Predictions for 2014: Computing Technologies In The Age Of The Customer

I've published a report for Forrester clients, "Predictions 2014: Mobility and Computing Technologies in the Age of the Customer." This blog post offers a sneak peak into the content.

With 2013 coming to an end, it’s time to bring out the crystal ball and make some predictions about 2014. Those who follow Forrester’s research will know that we’re living in the age of the customer, a period in which customer obsession will be the key to winning in all markets. Computing is a critical technology element in the age of the customer: The use of tablets by sales professionals creates richer experiences for prospects and customers, even as the use of wearable technologies by health professionals helps phlebotomists find the vein in a patient’s arm more quickly. Computing is a front-line, customer facing experience that helps companies win and serve customers more effectively.

With that context in mind, I present six meta-trends that will be critical for computing in 2014:

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A Christmas Customer Experience Story

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.

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Introduction

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:

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Q&A With Kathleen Cattrall and Aaron Frazier Of VCA Animal Hospitals

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.”
 
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India Technology Market 2014 Predictions

By Sudhanshu Bhandari and Manish Bahl

India is going through a tough time: Poor policy, delayed reforms, the free fall of the rupee against major currencies, multibillion-dollar scams, and political gridlock are all negatively affecting the country’s growth. However, we anticipate the Indian economy will start picking up — albeit at a slower rate — in 2014, mainly due to good monsoons, improving exports, and huge infrastructure projects that should launch once a new central government is in place.

Forrester’s Asia Pacific (AP) analyst team has just published its 2014 technology predictions report. What top trends will be critical to the Indian market?

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India Technology Market 2014 Predictions

By Sudhanshu Bhandari and Manish Bahl

India is going through a tough time: Poor policy, delayed reforms, the free fall of the rupee against major currencies, multibillion-dollar scams, and political gridlock are all negatively affecting the country’s growth. However, we anticipate the Indian economy will start picking up — albeit at a slower rate — in 2014, mainly due to good monsoons, improving exports, and huge infrastructure projects that should launch once a new central government is in place.

Forrester’s Asia Pacific (AP) analyst team has just published its 2014 technology predictions report. What top trends will be critical to the Indian market?

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Speakers At Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum EMEA Show That They’re On The Path To Customer Experience Maturity

Last month it was my pleasure to host Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals EMEA in London. The theme for the event was “boost your customer experience to the next level,” which we picked because we know that attendees of our events are at widely (sometimes wildly!) different levels of customer experience maturity.

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.
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For Australian IT Shops, 2014 Is About Customer Obsession

I regularly hear CIOs and IT suppliers discussing the “four pillars” of cloud, social, mobile, and big data as if they’re an end in themselves, creating plenty of buzz around all four. But really, they’re just a means to an end: Cloud, social, mobile, and big data are the tools we use to reach the ultimate goal of providing a great customer experience. Most CIOs in Australia do understand that digital disruption and customer obsession are the factors that are changing their world, and that the only way to succeed is to embrace this change.

We recently published our predictions for CIOs in Asia Pacific in 2014 (see blog post here). Our entire analyst team in region was involved in the process — all submitting their thoughts and feedback. Here are some of our thoughts about Australia in 2014:

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