Pop Quiz: If your company has conquered North America and Western Europe and is now looking for the next big market, where should you go? The no-thinking, because it’s obvious, answer is of course China. But if you want low cost of entry and a rapid return on investment you might want to aim a bit further South - to Australia.
While it isn’t as big a market as China (or even India) and may have a higher cost of living, which can make establishing a beachhead there expensive, Australia has significant enough similarities to the western world — a well-educated populace, a high income citizenship and desire for new technologies and innovations — to make success here far easier. And if you are doing ROI calculations around this decision, it has a key advantage over its Asian peers: higher acceptance of cloud services.
In celebration of the season, Best Western Great Britain is sharing a new idea for a summer expedition every day on its blog. Suggestions include taking in a sheep race in Moffat (between Carlisle and Glasgow), sampling some 4,000 cheeses at the International Cheese Awards in Nantwich (the largest cheese event in the UK), and catching the first few stages of the Tour de France in Yorkshire (who knew the Tour started in Northern England?).
It’s all part of its “hotels with personality” campaign, which aims to celebrate the unique story behind each of the brand’s 276 properties in the UK. In addition to rebranding around this vision, Best Western had to improve its customer experience to live up to its brand promise. But getting support from independent hotel owners and operators to fund its ambitious customer experience strategy wasn’t easy. To win support, the brand had to:
Gradually build credibility. Instead of winning support for the entire strategy at once, Best Western tackled some easy changes first, including redesigning its website and improving its internal communications to make them consistent with the new "hotels with personality" vision. Best Western also ran a TV ad campaign featuring hotel employees highlighting the individuality of each hotel. The result was that its hotel owners and employees felt a renewed sense of pride in Best Western as a brand, not just a logo, and confidence in the customer experience strategy. It certainly didn't hurt that the TV campaign drove a year-on-year sales increase of 30% — the highest increase in Best Western Great Britain's history.
JetBlue built its brand on a new standard of in-flight customer experience when it launched in 1999. Guided by its brand North Star to “bring humanity back to air travel,” the fledgling airline offered beleaguered economy passengers better seats, better entertainment, better snacks, and an all-around better customer experience. JetBlue had the prescience to understand that customer experience is inextricably linked to brand experience.
Our TRUE brand compass research shows that JetBlue has established itself as a major airline brand with consumers but has not yet risen above the competitive pack. JetBlue ranks as a TRUE brand follower, alongside air transportation stalwarts like American Airlines and United Airlines. But will it rise to leader status? On the back of a couple of headline-grabbing passenger incidents, a recent USA Today article raised questions about whether this pioneer of a better airline customer experience has “Lost Its Heart.” For me, the question is not so much whether JetBlue has lost its heart but whether the brand has failed to keep pace with consumers’ rising expectations of brands. Does JetBlue still have the prescience to see what will build the airline brand of the future?
There’s a good chance that you’re a Verizon customer. I am; I get my cable TV, Internet access, and home phone service from it.
All in all, there are 130 million of us Verizon customers — and that’s a daunting challenge for Verizon. How do you — how can you — create a high-quality, consistent customer experience for all those people when they’re buying and using such diverse products?
The answer: business process discipline. And that’s why we invited Nancy Clark to speak at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East, 2014. Nancy is Verizon’s senior vice president, operational excellence, a business process maven, and the sharp point of the spear for the company’s customer experience improvement initiative.
Nancy was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about what she’s doing. Read on for insight into how Verizon rose in every category of our Customer Experience Index that it’s in this year.
Those of you who’ll be with us in New York on Tuesday, June 24, can hear even more from Nancy. I hope to see you there!
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
A: Verizon’s history dates back more than a century in some parts of our business. Like all good companies, we’ve always had a philosophy of putting the customer first. At the heart of this is a shared credo — our aspirational statement about who we are as a company. It fits on one page, but the word “customer” appears 10 times, and the first line is, “We have work because our customers value what we do.”
Don’t you hate when a company advertises a product but fails to make it easy to find and buy?
Mad Men’s Don Draper, who, in the 1960’s could have been as likely to work in insurance as advertising (but the story would have been not nearly so interesting), would have a field day with the findings from Forrester’s just published report, “The Next Act For Usage-Based Car Insurance”, the first in a four-report series addressing the UBI landscape in the US, Canada,and Europe and the future of UBI.
Smart devices, smartphones, and smart cars are converging to create what should be a smart insurance choice for safe drivers and their insurers. The report examines American consumer interest and adoption of usage-based car insurance and the obstacles to purchase, many of which point directly to insurance eBusiness failings.
When Forrester last looked at the UBI market in 2008 (then termed “Pay As You Drive” or PAYD), consumers couldn’t get it because of a big distribution problem: It was offered by few insurers in just a few states. A couple of months ago, we decided to see just what had changed over the past five or so years when it came to consumer interest and purchase. What did we learn?
Okay, maybe “demigod” is a little over the top. But maybe not.
John Maeda is both design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and chair of the eBay Design Advisory Board, where he collaborates with design leaders across eBay to disseminate design thinking. But that’s just what he’s doing now. He previously served as the president of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and before that, he was a professor and head of research at the MIT Media Lab.
Now where I come from (Cambridge, Massachusetts, these days), RISD and the Media Lab are synonymous with innovative thinking. But eBay already changed the way about 145 million people shop — most people would say that’s already pretty innovative. So how do you improve innovation by disseminating design thinking at eBay?
In advance of John’s talk, he was kind enough to answer some of our questions about what he’s been doing and why. I hope you enjoy John’s responses, and I look forward to seeing many of you in New York on June 24th and 25th!
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
When I ask government employees why improving customer experience (CX) is so important, I often hear a version of the same answer: "It's the right thing to do." But I'm not about to take an easy answer like that at face value, so I dig deeper.
I try getting them to admit that they're really motivated by the CX mandates in Executive Order 13571, the digital government strategy, and agency mission statements. Time and again, I'm politely told I have it backward. These documents were inspired by the core moral imperative to improve government CX, and they exist only as practical guidance for agencies in pursuit of this obligation. The maxim is the motive; the documents just articulate it. I next try arguing that government employees are motivated by the political quest for public acclaim — that they pursue customer experience improvement simply because it will make them or their agencies popular, winning them promotion or reelection. Again, they tell me I'm all turned around. Doing the right thing for the customer is the real motive, and luckily the American people reward it.
Maybe their answers aren't surprising, given that many government employees chose public sector careers due to their dedication to public service. But what about customer experience professionals in the private sector? Are they motivated by a moral imperative, too? In recent interviews with companies at the top and bottom of Forrester's Customer Experience Index (CXi), I found some surprising answers.
The chief marketing officer’s (CMO’s) role is shifting from a two-dimensional world of outbound marketing communications vehicles to a multidimensional world that encompasses every interaction a customer has with a brand. These CMOs must not only craft the perfect marketing communications message but also ensure that their customers’ experience is consistent with the brand promise.
Why does this matter? Because Forrester’s TRUE brand compass research shows that having a consistent experience across all brand touchpoints is a key driver of brand trust. For example, consumers tell us that both Microsoft and Amazon.com deliver a consistent experience every time they interact with those brands. This helps both brands secure high levels of brand trust, which in turn drives strong brand resonance.
To build a trusted brand, marketing leaders must ensure that brand messages sync with achievable expectations to deliver the brand promise. Many airlines now routinely offer a swift response to customers’ on-the-go travel needs via Twitter; this real-time travel support serves to enhance the brand experience. Delta sees the opportunity; the airline is investing more than $3 billion to enhance the customer experience in the air, on the ground and online.
One word describes the state of US health plan digital strategists at the end of 2013: exhausted! The October 1, 2013 open enrollment milestone for the public exchanges became not an event but an epic saga. Integration failures, wobbly deadlines, and substandard policies that became the walking dead stymied large numbers of potential plan buyers, who either gave up or stood on the sidelines. But through a lot of persistence, 8 million Americans had managed to enroll in the public exchanges by mid-April 2014.
But with the enrollment process behind them, these tired digital strategists can’t rest. It’s time to shift attention from getting customers to keeping them. And not surprisingly, what matters to consumers when it comes to picking health plans is whether their doctors are “in-network”. But other practical aspects of the health insurance experience also matter, like:
Ease of resolving problems. When it comes to handling the nit-natty issues of plan maintenance issues like claims and payments, consumers want easy. That means that health plans have to make it easy for them to view their payment history, get their individual plan bills paid, monitor claims status, and access statements and tax documents online and increasingly through a plan’s mobile site, especially for that critical “young and healthy” segment.
Once upon a time, insurers sat in the power seat when it came to their interactions with policyholders. The insurers understood the magic behind how insurance was sold, how premiums were calculated, and how claims were adjudicated. Those days are gone. In the Age Of The Customer, consumers are changing the rules and who wield the power. Thanks to all things digital, consumers have shifted from being passive sideliners and are willing — and able — to play more active and demanding roles across the insurance business. That means that digital must now be a core underpinning of an insurer’s customer experience philosophy, not an endpoint.
Just what are the factors propelling North American insurer agendas this year? For starters, it’s about:
Booming growth in revenues and profits. 2013 was a very good year for most North American insurers --the best since the financial crisis. Many are sitting on hefty policyholder surpluses and capital.
The fallout from HealthCare.gov. Balancing political winds with project management reality heaped more pressure on already stressed health plans, thanks to shifting deadlines, relaxed employer mandates, and zombie health plans. And as a result, trust across the broad healthcare ecosystem was undermined.
The risk of emerging insurers to meet the needs of digitally empowered consumers. Consumers are getting being trained to expect even more from their digital interactions. New insurers are coming to market offering new digital experiences that simplify, personalize, empower, and reassure customers.
Extreme weather. US and Canadian insurers have shifted to a posture of adaptation, and are looking to arm policyholders with new tools to better protect them from natural hazard risks.