Softbank, which owns Japan's third-largest mobile carrier, just announced that it will buy a 70% stake in Sprint Nextel. What exactly will that mean for wireless customers?
First, a little background . . .
In our new book,Outside In, my co-author Kerry Bodine and I describe the customer experience turnaround that CEO Dan Hesse engineered at Sprint. By relentlessly identifying the top problems that customers called to complain about and then systematically eliminating those problems, he took the company from having the lowest customer satisfaction rating of any major US carrier to having the highest customer satisfaction rating. Fewer unhappy customers meant fewer calls to Sprint's contact centers. As a result, Hesse recently reported that Sprint saves $1.7 billion a year from averted call center contacts.
Hesse’s current challenges have centered around shareholder displeasure with the cost of licensing the iPhone and the cost of building out Sprint’s high-speed network capabilities. As I said in a previous blog post, that lack of shareholder support seems strange to me. Isn't it obvious that it's critical to offer customers the smartphone they want and a fast network with a lot of capacity to support that phone — especially in a world where they have so many choices? It should be.
In contrast to current Sprint investors, Softbank President Masayoshi Son understands that smartphones and the networks that fuel them are essential: Not only is Softbank already building a high-speed network to help it compete in the smartphone war in Japan, but also Son said that the iPhone 5 was a trigger for the Sprint deal.
Last week I got a question via email from one of Forrester’s clients, who asked:
“How do you explain the success of companies that consistently provide a poor experience but perform well financially?”
I wish more people asked this question because it shows that they’re thinking about customer experience in the right context: as a path to profits. Here’s my answer:Creating a superior customer experience is the most important thing that companies need to do. But it will never be the only important thing they need to do.
My co-author and I describe the relationship between customer experience and other factors that lead to business success in Chapter 13 of our new book, Outside In:
“Is customer experience a silver bullet that will kill off all your company's problems and make your stock price soar? No. If there is such a bullet, we haven't seen it. The fact is, regardless of your customer experience, you can still get clobbered by a big, strategic threat like a new market entrant (Netflix if you're Blockbuster) or a substitute product (digital photography if you're Polaroid). That's especially true if the new market entrant or the provider of the substitute product offers an amazing customer experience (Amazon.com if you're Borders or Barnes & Noble).”
When you have a virtual monopoly, you can get away with providing a poor customer experience — right up until you can’t.
After moving to a new apartment in September, I needed to get a new TV. My first instinct was to gather information from a few sources. I browsed online retailers to get an idea of prices, and I looked at manufacturers’ marketing content to understand the latest technologies like 3D TV. After all of that, I turned to consumer reviews and discussions to get a feeling for whether I would actually find those features valuable. (For example, some customer reviews helped me confirm that I didn’t want 3D TV.)
Where did I find those reviews? Everywhere — there are star ratings and comments on product pages at retail sites (like John Lewis and Amazon.com), technology media sites (like CNET) and manufacturer websites. Interestingly — I got the feeling that the manufacturers still aren’t entirely comfortable with the transparency that social media brings. They’d like to put a spin on the message, even if they can’t entirely control it — For example, Panasonic’s UK site has a page that promotes “5 Star Reviews Of The Month” (see the screenshot below). I can't think of a situation when I'd want a firm to guide me only to the most positive reviews of its products. Can you?
As I analyzed examples of digital disruption I’ll be highlighting at the upcoming CIO Forum — “Leading Digital Disruption” — I was struck by the way in which every example could be tied to a shift in customer experience along two dimensions: pleasure and time.
Along the pleasure dimension, disruptive technologies significantly increase the pleasure (or reduce the frustration) derived from the customer experience. For example the iPad significantly increased my pleasure in browsing the web and engaging with brands I like through tailored apps.
And on the time dimension, disruptive technologies save customers significant amounts of time; time being the most precious commodity in the world. My iPad allows me to do many things much faster than I could before because it is easy-to-use and contains many apps which connect my lifestyle together.
So I began to explore how CIOs might use this understanding to help shape the analysis of prospective disruptive strategies. What I came up with is the customer experience zone of disruption (or CxZOD for short — see illustration).
In the zone of disruption, the impact on pleasure and/or time is so great as to cause a disruptive force in the marketplace. When coupled with an assessment of potential market impact, this becomes an easy-to-understand visual model for comparing potential disruptive initiatives.
In my session at the forum, I’ll be exploring this model and showing how to use it to better understand existing technologies, such as mobile apps, and their potential to become disruptive.
What disruptive digital technologies would you place in the CxZOD? Post your comments below or Tweet #CXZOD
Every year the Center For Digital Strategies at Tuck chooses a technology topic to "provide MBA candidates and the Tuck and Darthmouth communities with insights into how changes in technology affect individuals, impact enterprises and reshape industries." This academic year the topic is "Big Data: The Information Explosion That Will Reshape Our World". I had the honor and privilege to kick off the series about big data at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. I am thrilled that our future business leaders are considering how big data can help companies, communities, and government make smarter decisions and provide better customer experiences. The combination of big data and predictive analytics is already changing the world. Below is the edited video of my talk on big data predictive analytics at Tuck in Hanover, NH.
Anybody out there who doesn't have a mobile device, raise your hand...just what I thought.
The explosion of mobile phones and apps in the everyday lives of consumers--and agents--is powering big changes in the business of insurance. Heightened customer expectations are getting formed by the changing mobile landscape; new generations of customers; new competitors, and the ferocious pace of mobile tech-enabled innovation that is radically reshaping how customers become informed, purchase, and get service.
In our new report, the first of Forrester's Mobile Insurance Playbook, we examine how mobile forces are driving customer expectations and how customer demands are going to influence new insurance business models.
Consumers are living La Vida Mobile. Mobile is a pervasive element in the daily lives of insurance customers. With more mobile devices available within easy reach, US consumers are tapping into this ready convenience to research, buy, and service their financial needs, including insurance. And how about those Millennial insurance customers? More than one in four told us that they use mobile as their main personal financial channel.
Agents are becoming proficient mobile tool users. The tablet form factor looks almost purpose-built for the needs of agents. From their hi-def displays to fast boot-up and super portability, agents are ardent tablet-ers, and half the agents in an informal survey at the end of last year cited mobile as one of their leading business initiatives.
I’m not the biggest NFL fan in the world, but now that I live in Boston, I follow the Patriots. I think it’s actually a requirement of citizenship.
And I do have a passing interest in some other teams. Who doesn’t love watching anyone named “Manning” throw a football? (Unless it’s against the Pats in the Super Bowl.)
With that as background, may I say that the now-ended lockout of NFL refs set the low watermark in football customer experience? Yeah, customer experience — not just for all those who buy tickets, but for all of us who “pay” for the games with our time by watching ads.
Lest we forget, let’s count some of the ways that the replacement refs ruined our Sunday afternoons and Monday nights:
Stopping the game every other play to try and figure out what really happened. Football is supposed to be a sport, guys, not a meeting of the local debate team.
Making game-changing calls that the replay showed were dead wrong. Hey, if you screw up, 'fess up — then make it right and move on. My sixth-grader knows that, so why doesn’t Roger Goodell?
Clogging the air time on ESPN with self-righteous defenses of their bad calls. (Okay, that didn’t happen on Sunday afternoons or Monday nights, but it was worse because it spread more pain across three weeks when all I wanted was to see the top 10 sports plays from the previous day. Argh!)
It’s amazing how quickly the world of digital experiences is changing technology, and vice-versa. I’ve covered web content management (WCM) since I joined Forrester in 2006, and that particular market has changed quite in a bit, due in large part to the disruptions caused by digital experiences. These days, many more stakeholders participate in the WCM decision-making process, traditional technology decision-makers can no longer afford to make technology decisions in a silo, and key WCM players are refining and expanding their strategies. I’ll tackle this in more depth with Ron Rogowski next month at our Forum in Orlando but, if you’re a digital experience (DX) decision-maker, you should keep in mind:
· Don’t hold your breath for a true DX suite. Though some of the vendors are promising integrated suites that contain content management, commerce, analytics, optimization, etc., none has best-of-breed offerings in all of these areas. And even if one were available, haven’t you already made too many investments to do yet another rip-and-replace? Some of the vendor strategies remind me of the great promises of the all-encompassing enterprise content management suite (remember how that turned out)?
Digital disruption is forcing business leaders in every industry to rethink their strategy. Music, media, and publishing have been turned upside down. Now, non-digital products and services — from airlines to automobiles — must consider new competitors, new economics, and new customer relationships. For example, game-changing, disruptive mobile experiences and apps on platforms like Amazon.com, Apple, eBay, and Google give those firms control of consumer mobile devices and platforms, allowing them to both "tax" sales and hijack payments as well as threatening to further strangle already-squeezed margins for eBusiness professionals.
If you scroll down, you’ll see a link to part two of my appearance on Jim Blasingame’s talk show, The Small Business Advocate. Among other things, in this segment, we talked about one of the keys to customer experience success: hiring the right employees.
Hiring is one of the tools for creating a customer-centric culture that my co-author Kerry Bodine and I describe in our new book, Outside In. Although hiring is fundamental, it’s something that many hiring managers get wrong. That’s because they’re still looking primarily at what their candidates know — their job skills — and not focusing enough attention on to who their candidates are.
Here’s why that’s a problem. You can teach people how to perform tasks, whether it’s stocking shelves or doing the books. And you can teach them enough about your products and services to be able to help your customers. But if they’re people who don’t want to help customers, you’re not going to teach them to be different people.
Are there really that many people out there who just don’t want to help customers? Yes. That’s a lesson Kevin Peters, the president of Office Depot North America, learned several years ago.
Kevin asked all 22,500 store associates to take a personality assessment test designed to evaluate employees’ skills, behaviors, and aptitudes as they related to serving customers. To his surprise and disappointment, a significant percentage agreed with statements like, “If the job requires me to interface with customers, I’d rather not do the job.”