Lots of things are critical to delivering a great customer experience (CX). For instance, do you really understand your customers or simply do a great job of segmenting them? Do you actively encourage employees to provide feedback and recommendations on CX issues? And do you consistently get back to them on actions taken as a result of their feedback?
The truth is, you need to excel at all these practices to deliver exceptional customer experience. But even if you do, it may still not be enough. Ultimately, you’ll only excel at CX if you’ve properly aligned your CX strategy with your overall company strategy.
Forrester recently surveyed 52 Australian and New Zealand businesses, and of those surveyed, 98% believe that their companies are committed to improving CX. But only one-third have a CX strategy that’s actually aligned with the overall company strategy. Forrester's clients can access the full report here. That gap, the one between the priorities of the company strategy and the priorities of the CX strategy, is the business equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle; not all ships that enter will find their way out.
Whether you call them consumers, businesses, patients, citizens, or something else entirely, winning, serving, and retaining those customers must be a primary goal. And how can you achieve that goal? Ensure your CX strategy is actually aligned with the organization’s strategy. If you are one of the almost 70% of companies that have not aligned their corporate and CX strategies, you are like that ship trying to navigate the Bermuda Triangle on a very dark night, without a compass or charts.
Last week, I stayed in two different hotels in the greater Atlanta area. One was a Ritz-Carlton, and the other a Marriott.* Hearing those two brand names, you might be tempted to assume that the guest experience at the Ritz was far better than the one at the Marriott. But it wasn’t — at least not for me.
Don’t get me wrong, the Ritz was beautiful. But one aspect of the experience there drove me nuts. Every time that I stepped off the elevator into the lobby I was swarmed by no fewer than three extremely friendly, extremely eager employees. They bombarded me with questions about whether I wanted coffee (which I don’t drink), a donut, help with my luggage, or anything else my heart desired. Now in theory, I love that the staff was so attentive. But they missed a pretty important need of mine — the need for personal space. When I travel for work, I want to be greeted by friendly people. And I want to know that I can easily find an employee if and when I need help. But otherwise, I prefer to be left to my own devices. That’s exactly what I got at the Marriott.
In 2007, I wrote a report about how to measure customer experience (CX) across an entire enterprise. At the time, I could find just three companies — three! — that were actually measuring CX this way. Everyone else I talked to said that their companies had no CX measurement or that they measured CX in a piecemeal way, touchpoint by touchpoint. They desperately wished that executives would see the value of measuring and managing CX at an enterprise level but admitted their leadership just wasn’t thinking that way yet.
Fast-forward to 2014 and things look a lot better in the world of CX. Leading companies in every country and every industry are making CX a strategic priority, investing millions to improve how customers perceive their interactions with the firm. It’s great to see, but I have to admit . . . I’m not willing to declare victory just yet.
My concern is that these improved customer experiences won’t stay good over the next five years. There remains a risk that this flurry of improvement projects will fade into memory, allowing dysfunctional CX practices and processes to revert back to their old ways.
To keep that from happening, companies need to do more than fix broken customer journeys or redesign average ones. They need to increase their level of CX maturity by creating self-sustaining systems (human and technological) in each of the six disciplines that characterize great CX companies — strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture. But are they?
Last week, I released an update to a very popular report titled “The State Of Customer Experience, 2012.” The research is based on a survey of customer experience pros about their plans for this year. The data mirrored what we hear anecdotally when talking with clients every day and should help you answer the perennial question, "What's everyone else doing?" But beyond that, here are my big takeaways:
Everyone is talking about customer experience. Ninety-three percent of respondents said customer experience (CX) is on their company’s list of top strategic priorities. For 28%, it is the top priority. And when we asked CX pros how they plan to build customer-centric culture in 2012, about three-quarters said they expect to run training, education, and internal communication programs.
Since publishing our Customer Experience Index, 2012 last week, we've gotten a flood of questions about the research, methodology, and results. I'm putting the finishing touches on a full Forrester report that answers the ten most common questions but thought I'd give everyone a sneak preview with a blog post summarizing a few of the answers.
1. Who are the people rating the brands in Forrester's Customer Experience Index?
To produce the CXi each year, Forrester conducts an online survey of US individuals ages 18 to 88. This year, there were 7,638 such folks who answered the survey during October 2011. We weighted the data by age, gender, income, broadband adoption, and region to demographically represent the adult US online population. The sample was drawn from members of MarketTools' online panel, and respondents were motivated by receiving points that can be redeemed for a reward.
2. Which touchpoints are consumers rating when they answer the CXi questions?
The short answer to this question is "any touchpoints they used to interact with the brand." We don't direct consumers to think about any specific touchpoints as they rate their interactions. Instead, we want them to consider all of their interactions with that brand over the past 90 days, regardless of how they happened.
Today we published Forrester’s 2012 Customer Experience Index (CXi). It’s our fifth annual benchmark of customer experience quality as judged by the only people whose opinion matters — customers. The CXi is based on research conducted at the end of 2011 and reflects how consumers perceived their experiences with 160 brands across 13 industries to be.
For those new to the index, let me explain how it works. The process has three steps:
We ask more than 7,600 consumers to identify companies they do business with in 13 different industries.
We ask them to tell us how well each firm met their needs, how easy the firm was to work with, and how enjoyable it was to work with. We ask these questions at the brand level to get a sense of their overall experience with the company regardless of channel.
For all three questions, we calculate each firm’s CXi score by subtracting the percentage of its customers who reported a bad experience from the percentage who reported a good experience. The overall CXi is an average of those three results.