We just finished judging the entries for Forrester's Voice of the Customer Awards 2010. Announcing the winners will have to wait until we’re onstage at the Customer Experience Forum in New York on June 29. But there is something I want to announce right now: I am really impressed by the entries! :-)
Because I was also a judge last year, I couldn’t help but notice some big changes from last year. Here they are in no particular order:
I’m delighted to return to Forrester and its Customer Experience team after eight years of running my own business and technology strategy consulting practice.
I’m returning to the same group in which I worked before with Harley Manning and his team. It was in that group that I helped develop and implement Forrester’s Web Site Usability methodology, wrote reports like “Must Search Stink?” and “Smart Personalization,” promoted the use of customer data intelligence and CRM systems to drive proactive interactions that I called “Tier Zero Customer Service,” and reported on the uses of early community-based tools for customer service (today it's "social CRM").
A frequent question that I've been asked in the scores of phone calls over the past several weeks since my return has been: What are you going to cover? The short term answer is primarily four topic areas:
For a track session at Forrester's Marketing Forum at the end of April, I dived into the topic of customer satisfaction. For market researchers looking to set up a customer satisfaction (CSAT) study, much guidance is available. However, it also became clear to me why, despite all this advice, many customer satisfaction projects fail.
Most of the information I found -- or the conversations I had, for that matter -- were around the ‘science’ part of CSAT studies: the methodology and set-up. There are many discussions online about questions like which scale to use, which questions to ask (or not), whether a company should focus on relational versus transactional measurement, or if it's better to conduct a customized CSAT project or use an established method like Net Promoter.
However, in my conversations with market researchers, I found that the success of CSAT projects isn't based as much on science -- although a sound and repeatable set-up doesn't hurt -- as much as it is on ‘art.’ The art lies in understanding the company’s business issues; translating these into a well-structured questionnaire; finding the drivers for success; and later, when the results are in, presenting the results in an actionable format.
Any customer satisfaction project that focuses on numbers misses out on the 'art' element of CSAT. Of course, using a standardized methodology helps the company benchmark itself against its competitors. But what does it mean when 80% of your clients are satisfied? The organization will look at this number and want to drive it up, without any understanding of what the impact on the bottom line will be when the percentage of satisfied customers increases from 80% to 82%.
New technologies follow a pattern. They start by imitating older technologies before they evolve to their true forms. The first automobiles looked like horseless carriages. It wasn't until the Vintage Era of the 1920's that cars evolved to a form that we'd recognize today with features like front-engines, enclosed cabs, and electric starters. Televisions started off copying radios - they looked more like an armoire with a small screen stuck on the front.
In the process of working on my latest piece of research, it became clear that the Web has followed a similar pattern. Early sites imitated a much older medium - paper. And even though 'web page' still dominates our thinking, online experiences have begun to evolve away from the page-based metaphor. In the next 5 years, the evolution of online experiences toward their true form is about to take off at a much faster rate than in the previous 5 years.
Consider that today's default Web platform - a browser running on a PC - is rapidly giving way to diverse online environments. The types of devices we use to connect to the Web are proliferating. In addition to the growth of netbook adoption, there are new devices like the Chumby and the Energy Joule. Portable devices are rapidly getting more powerful - as a result, the tradeoff between mobility and capability is shrinking. And even as the hardware evolves, the interfaces on the devices we use to connect to the Web are becoming more and more customizable. And the reason any of this matters at all is because consumers are already adopting these technologies.
So what are the implications of these trends? What does it mean for the future of online experiences? At Forrester, we've concluded that the resulting online customer experiences of the future will be: