Industry analysts travel—a lot. It is, therefore, no surprise that I care deeply about airlines’ frequent flyer programs and track the changes to those programs as closely as baseball obsessives track star players’ slugging percentages. When I want information on what these changes mean practically in my situation (Will the new loyalty program make it harder for a 75k+ elite member looking to book a companion ticket’s upgrade on an alliance partner airline, for example), I typically do not turn directly to the airline. Instead, I log on to Flyertalk, a forum that bills itself as “the largest expert travel community.” The forum—populated by thousands of frequent fliers far more obsessive than I will ever be—consistently houses discussions of exactly the thing I want to know.
The lion’s share of people answering questions on Flyertalk and other forums like it—Cruisecritic for the cruising fans, TripAdvisor for travel and hospitality broadly, AutomotiveForums for car enthusiasts, etc.—are other consumers, albeit well-informed ones. But these non-brand controlled communities provide opportunities to brands to differentiate themselves through service. Because affinity communities have barriers to entry, including registrations and jargon, community members are usually deeply interested in the topic at hand. In communities that regularly discuss brands, these customers are also more likely to be exactly the type of high-value customers that companies want to provide with great customer experiences. But brands need to decide when and how to engage customers in these forums they do not control.
Earlier this week, TCS launched its CrewCollab Solution at the Singapore Aviation Festival. The sector has attracted a lot of investments from service providers lately with companies like NIIT Technologies, Pactera, Hexaware and others strengthening their portfolio of software assets for airlines. The TCS CrewCollab mobile solution – co-developed in partnership with Singapore Airlines – fills an important gap in the digital transformation strategy of airlines globally. Why is that?
The in-flight experience remains disjointed from the rest of the customer journey. Airlines like Delta, United and Emirates have already invested in developing successful digital customer experience initiatives covering the pre- and post-flight phases of the customer journey. However, airlines typically struggle understanding and serving their customers as they board the flight, customer data being seldom available to the cabin crew.
“With the gift of listening comes the gift of healing.”
-Catherine de Hueck Doherty
We’ve all heard the canned notifications when we call companies for customer service: “this call may be recorded for security or quality purposes.” Most customer service organizations today record their phone interactions with their customers. Often those recordings just sit untouched on the digital equivalent of a dusty shelf in a storage closet. The recordings are there to ensure regulatory compliance or, in rare cases, to be pulled off the shelf in case of a major dispute with a customer. In essence, the part of the notification about security rings true; the quality part, not so much.
But, as part of continuous improvement programs, companies have begun to change that by actually analyzing the recordings for quality purposes. That process of quality monitoring allows firms to select recordings for review and assessment. In forward-thinking organizations, the tools enable managers to replay agent screen actions, allowing evaluations to include screen activity in addition to voice content. Managers use these reviews to pinpoint which agents perform well, which need further training, and to identify processes that need to be refined.
Companies doing this basic form of quality monitoring, however, find they cannot change the outcome of those calls — the interactions are long since over. This is where the emerging field of real-time speech analytics comes into play. Vendors of real-time speech analytics tools promise to allow companies to intervene at the moment of truth, while the customer and the contact center agent are still talking.
The perennial call for public sector reform has not slackened. The pain of austerity measures and the pressures for increased efficiency heighten that call. And, the hype around “smart cities” amps up the pressure for municipal leaders faced with decisions about which problems to attack first, and which tools are most appropriate. But most organizations are not starting from a clean slate. That’s exactly the issue. In most cases we’re talking about reform, about doing things differently, not starting from scratch.
When we asked government leaders what their top priorities are, improving the customer experience comes in on top: 68% report the customer experience is either a high or critical priority. But reducing costs is right up there with it. That’s the age-old do-more-with-less mantra. And, from a technology perspective their top priority is to upgrade or replace legacy systems, which might not sound like the wiz bang “smart” technology we’ve been hearing so much about. But it’s likely the smartest thing these governments can do; and when they do, they should do it together.
CRM is the foundational building block that allows empowered consumers and connected employees to do business in ways we could not imagine just a few years ago. Historically, CRM strategies have focused around operational efficiency gains like reduced marketing costs, increased revenues from salespeople, shorter sales cycles, or better customer service productivity. Its no wonder that CRM is widely deployed in all companies – both big and small.
I first noticed the creeping changes a few years ago. In college I majored in comparative literature and averaged about five novels read per week. Even when I entered the hustle and bustle overdrive of the working world, I still rapidly pounded through stacks of books every month. Over the past few years, while I still read more than the average American, the act of actually finishing a book became something of a notable achievement. My brain was more easily distracted, my ability to focus on and engage with complex information diminished, and my capacity to multitask as required by a modern work environment was seemingly illusory.
Of course, I wasn’t alone in experiencing these changes. This distracted mental state has become a common problem among knowledge workers and heavy users of Internet and mobile technologies. Excellent books such as Distracted: The Erosion of Attention and the Coming Dark Age and The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains detailed the changes we are all undergoing and described much of the neuropsychological research that seeks to explain the mental modifications that have left us in such a state. At heart, the research shows that our tools have begun to shape our brains just as much as we fashion our tools--and not always for the better.
Such mental modifications would seem to pose some significant and idiosyncratic problems for customer service organizations. Indeed, a new generation of contact center agents has begun to vex application development and delivery professionals. The new agents seem reluctant to learn detailed product and service information that previous cohorts of agents had little problem with. These new agents prefer to learn where to find such information, but have little intention of actually memorizing product support details.
I had the pleasure of presenting to Singapore’s DBS Bank yesterday on customer experience and listening to CEO Piyush Gupta’s thoughts on the bank’s journey since he joined in 2009. He spoke about his conclusion upon joining five years ago that a critical challenge to be addressed was an inside-out perspective by the bank’s employees. Since then, he’s driven the bank through a successful transformation project Forrester wrote about in an August case study. Looking forward, he sees the bank working toward “joyful” banking and is seeking ways to embed more emotional connections into their customer experiences.
Listening to Piyush speak reminded me of my interactions with another regional CEO this year who has driven a successful company transformation: Telstra’s David Thodey. David also joined in 2009 and has driven Telstra’s success through a focus on the customer. He has given his customer focus organizational teeth by linking it to Net Promoter Scores (NPS) that determine part of the compensation system at Telstra. The importance of measurement is the key reason we recommend our clients leverage Forrester’s CX Index.
In our new report, Want To Improve Your Customer Experience? Turn To The Cloud, we examine how cloud services can help customer experience professionals drive flexibility and responsiveness into their customer experience ecosystems. At the heart of this report is our read of cloud services' fundamental value:
In 2014, Forrester outlined a new approach to marketing that requires brands to harness customer context to deliver self-perpetuating cycles of real-time, two-way, insight-driven interactions. In 2015, we’ll see more marketers obsess over customers’ context. As more interaction data floods customer databases and marketing automation systems, customer-obsessed marketing leaders will strive to orchestrate brand experiences that drive unprecedented levels of engagement. For example, we predict that:
Digital marketing investments will drive brand experiences across the customer life cycle. By the end of 2015, spend on digital marketing will top $67 billion — growing to 27% of all ad spend. In fact, we believe this will surpass TV spend by 2016; there’s more to the story than ad spend. We believe marketers will branch out of expected digital media buys to stimulate more insight-driven interactions with customers throughout the entire customer life cycle. Supported by new streams of situational customer data and powered by the ability to precisely target audiences with programmatic media buying, marketers will deliver highly engaging brand experiences rather than just feed the top of the funnel.
In 2014, the top priorities for business process management (BPM) initiatives focused on extending mission critical business processes to support the mobile workforce and redesigning business processes to deliver exceptional customer experiences. During 2014, Forrester also noticed a growing appetite to move business critical processes into the cloud using BPM platform-as-a-service solutions. And, although customer sentiment for BPM was mixed to negative in 2014, software vendors reported respectable double-digit revenue growth for BPM solutions. Sounds like it’s time to pop the bubbly and celebrate, right?
Not quite yet. In 2015, BPM will fight to expand its relevance in the front office and will need to shed serious weight to better align with age of the customer imperatives that prioritize speed-to-market over analysis and complexity – traditional hallmarks of the BPM discipline and software solutions. Together, with my colleague Craig Le Clair, we expect 2015 to be a tipping point for the BPM market. In 2015, customer-obsession – the relentless focus on winning, retaining, and serving customers – will disrupt and reshape the entire ecosystem for BPM: