Last month I contributed to Dane Anderson's excellent report "Asia Pacific Technology Predictions: 2014." As it's the time of year for predictions (and the occasional fireworks display and glass of champagne), I wanted to revisit my thoughts on what will be important in 2014 from a customer experience perspective, in addition to the predictions I made in that report.
We who research customer experience full-time and have been doing it awhile can't help but notice a change in how customer experience is being viewed by firms and organizations. Five years ago when I was last at Forrester, for example, the main thrust of our work was convincing business leaders that CX was something that was essential to invest in. Now our work has changed. It seems that the CX message has been received, and it's less about convincing firms that it's a good idea and more about gauging where companies are with their CX efforts and giving guidance on how they can achieve the goal of truly differentiating their businesses through the quality of the experiences they deliver (consistently and systematically).
So as I listen closely to what customer experience professionals, CIOs, and CMOs are talking about, it's clear to me that we're actually cresting the wave of a trend. Customer experience brings proven benefits, the C-suite gets it and funds it, empowered customers expect it, and companies that ignore this trend are going to be left behind.
I have lived in Australia for almost two years, and while my family in Canada loses power due to ice storms and snow squalls, I sit writing this post in 38-degree Celsius heat as Sydney experiences the first heat wave of the summer (but not the last). So, this time of year does not at all feel like Christmas to me. However, there are certain inevitable experiences that remind me that yes, indeed, this is the festive time of the year. Christmas parties, decorations and lights, mobs and mobs of people doing their Christmas shopping (in shorts and T-shirts), and for at least the past decade, the now-inevitable act of waiting for holiday packages from online shopping to arrive.
This is where this Christmas story really begins. eCommerce shopping is now a stalwart of the holiday season, as savvy shoppers do their Christmas shopping online to avoid the crush of people at the shopping mall. While this is definitely a stress-saver, the online shopping experience produces a new kind of stress — the stress of wondering if the package ordered will arrive in time for the big day.
One of Forrester's customer experience key frameworks is called "the customer experience ecosystem." This ecosystem is an observation of the fact that companies that deliver good customer experiences understand that their businesses exist in a highly complex network that extends far beyond the walls of their headquarters. This includes partners like agencies, suppliers, tech vendors, contractors, etc., etc. And all of these other residents of the ecosystem can make or break a great customer experience.
My name is Craig Menzies, and I am what Forrester calls a "boomerang." Forrester has a long tradition of welcoming back former employees who have gone off and done something a bit different for a while. In my case, I left Forrester at the end of 2008 in London and rejoined in August 2013 here in Sydney, Australia. In my previous role, I was a member of the global customer experience (CX) team and the lead CX analyst for Europe. While away from Forrester, I held several senior user experience and experience design leadership roles with agencies in the UK and Australia as well as ran my own independent customer experience and digital strategy consulting practice.
However, I am thrilled to be back as a principal analyst serving customer experience professionals and excited to be not only launching a dedicated customer experience research stream based out of Australia but also focusing on the rest of the Asia Pacific region. Most specifically, I will be spending a significant amount of time focusing on regions like Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, etc. Forrester believes strongly in both the need for more research in marketing and strategy disciplines in this region and these regions' demand for real relevant regional research.
My core remit is to provide world-class user experience and customer experience strategy services and research streams to this region, which I now call home. I am also very proud to be again a member of the global customer experience team and to have the privilege to represent our industry-leading thinking in the customer experience space. This includes our host of methodologies and frameworks that have helped customer-experience-obsessed companies transform the customer experiences they deliver. These include our frameworks for:
Earlier this year, I spoke with Kathleen Cattrall, interim chief experience officer at VCA Animal Hospitals about the company’s customer experience transformation efforts. VCA is a publicly traded company (fittingly, its NASDAQ ticker symbol is WOOF) that owns and operates more than 600 pet hospitals in the US and Canada. Its work to create more customer-centric hiring processes features in my latest report, "How To Hire And Onboard Customer-Centric Employees."
Kathleen and her colleague Aaron Frazier were gracious enough to answer a few more questions about their progress in building a more customer-centric culture and what they’ve learned about creating great pet-owner experiences. Here are some of their insights.
Q. How did VCA know it needed to improve customer experience? Was there a “burning platform,” or did someone senior at the organization decide it was time to make a change?
A. Art Antin, co-founder and COO, was the real visionary here. VCA was approaching its 25th anniversary, and Art was frustrated with clients visiting less frequently. Our customer retention rate was lower than VCA wanted to see. Complaints were escalating, and they all pointed to a poor customer experience. Art said, “We’ve spent 25 years becoming the leader in veterinary health services. We’ve accomplished more than any other company in that regard. We need to focus the next 25 months on improving our customers’ experiences with us.”
What is “customer experience maturity”? We define it as the extent to which an organization routinely performs the practices required to design, implement, and manage customer experience in a disciplined way. In other words, does the organization apply the same level of business discipline to customer experience as it does to well-established business practices like marketing, logistics, and accounting?
In our study of how companies become mature at the practices in the customer experience discipline, we’ve discovered that successful firms all follow the same path, which passes through four phases:
Repair. Companies find broken experiences, fix them, and measure the results.
Elevate. Firms start to adopt practices that lead them to deliver sound experiences in the first place.
Optimize. Companies become systematic at customer experience practices.
Differentiate. Firms reframe business challenges in the context of unmet customer needs, connect innovation ideas to their customer experience ecosystem, and infuse innovations with the brand.