In the age of the customer, companies must transform their cultures from product-centric to customer-centric. But that is easier said than done. Customer centricity requires all employees to understand who their customers are, how customers perceive their interactions with the company, and the roles employees play in delivering the overall experience. Customer experience (CX) rooms — immersive, interactive spaces that help employees better understand customers — have emerged as a powerful new tool for bringing customers and their journeys to life for workforces. Done well, CX rooms inspire empathy and understanding among employees and help build customer-centric cultures.
Firms create CX rooms to help employees understand the current customer experience their company delivers and to better understand the intended experience the company wants to deliver. The CX room that Ingrid Lindberg, chief customer experience officer at Prime Therapeutics, created at a previous employer demonstrated how complicated it was for customers to know which of the company's many phone numbers they should call or which of the firm's many websites they should visit.
My recent report, “Driving Toward Communications Sourcing Excellence,” looks behind the scenes to find out why Formula One (F1) sourcing professionals enjoy such a great customer experience from their network providers. It’s a two-way street: Providers ensure that the F1 team’s network is reliable, always available, and delivers peak performance when needed, and F1 sourcing pros provide the guidance, insight, and support to make sure providers know what teams need. This is as much a concern for CIOs as it is for sourcing pros in their quest to win, serve, and retain customers.
Matt Cadieux, the CIO of Infiniti Red Bull Racing, said, “AT&T has a dedicated F1 account team that I meet for regular account reviews to discuss our requirements and plans. In the rare event of a problem, we also have excellent relationships with AT&T’s top executives. AT&T has consistently delivered projects when required; for example, in 2014 it provisioned new access networks in England and France and at racetracks around the world. These circuits have been fully operational — we show up and they just work.”
What It Means
My colleague Tracy Stokes believes that a consistent customer experience builds a trusted brand, and I couldn’t agree more. It also leads to:
Anyone who's been following this blog knows that I've invested a lot of time recently laying out the case for why CIOs should take more ownership over employee engagement and workforce experience. With the foundational argument in place, it's now time to turn to the critical question: How should an IT department act? This can be a paralyzing question because owning the workforce experience means IT leaders must step outside of traditional technology provisioning and maintenance roles. That's why the path forward for IT leaders is to implement a series of changes in how they view themselves, employees, and the technology landscape:
Pivot benchmarks to account for engagement's link with IT satisfaction. Traditional IT benchmarks concern the performance of the infrastructure and employees' satisfaction with the service they receive. These are indeed important measures, but they do not give a complete view of how technology helps engage employees. We recently published our benchmarks for workforce experience that lay out what CIOs should be evaluating in addition to their customary metrics. These include employee engagement measures, employee technology attitudes, where employees learn about technology and how IT plans align with employee expectations. Evaluating both IT and the workforce in such a fashion requires the buy-in of executives, particularly the head of HR who traditionally owns employee engagement and satisfaction surveys.
It disappoints me when customer experience (CX) professionals at business-to-business (B2B) companies won’t even consider CX practices from business-to-consumer (B2C) companies.
Sure, B2B firms can learn a lot from other B2B firms: Cisco has an amazing voice of the customer program, Boeing does great work conducting field studies of its customers, and Adobe has a notable CX governance practice. But unless B2B customer experience practitioners want to run the CX race with one foot in a bucket, they should also learn strategy from Holiday Inn and Burberry, customer understanding from Vanguard and Virgin Mobile Australia, and design practices from Fidelity and the Spanish bank BBVA — the list of relevant B2C case studies goes on and on.
There are two reasons why B2B companies should take this advice to heart. First, no industry has anything close to a monopoly on best practices. So unless companies cast a wide net, they’re cutting themselves off from lessons that could give them an edge over their navel-gazing competitors. Secondly, every customer that B2B companies serve is not only a businessperson but also a consumer, one who has his or her expectations set by daily interactions with Amazon, Apple, Starbucks, and Zappos. And those B2B customers no longer lower their expectations when they go to work — especially because work now gets interspersed with their personal lives.
One of the most enjoyable tasks as a Forrester analyst is reviewing all of the Groundswell awards submissions. And we know many of you also look forward to seeing the innovative approaches that other B2B companies use to listen to and engage with customers. This year, we received 45 entries and we judged submissions across seven categories: Listening, Talking, Energizing, Spreading, Supporting, Embracing, and Mobile.
Earlier in November, we announced the winners and then presented a Webinar to Forrester clients where we discussed the awards process, criteria, highlights, and named all the winners. And we described why they won their awards as well as featuring many other entries that we thought warranted an honorable mention.
Download this podcast to hear more from Kim Celestre, Zachary Reiss-Davis, and myself about the Groundswell B2B Awards (it runs for around 45 minutes):
First, our final lineup of external speakers is confirmed. All of our main-stage speakers are from companies featured in our new book, Outside In — some of them are even the subjects of case studies in the book.
Many of you have asked us to feature more business-to-business content in our events, so in response, we have both Randy Pond, EVP of operations, processes, and systems at Cisco Systems, and John Taschek, VP Mof market strategy at salesforce.com. Both companies are in the book, and Randy is the executive sponsor of the program that won one of our 2012 Voice Of The Customer Awards.
In addition to Randy and John, we have Dr. Jim Merlino, the chief experience officer for Cleveland Clinic, a world-famous, $6 billion healthcare provider. The work he is doing is as applicable to organizations outside of healthcare as it is relevant to all of us who have ever been (or will ever be) patients.
We’re also excited about our main-stage panel on building a customer-centric culture with Nancy Fratzke of US Cellular and Kelly Harper of BMO Financial Group. Transforming a culture is one of the hardest things any of us will do, and both of these panelists have successfully done it.
As a prequel to some of what we'll hear from Laurie at our event, we sent her questions about the FedEx customer experience and why she sees it as a competitive advantage. Her answers appear below.
Q: How would you describe the experience that you want FedEx customers to have?
A: Relationships oftentimes start with a simple handshake. For example, when you meet someone for the first time and extend your hand in greeting, you’re offering to build a relationship. In the same way, we want to offer a hand to our customers to establish a personal and meaningful connection. After all, FedEx is more than just delivering packages. We’re an innovative company that thrives on delivering solutions and programs that meet our customers’ needs and expectations.
Many different types of firms have channel partners or others that control a significant part of the actual experience with customers. Automobile companies have dealers, insurance and real estate firms have independent agents, software companies have value-added resellers (VARs), restaurants and hotels have franchises, and heavy equipment manufacturers have resellers. Even the brokers or financial advisors within financial services organizations can act in many ways like these external partners.
While companies may not have direct control over these partners, firms are waking up to the fact that there are ways to influence these organizations to provide a better customer experience. To ensure that partners enhance the customer experience (CX):
Share VoC data with partners. Standard voice of the customer (VOC) programs make customer feedback data available to internal employees throughout the organization. Firms should use adapted versions of these dashboards to deliver relevant insights to partners. Deluxe, which sells services to small businesses and financial institutions, gathers customer research on the behalf of its smaller partners that cannot afford to pay for these insights on their own. Such insights gathered after the financial crisis helped many of its smaller financial services clients understand specific teller behavior that was hurting relationships more than helping.
In our continuing research on the emerging role of the chief customer officer (CCO), we recently looked at the kinds of authority their firms vest in them to drive change across the organization. This authority can affect the activities they do, the composition of the teams that report into them, and the budgets they control. For firms considering putting this kind of senior customer experience leader in place, Forrester has identified three archetypal models that characterize the most typical modes in which CCOs operate.
Advisory CCOs Play A Coaching Role
Companies that are early in their customer experience transformations are often reluctant to commit too many resources or cede control of core company processes to a CCO. These firms tend to place CCOs in an advisory or coaching role for peers with operational responsibilities, particularly if the company has had past success with centralized teams to drive change management efforts. CCOs running these teams have little control over decision-making and execution and instead derive authority through their expertise and personal reputation within their companies. A mandate from senior leadership in a business unit, the executive management team, or the CEO bolsters these CCOs' ability to change behaviors in other departments. These CCOs:
Build core capabilities and spread awareness. Because they don't directly control operations, advisory CCOs and their teams focus on building core foundational customer experience capabilities and standards as would a center of excellence.
Since publishing our Customer Experience Index, 2012 last week, we've gotten a flood of questions about the research, methodology, and results. I'm putting the finishing touches on a full Forrester report that answers the ten most common questions but thought I'd give everyone a sneak preview with a blog post summarizing a few of the answers.
1. Who are the people rating the brands in Forrester's Customer Experience Index?
To produce the CXi each year, Forrester conducts an online survey of US individuals ages 18 to 88. This year, there were 7,638 such folks who answered the survey during October 2011. We weighted the data by age, gender, income, broadband adoption, and region to demographically represent the adult US online population. The sample was drawn from members of MarketTools' online panel, and respondents were motivated by receiving points that can be redeemed for a reward.
2. Which touchpoints are consumers rating when they answer the CXi questions?
The short answer to this question is "any touchpoints they used to interact with the brand." We don't direct consumers to think about any specific touchpoints as they rate their interactions. Instead, we want them to consider all of their interactions with that brand over the past 90 days, regardless of how they happened.