It’s that great time of year when I finally get to talk publicly about Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in New York at the end of June. If you’ve ever been to one of our events, you know that we always have a theme, and this year that theme is “Why Good Is Not Good Enough.”
We picked our theme because of the good news/bad news story told by our Customer Experience Index (CXi) results this year. First, here’s the good news: The number of brands in the “very poor” category of the CXi is down to one out of 175 brands we studied. What’s more, only a handful of brands — 10% — are in the “poor” category. Together, those findings show that as customer experience improvement efforts got traction over the past year, the number of truly awful experiences dropped like a rock.
Now for the bad news: Just 11% of brands in the CXi made it into the “excellent” category.
Taken together, those two pieces of news mean that most brands are bunched up in the middle of the curve — not awful in the eyes of their customers but not differentiated either. I think of this situation as “okay is the new poor” or, in my darker moments, “the year of ‘meh.’” Regardless, it adds up to the same thing: A merely good customer experience is no longer good enough if you want incremental sales, positive word of mouth, and better customer retention.
For years, Forrester has been talking about customer experience in terms of a pyramid. While Forrester defines customer experience as simply "how customers perceive their interactions with your company," we also subdivide this overall experience into three key aspects. First, and the base of the pyramid, is that an experience must meet a customer's core needs. Next, it must be easy for them to accomplish their goals. And last, and most difficult, the experience should be enjoyable. If an experience isn't inherently something that actually can be enjoyable -- think renewing your car insurance -- then the top of the pyramid is about creating delight from an experience that could be really awful.
It's this last element I want to focus on, by way of a story. Recently I was going to be presenting at a conference overseas, and though I travel extensively around Asia Pacific, I had not yet visited this particular country. But the consulate for that country in Australia (where I live) requires business visitors to apply for a visa in the old-fashioned kind of way -- standing in line with an application (even if you filled it out online), your passport, and payment for the visa.
The Forrester Asia Pacific team is currently meeting in Bangkok to discuss how we support our clients in the age of the customer. Meeting friends and colleagues overseas is always a great experience. We get away from our desks and exchange ideas, bringing focus to our efforts for the following year. But, of course, you have to get everyone to the destination venue for this to happen.
One of the first things we always end up discussing on first meeting one of our colleagues is the quality of the journey. “How was your flight?” is the first question we end up asking each other. As I talked with two of my colleagues from Sydney, I learned that all three of us had been on the same Qantas flight to Bangkok that same afternoon. As we compared our journeys, it was amazing to discover that we had had three markedly different experiences, despite all being on the very same aircraft.
I was in economy, having paid a little extra for emergency exit seats. The flight wasn’t full, so I had a row of three seats to myself. Lots of room to spread out, and the flight was very quiet, easy, and uneventful. My experience, though, was of an older plane with technology that was, frankly, no longer meeting my minimum standard. The entertainment units were old and tiny, and the user interface was absurdly complex. But because I was comfortable, I was willing to overlook it.
One of my colleagues, the regional sales director from Australia, was one section ahead of me on the plane, also in economy. She reported a nightmare flight with no air conditioning, poor food, and crowded seats. Her experience was quite negative. We both ate the same food, but her experience of it was undoubtedly influenced by the hot temperatures and crowded seating.
Roughly half of companies on the path to customer experience maturity say that they’re in the repair phase today — and that’s probably a conservative estimate. But there are companies at more advanced stages of CX maturity, including a few in the most advanced phase, differentiate. That’s where 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.
We had two speakers at our event who represented companies in the differentiate phase: Dean Marshall, director of Lego brand retail store operations Europe, and Declan Collier, CEO, London City Airport. What is it that their organizations do that’s so different?
Lego stores goes beyond even the typical design best practices used by companies in less advanced (but still pretty advanced!) phases of CX maturity, practices like ethnographic research and co-creation. How? By combining the two.
Forrester just published its “India Tech Market Outlook: 2014” report; here’s a summary. We expect the Indian economy to start recovering from the tough situation it faced in 2013. It will start picking up (albeit at a slower rate) in 2014 thanks to good monsoons, an uptick in exports due to the weakening of the rupee, and huge infrastructure projects in public transportation, housing, agriculture, and farming that we expect to take off once a new central government is in place. As a result, we’ve marginally increased our 2014 forecast from 7.4% to 8% in local currency. But the biggest threat to India’s economic outlook is political instability after the national elections, which could have a long-term economic impact.
The three most important highlights from the report:
Customer obsession will take center stage for technology spending. The increasing demands of digital customers are redefining business. Recent Forrsights data indicates that Indian CIOs’ top business priority is to address the rising expectations of customers and improve customer satisfaction; 87% consider it a high or critical priority. Business leaders want to leverage technology to better engage digitally enabled constituents, fundamentally shifting how firms interact with customers.
A few months ago in my blog about Drake and Service Management, I hinted twice that I would talk later about how to measure success and how to change from a culture of speed. In the report “This Isn’t Your Grandfather’s Service Desk”, we have taken the research from our team that supports Customer Experience Professionals and applied it to the IT Service Desk. Forrester recommends that all IT service desks determine the Customer Experience Index (CXi) by taking a survey of business customers to test how effective (met the needs), easy, and enjoyable their interactions have been with the IT Service Desk over the past three months. By measuring the customer experience and coupling it with the metrics of speed traditionally collected, a true picture emerges of the success of an IT Service Desk. However, we found that only 1/3 of business customers are surveyed about their experience with the Service Desk whether it’s random surveys or surveys after each ticket. We can do better!!
If you haven’t started measuring the customer experience at your IT Service Desk, make a New Year’s resolution to start now (and I don’t mean one of those New Year’s resolutions that peter out about 2 weeks into the New Year!!!). Starting with a baseline will help you understand how you are progressing at customer experience and give you an understanding of what needs to be fixed in order to make the customer experience at the IT Service Desk even better.
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:
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.
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: