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.
Improving the U.S. federal customer experience (CX) is crucial to our nation’s long-term security. I’m not exaggerating. Improving federal CX is about far more than just boosting an agency’s ranking on the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) or raising a Net Promoter Score. It’s even about more than influencing the success or failure of major policies – and we all saw how the initial breakdown of healthcare.gov hurt the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
Poor federal CX actually weakens the underpinnings of our political system by making people less proud and optimistic about the country itself. Forrester has the data to prove it. The pilot run of our enhanced CX Index shows that the worse a citizen’s experience as the customer of a federal agency, the less likely that person is to say he is proud of the country and optimistic about its future. Not a particular agency, official, or administration – the country itself.
2014 wasn’t a good year to be average. Since 2007, the average customer experience in the industries that Forrester tracks has gone up across the board, and the number of truly awful experiences has dropped like a rock. So if your CX is average, it’s just not good enough to win, serve and retain customers. And it won’t get any easier next year: With companies investing more than ever to differentiate their customer experience, your average offering will soon be considered poor.
In 2015, the race from good to great CX will hit the gas pedal. Smart CX teams will increasingly use customer data from diverse sources like social listening platforms, campaign management platforms, mobile apps and loyalty programs – to personalize and tailor experiences in real time so that they inherently adapt to the needs, wants, and behaviors of individual customers. And as companies strive to break from the pack and gain a competitive edge through the quality of the CX they provide, we’ll see the battleground shift to new areas like emotional experiences and extended CX ecosystems, and into laggard industries like health insurance and TV service providers, and even the Federal government.
As we do every year, we’ve just published our Predictions report for CX. I want to share a couple of those predictions with you:
In 2014 digital business hit the boardroom and the C-suite offices: At the beginning of 2014, 93% of executives told us that they believed that their industries would experience digital disruption in 2014. But our surveys and interviews also tell us that many executives don’t believe that their firm has the ability to execute on that plan, and many don’t have confidence in the plan itself.
Here’s an objection I sometimes hear when I talk to people about how improving customer experience can boost business performance: “Sure, it sounds great for glam industries like automotive or fashion. But I sell widgets.”
Okay, it’s fair to say that the business value of CX is more obvious for industries that advertise in magazines with slick, glossy paper. But the reality is that focusing on CX can also do a lot for less sexy industries.
That’s why we invited Olivier Mourrieras of E.On to speak at Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals EMEA in London on November 17 and 18, 2014. E.On is one of the world's largest investor-owned electric utility service providers. And even though utilities don’t exactly captivate their customers, E.On has made huge, measured advances in the customer experience it provides, resulting in corresponding improvements to business results.
Olivier recently responded to our questions about what E.On has been doing and how it’s evolved. He gave us such amazingly detailed insight that I’ve broken his answers into two parts, with Part 1 appearing below.
I hope you enjoy what he has to say and I look forward to seeing some of you in London!
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
Prior to 2009, customer focus had not been a crucial part of E.ON’s strategy. Customer satisfaction scores were often lower than market average scores across the group resulting in high customer churn.
When I was in high school – and admittedly that was quite a while ago — my neighbor quit his job as an insurance salesman to go into the car phone business. My mother couldn’t understand why someone would give up a good, stable job to sell something that she couldn’t imagine anyone ever using. Who would use a car phone? Why would anyone talk on the phone in a car?
Fast forward a few years… (OK, a few more than a few)… and most of us can’t imagine not having our phone with us. We use our phone everywhere… And, yes, according to Forrester’s 2013 Consumer Technographics survey, 68% of US online adults use their phone in the car, and 48% even use their phone from the bathroom. Who’s guilty?! As for my mother, she has still never used an ATM card at a bank and still writes checks for cash at the grocery store, but she DOES have a cell phone and just might have used it in the car once or twice.
It's easy to get swept up in the power of the digital age, where smart mobile devices and cloud services open the door for new and exciting ways to engage customers. We think a lot about how these technologies will create enticing customer experiences (CX), making these digital touchpoints the face of the brand. I admit, as a technology fan, I'm enamored with this idea. But I'm also someone who thinks a lot about technology and the workforce, so I was equally animated by a conversation I recently had with the head of a CX consultancy. He warned that businesses risk over rotating on technology, viewing their people as receding in importance in delivering satisfactory customer experiences. He went on to say that businesses that make this make do so at their own peril. I agree.