Customers’ Problems Are Companies’ Loyalty-Building Opportunities

Most customer experience efforts focus on doing bad things less and doing good things more. That’s a reasonable approach. But, realistically, customers will run into problems no matter how hard companies try to eliminate them. Albert Einstein described this well when he said, “Every day, man is making bigger and better fool-proof things, and every day, nature is making bigger and better fools.” Even without foolish customers or incompetent companies, customer problems will persist because customers are constantly changing — their preferences, their technology uses, their life stages.

Companies should embrace this reality because: 1) Problem resolution experiences that exceed customer expectations build loyalty, and 2) problem resolution experiences that fall below customer expectations erode loyalty.

In a recent Forrester survey, we asked North American consumers about their experiences in getting problems resolved. You can find my full analysis in a new report, but here are a few highlights:

  • Repeat business. Eighty-one percent of respondents who said a company’s problem resolution experience far exceeded their expectations also said that they’re very likely to do business with that company again. Only 5% of those who said problem resolution experiences fell far below expectations said that they’re very likely to do business with the same company again.
  • Word of mouth. Sixty-five percent of respondents who said that problem resolution experiences far exceeded their expectations also said that they’re very likely to tell someone about the experience. Even more — 71% — of those who said that their experiences fell far below expectations said that they’re very likely to tell someone.
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There’s Customer Feedback Gold In Your Contact Center

I recently examined Forrester’s data to find out how consumers provide feedback about bad service experiences. (For my full analysis, see: "How Consumers Complain About Poor Service.") The big takeaway is that consumers are much more likely to provide feedback directly to companies through relatively traditional channels (surveys, phone calls, email, surface mail) than provide feedback publicly through social channels (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, review sites). More specifically, 71% of US consumers provided feedback through at least one traditional channel (including email), while only 16% provided feedback through any of the social channels we asked about.

This may not be a huge shocker, but it is hugely important for customer experience leaders building out voice of the customer (VoC) programs. Most companies already use surveys extensively, and social media is now a hotbed of VoC activity. Yet the contact center is still largely untapped. That’s a shame, considering the mountains of valuable unstructured and unsolicited customer feedback buried in calls, emails, and letters.

Customer experience leaders need to step back for a minute to align their VoC efforts with their customers’ feedback behaviors. If there’s customer feedback gold in your contact center — and there probably is — you should mine that resource.

Why Is Citizen Experience Missing From The Midterm Elections?

Imagine how different the healthcare debate would have been if trips to the Registry of Motor Vehicles were a breeze.

Here in the US, midterm elections are in full swing. The themes feel familiar: Voters dislike various social and economic situations; candidates promise change. Across parties, many people seem to agree that the current government can't do what's necessary, a belief crystallized in comments about "politics as usual" and "Washington insiders."

The call for an overhaul makes me wonder: Why do we feel so unsatisfied with the government's performance and so unhopeful about its chances for improvement? A number of big reasons come to mind, such as high unemployment, rising public debt, various domestic and foreign policies . . . To me, those issues matter, but they have little impact on my day-to-day relationship with the government.

Most of my interactions with the government happen around taxes and transportation. Most of those interactions stink. At the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV), the experience is marked by long lines, complex processes, and dismissive employees. On the subway, it's much of the same. I once asked a subway attendant here in Boston if a ticketing kiosk would give me change for a $20. She responded, "Yeah, it'll give you change. It'll give you lots of change." Then the kiosk spit out 18 one-dollar coins.

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How Can Enterprise Feedback Management Help Customer Experience Professionals?

As part of my research on voice of the customer (VoC) programs, I run into a lot of vendors in the enterprise feedback management (EFM) space. In general, these vendors provide the technology to enable feedback collection, analysis, reporting, and action management. Many also provide professional services to help clients build their VoC programs and drive results.

The EFM space is an essential piece of the customer experience puzzle, but it’s still loosely defined. I’m not even sure that the term EFM accurately describes many of the vendors in the space — with all due respect to the term’s creator, Carl Henning.  

My colleague Roxana Strohmenger and I are kicking off some new research to better understand this market — and help you make the most of your vendor relationships.

Roxana will tackle the research from a market research perspective, which means more focus on controlling data quality, increasing efficiency through consolidation, and synthesizing data from multiple sources.

I’ll tackle the research from a customer experience perspective. While the issues mentioned above are still important in this context, I’ll focus on the customer experience applications of the activities. For example, here are two areas where I already see customer experience pros getting significant value from EFM:

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Three Levels Of The Voice Of The Employee

If I had a nickel for every time I read or talked about the importance of employee feedback during the past few months, I’d have an upsetting amount of change. Thankfully, the hype makes sense. Every employee in a company either directly or indirectly affects the customer experience, so every employee can offer some insight to help improve that experience.  

I highlighted a few good examples of companies using employee feedback in a new report on overall voice of the customer trends. This research and my ongoing conversations on the topic got me thinking more about what kinds of employee feedback customer experience pros should incorporate into their efforts. I see three basic levels of the voice of the employee (VoE):  

  1. Customer observations. This is the most obvious category for customer experience. Essentially, firms turn their customer-facing employees into customer listening posts by giving them the tools and training to record what they hear from customers. Many companies do this by having employees categorize customer service calls as they come in or by running call center notes through text analytics engines. Other companies have dedicated tools set up for employees to log interesting insights they get from customers. This category has two big limitations: Only customer-facing employees can participate, and insights don’t leverage employees’ contextual knowledge.  
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Podcast: Lessons Learned From Leading VoC Programs

Sam Stern from our Customer Experience Council recently sat down with me to talk about one of my favorite topics: voice of the customer (VoC). He must have been recording the conversation, because now it's a podcast.

Our discussion covers lessons learned from firms that participated in Forrester's Voice of the Customer Awards as well as more general best practices like making customer data relevant for employees, tying customer feedback scores to compensation, and measuring business results of VoC activities.

The podcast was originally developed for the Customer Experience Council, Forrester's executive network for customer experience professionals.

If you'd rather get this information in written form, check out my recent report: "Lessons Learned From Three Award-Winning Voice Of The Customer Programs." I'll also have a report on emerging VoC trends out in the next week or so.

Thanks for reading/listening!

Winners Of The Forrester Voice Of The Customer Awards 2010

We just announced the winners of the Voice of the Customer Awards 2010 at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum this afternoon. We received nearly 40 nominations, and the strength of the competition was seriously impressive. A number of trends emerged from across the nominations that show just how much voice of the customer programs have advanced since last year — as described in a previous blog post.

Needless to say, the judging was tough. We graded the nominations based on five criteria: clarity of approach, business results, customer experience impact, degree of innovation, and lessons provided for other firms.

And here are the results . . .

The 10 finalists (in alphabetical order) are:


American Express

American Family Insurance






TW Telecom


The three winners (also in alphabetical order) are:

American Express. The global services firm stood out for its significant focus on employee engagement. American Express trains customer service representatives in active listening, gives them a formal career path, and ties their performance assessments directly to customer feedback scores. These efforts drove a double-digit lift in “recommend to a friend” scores among customers who interacted with American Express through its active listening program, as well as a 10% improvement in service margins.

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Customer Experience Executives’ Top Priorities For 2010

I just published a new report describing “Customer Experience Executives’ Top Priorities For 2010.”

The research uncovered a significant shift in focus for established customer experience execs.

In their early days, most customer experience executives focus on building their teams, gaining visibility and momentum, and fixing broken experiences. Now, many execs have survived their early days, and they're starting to think longer-term. This shift is clearly reflected in the two most common areas of focus for this year: defining clear strategies and developing repeatable management processes. Other common efforts include infusing customer experience into standard business processes, aligning employees by tying compensation to customer experience metrics, and taking more action in response to available customer data.

We here at Forrester see this shift as a sign that customer experience is rapidly maturing, largely driven by the emergence of the chief customer officer (CCO) as a key leadership role within many organizations. As existing CCOs gain influence and other firms see the financial and competitive advantages of strong customer experience leadership, we expect this trend to become even stronger.

What do you think: Will CCOs become as common as CMOs?

On a related note: I'll be presenting the findings from this research at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum next week. Hope to see you there!

Extending The VoC Award Deadline To Tuesday, June 8th


We experienced a brief technical glitch in our online nomination form. It was a one-day thing, and we’ve solved the problem. Now we’re taking the opportunity to provide the kind of good customer experience we advocate.

We’re making up for our one-day technical issue with a two-day deadline extension. We’ll accept award nominations up until 5pm Eastern on Tuesday, June 8th.

If you think you’ve encountered any technical issues, please feel free to email your nomination directly to me at

Otherwise, you can still submit your nomination using the online nomination form and send accompanying slides (up to five) to

Less Than A Week Left To Submit Voice Of The Customer Award Nominations


We’ve seen lots of interest in this year’s Voice of the Customer Awards, from both client and vendor companies.

Adding some fuel to the fire, I’d like to highlight that Ginger Conlon, Editor-in-Chief of 1to1 Media, has kindly agreed to be a guest judge! She’ll be joined by four Forrester judges: Victoria Bough, Moira Dorsey, Harley Manning, and me.

I also want to remind everyone that the deadline for nominations is Friday, June 4th.

We’ll reach out to the winners on or before June 23rd and invite them to join Forrester at the Customer Experience Forum in New York on June 29th. At the event, we’ll call each of the winners up on stage to accept the award. A lot of great press coverage came out of this last year, and we expect even more heat this time around.

Here are the links to help you participate:

Submit your award nomination using the online nomination form.

Send accompanying slides (up to five) to

Get answers to FAQs.

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