surprises many of the marketers and other business people I talk to on a regular basis. But it shouldn’t: Business technology leaders are ideally placed to see the connective technology tissue needed to create a standout omnichannel customer experience.
To help shed insight into the complex interplay of customer experience and business technology, I recently sat down with Stephen Powers, Forrester vice president and research director serving application development and delivery professionals, to record a podcast. You can hear it in its entirety below (episode 1) or choose topic-sized cuts (episodes 2, 3, and 4).
Attendees at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East in New York saw some great speakers, including Jamie Moldafsky, chief marketing officer at Wells Fargo, John Vanderslice, the global head of luxury and lifestyle brands at Hilton, and Graham Atkinson, the chief marketing officer and chief customer officer at Walgreen.
Interestingly, the speaker with the highest audience rating was Paul Heller, managing director of the retail investor group at Vanguard. Paul spoke about how the firm creates customer loyalty by providing low-cost mutual funds that deliver long-term outperformance, combined with quality service and investor advocacy. At the center of this virtuous cycle: highly engaged employees.
How does Vanguard manage to create a culture that engages employees around providing a great client experience? In this video excerpt of Paul’s speech, he shares the secret: start with “why.”
On August 6, 2013, the Indian rupee plunged to a record low of INR61.80 to 1USD. In fact, since January 2013, the Indian rupee has depreciated by 10% against USD and is expected to slide further as India is challenged by political gridlock, serious infrastructure bottlenecks, and decreased investor confidence, all of which are contributing to a slowdown in economic growth. The declining rupee leads directly to increases in the cost of doing business, which has risen by 8-10% over the past year.
The difficult economic landscape has forced Indian firms to look for new and innovative ways to grow their businesses, create efficiencies, and improve responsiveness. This is driving changes in how Indian business leaders view technology – with many increasingly viewing technology as a far more critical means to differentiate their organizations and drive business growth. The pressure is now firmly on CIOs to deliver technology-led business outcomes for their organizations. To exploit this opportunity, CIOs should do the following:
- Develop a ‘business outcomes’ matrix and map existing and planned technology projects against it to build credibility with business leaders: ROI templates are generally developed to gain approvals and are typically limited to cost savings, but very few CIOs actually link their IT spending to clearly defined business outcomes. Define what business outcome means to your organization (e.g., increase in sales, revenue, customer acquisition, customer satisfaction to name few) and map each of your projects against the matrix to prioritize those with greatest business outcomes. This will help CIOs win buy-in from business stakeholders on project funding and priorities, while ensuring that IT is viewed as an equal and capable business partner.