The age of the customer is a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful companies will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers. Re-engineering your company to become customer-obsessed will be hard work, but savvy C-level executives I’ve been speaking with about this tectonic shift immediately grasp the opportunity.
I spoke about the age of the customer today at LeWeb Paris (you can see the video here, and my slides here) where I focused on one early element of customer empowerment - the mobile mind shift. Your customers expect any information or service they desire be available to them on any device, in context, at their moment of need. Forrester’s global Mobile Mind Shift Index measures how far along a group of consumers are in this change in attitude and behavior.
To serve these customers, you will have to move from systems of record to systems of engagement. Apps are just a small part of that equation. Instead, we’re talking about re-engineering your entire company to deliver great digital experiences. Your brands will compete against Google, Microsoft, Oracle, and Amazon for setting the bar for great customer experiences. What It Means: In the future, every company will be a software company. Software is the new business currency more important than financial capital.
As we ramp up our coverage of the digital store, we recently researched the role of retail sales associates to understand their impact in the age of the customer. There’s no doubt that technology has dramatically impacted the way in which consumers discover, explore, buy, and engage with brands, products, and services. However, the impact of technology on sales associates is unclear, as is the degree to which the role of the sales associate needs to evolve to leverage these new capabilities.
In the new report A New Generation Of Clienteling, we tackle the role of sales associates and their use of technology in the digital store. In the report, we note a number of trends, including the following:
The role of the associate will change from an information provider to a facilitator of engagement. The sales associate is no longer the sole provider of information in stores: Customers can now find product information via their mobile device without the help of an associate. This scenario provides an opportunity for the sales associate to pivot and drive increased engagement with the customer.
Digitally connected sales associates are trusted. Less than a quarter of US online adult today state that sales associates are the best source for product information. However, when armed with mobile devices, the associate is seen as a trusted advisor. The breadth of information available to sales associates via mobile devices allows them to consider a broader array of information when making product recommendations to customers in the store.
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.
I am a new senior analyst on the customer experience team, based in London, and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and share some thoughts about my first report. My areas of expertise include digital customer experience, measurement, strategy, customer understanding, and design. For my first report, I have decided to tackle a topic that occupied a lot of my time as a customer experience (CX) practitioner, namely technology.
As a former customer experience practitioner, I found myself gravitating between the driver seat, the passenger seat, and the backseat when it came to technology decisions — part buyer, part advisor, and part bystander. I worked closely with IT on digital CX and had some very fruitful interactions with IT colleagues about customer experience in general — and customer journey and ecosystem mapping, in particular. I also experienced firsthand the fragmentation of IT spending as more business owners spend more from their own budgets on IT in order to win, retain, and engage with customers. And of course, as many of you, I witnessed IT projects derail or gain a life of their own, to the detriment of the customer experience. Technology is everywhere, every business is now a digital business, and customer experience professionals are facing a tsunami of technology choices as the tech industry enters a period of unprecedented innovation and more and more vendors align themselves with the customer experience buzz. In this first report, I want to explore:
How involved are customer experience professionals in technology decisions? Are they in a position to influence these decisions?
Over the past few months, SAP Services has embarked on a major software-enabled services transformation of its offerings and operating models. The strategic intent is to increasingly rely on IP-based solutions (including SAP’s Rapid Deployment Solutions portfolio and assemble-to-order methodology) to deliver outcomes faster, with lower risks for clients and, eventually, support value-based pricing. Next on SAP Services’ transformation road map? I believe that the organization needs to quickly change the perception of the rest of the SAP ecosystem, which still views SAP Services as a competitor.
SAP Services’ business model used to merely rely on staffing “rock star” consultants on client projects in order to facilitate the implementation of complex solutions. The new strategy aims at positioning the 15,000 service professionals on SAP’s newer solutions (e.g., cloud, mobile, HANA . . .) in order to ensure that early projects generate the promised outcomes. In order to achieve this goal, the delivery teams need to be much more focused on collaborating internally (with the R&D team, for instance) as well as externally (with clients). SAP Services will also need to increasingly work collaboratively with its partners in order to ensure the success of the overall SAP-as-a-Platform strategy.
In “Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer,” Forrester shows that “in a world where empowered customers are disrupting every industry . . . the only sustainable competitive advantage is knowledge and engagement with customers.” This is not about mere customer centricity. This is about customer obsession.
This customer obsession is particularly crucial in the world of big-box and online retail. With so much pricing and product information available at customers’ fingertips — at home and in the store — retailers are highly vulnerable to price undercutting and switching. Big-box retailers compete fiercely on price, and providing good value is a customer requirement. But our research shows that to be a leading retail brand, retail marketers must differentiate through the promise and delivery of superior customer experience.
In May 2013, Forrester conducted Consumer Technographics® research with 4,575 US online adults to uncover the drivers of a successful 21st century big-box retail brand. This research is part of Forrester’s TRUE brand compass framework designed to identify which brands are winning the battle for consumer mindshare and to help marketers build a brand that is trusted, remarkable, unmistakable, and essential (TRUE). This framework has two core components:
The TRUE brand compass ranking gives a snapshot of a brand’s resonance — the emotional connection a customer has with a brand. Is your brand a trailblazer — winning consumer mindshare — or astray — lost its way and connection to consumers?
The TRUE brand compass scorecard reveals a brand’s progress along the four dimensions. Is your brand strong on being trusted? Weak on being essential?
HP recently hosted its Asia Pacific (AP) and Japan analyst event in Singapore. The company presented its “New Style of IT” value proposition and how it intends to position a combined HP hardware, software and IT services stack to deliver client value. After the Boston event back in February, I was particularly interested to see how HP Enterprise Services (ES) is positioning itself as the tip of the spear of the “one HP” messaging and offering in Asia.
When assessing service providers’ relevance to customer needs, I focus on two major areas:
Red ocean offerings – where service providers need to help their clients build scalable, flexible, secure and cost efficient technology foundations around cloud, mobility and analytics.
Blue ocean offerings – where service providers need to help the CIO engage business stakeholders to drive better business outcomes in areas like customer experience, for instance.
Today’s customers are highly empowered, hyperactive, and incredibly distracted by all of the options available to them for connecting with the things and people that matter to them most. These customers come to you with highly complex goals that they themselves cannot always accurately define — goals for which they don’t necessarily follow the seemingly logical linear paths you’ve laid out for them. As customers multitask their way through stages of information gathering, evaluation, purchase, and servicing, they connect with multiple outside sources that influence and transform their goals if they don’t hijack them altogether.
Gone are the days of the funnel when companies could lure customers with big promises and push them through a set of steps that would lead to purchase. Today, customer processes are far more complicated than ever, and while many firms believe that the purchase is the endpoint of an experience, for many customers, it’s just the beginning. Instead of taking a fragmented approach, firms need to look at the broad customer journey and understand how they can meet their customers’ needs when and where their customers want to interact. They need to understand their customers’ context and weave together a unified experience that matches the expectations customers have of the brand according to their in-the-moment needs.
Standing in an aisle of a big box retailer, I bought a new electric shaver from a competing retailer’s online store. The store’s shaving display reminded me that my razor was dying. Not knowing which to choose, I twitched for my iPhone, scanned a barcode, read several reviews, explored competing products, found the best price, and ordered it with free shipping. I saved $75 over the same model I could have purchased then and there.
My example is commonplace today. Perpetually connected customers – 42% of US online adults and 37% in Europe – can engage brands at any place, any time, and at any velocity. The technology trends that lead retailers to worry about showrooming touch every industry. Each brand must anticipate connected customers’ demand for information, reviews, and engagement. They must realign technology, processes, and talent to recognize customers in microseconds, using real-time signals to predict their needs and paths to purchase. And they must see that this problem can’t be solved with faster technology alone.