Customer Experience Q&A With Steve Quirk, SVP, Trader Group, TD Ameritrade

Do you like those thinkorswim commercials from TD Ameritrade as much as I do? Because I love them. Although that’s not the reason we recruited Steve Quirk, a senior vice president (SVP) at TD Ameritrade, to speak at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East in New York this June.  

Sure, Steve was responsible for the development of new trading tools and technology enhancements for the thinkorswim trading platform. And he does an incredible job of connecting customer experience improvements to technology innovation (as you’ll see if you read on).

No, we recruited Steve because TD Ameritrade shot up seven points in our Customer Experience Index this year, edging ahead of last year’s leader in the investment category, the formidable Vanguard. How it did that and why it did that is a story we want customer experience aficionados to hear.

In the run-up to the event, Steve answered a series of our questions about some of things he’ll talk about. His answers appear below.

I hope you enjoy his insights, and I look forward to seeing many of you in New York on June 24th and 25th!

Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

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Is Improving The Customer Experience A Moral Imperative?

When I ask government employees why improving customer experience (CX) is so important, I often hear a version of the same answer: "It's the right thing to do." But I'm not about to take an easy answer like that at face value, so I dig deeper.

I try getting them to admit that they're really motivated by the CX mandates in Executive Order 13571, the digital government strategy, and agency mission statements. Time and again, I'm politely told I have it backward. These documents were inspired by the core moral imperative to improve government CX, and they exist only as practical guidance for agencies in pursuit of this obligation. The maxim is the motive; the documents just articulate it. I next try arguing that government employees are motivated by the political quest for public acclaim — that they pursue customer experience improvement simply because it will make them or their agencies popular, winning them promotion or reelection. Again, they tell me I'm all turned around. Doing the right thing for the customer is the real motive, and luckily the American people reward it.

Maybe their answers aren't surprising, given that many government employees chose public sector careers due to their dedication to public service. But what about customer experience professionals in the private sector? Are they motivated by a moral imperative, too? In recent interviews with companies at the top and bottom of Forrester's Customer Experience Index (CXi), I found some surprising answers.

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The State Of VoC Programs, 2014

Voice of the customer (VoC) programs play a critical role in improving customer experience. They gather data for customer experience (CX) measurement efforts and uncover insights that help improve customer understanding.

To assess the state of VoC programs, we asked companies how long their VoC program has been in place, how valuable the program is to drive CX improvements and deliver financial results, how the program governance works, and if it is supported by VoC consulting and technology vendors. And we asked participants to rate their program’s capabilities on the four key tasks of VoC programs — listen, interpret, react, and monitor.

Here are some highlights of what we found:

  • Most VoC programs have been around for three or more years, are run or coordinated by a central team, and consist of fewer than five full-time employees. Many also turn to outside vendors for help.
  • But VoC programs are still not taken as seriously as other programs in an organization: They improve customer experience but struggle to deliver financial results. And they aren’t embedded enough in the organization. The good news is that many have some executive support, but they lack the resources they need and aren’t fully embraced by employees.
  • For VoC capabilities, we found that VoC programs are still better at listening than at acting on the insights they find.
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Sneak Preview: The Latest On The Customer Experience Ecosystem

When Forrester first introduced the customer experience (CX) ecosystem concept three years ago, we found that companies’ attempts to innovate their CX were limited by tunnel vision. They couldn’t see beyond the surface layer of individual touchpoints to understand the intricate web of behind-the-scenes dynamics that really create the customer experience.

To update our research on the CX ecosystem, I’ve spent the past few months conducting dozens of interviews with senior executives from a range of industries. I’ll reveal my complete findings at our Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East next month, but I’d like to start the conversation here by sharing one piece of good news: Companies are starting to get it — at least theoretically. Most companies now understand that interactions deep within their own organizations and outside their borders determine the quality of all customer interactions.

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