While much of the glitz and glam around customer experience has orbited around B2C organizations, Forrester believes that the imperative shift toward customer experience and subsequently, customer centricity, is creeping into the B2B space – sooner than we might expect.
Recognizably, there are inherent challenges in distributing through channel partners, not the least of which is a lack of direct contact with end customers and the complexity of trying to manage experiences that cannot ultimately be controlled. All of which pose sizable obstacles to CX professionals in such organizations. My most recent report describes six principles and examples that companies selling via channel partners should consider to better manage their prescribed end user experiences so as to align with the company’s CX strategy.
Here are several of the key collaborative principles that can help B2B companies foster better partner alignment:
· Apply B2C tools to understand your partners. More and more firms are creating B2B personas from stakeholder maps, co-creating customer journey and empathy maps with their channel partners, and implementing voice of the partner (VoP) programs to capture CX sentiment from their intermediaries.
Your customer experience (CX) is the product of the interactions between your employees, partners, and customers within your operating environment. Forrester has labeled this as a customer experience ecosystem. It's important to understand CX ecosystems' two components — the people and the operating environment — for two reasons:
People participate in the ecosystem if they get value from it. Each actor in the CX ecosystem is asking, "What's in it for me?" Employees want things like professional development, recognition, and advancement. Business partners want access to customers, sales support, and strong revenue growth. And the customers expect quality products and services that meet their needs.
The operating environment affects people's definition of value. Every ripple in the operating environment changes what employees, partners, and customers value and how they expect that value to be delivered. The economic downturn, for example, meant that many workers valued stable work over things like personal fulfillment — which is reflected in Gallup's report that just 32% of US workers are engaged. Many software companies transitioning from delivering server-deployed software to cloud services has changed how those vendors' traditional channel partners are compensated, going from large payouts on perpetual licenses to annuities from subscriptions. And disruptive sharing-economy upstarts, like Uber, have reset consumers' expectations of how they find and use services as diverse as car services, hotels, and office rentals.
Companies that were founded on customer obsession — like Southwest Airlines, Vanguard, and USAA — derive significant financial benefits as a result. That’s because a customer-obsessed culture helps customer experience professionals deliver high-quality, on-brand, consistent experiences that drive loyalty. Fortunately, even companies that weren’t founded on customer obsession can transform their cultures and see big returns on their efforts. For example:
Tom Feeney, Safelite Autoglass’s chief executive officer (CEO), launched the company’s customer experience transformation in 2008. Since then, the firm has seen NPS, employee engagement, revenue, and profit metrics improve substantially.
Cleveland Clinic embarked on its patient experience transformation in 2009. Since then, it’s seen significant improvements in patient experience ratings, employee engagement scores, and business and operations metrics like number of patients admitted and average wait time to see a doctor.
Businesses invest considerable sums of money with vendors like Box, Cisco, Google and Microsoft for a collection a technology we call collaboration tools. As an analyst, though, the question that has dogged me in watching this space is "why?" As in "what is the actual value a business gets from investing in collaboration technology?" The vendors' rationale for acquiring collaboration tools has shifted in emphasis over time, going from a conversation on cost savings to one on productivity gains. However, cost savings is an undifferentiated and limited message while "increasing productivity" can feel ephemeral because it is difficult to measure. Yet my inquiry queue remains full of companies trying to figure out how best to deploy these technologies and my briefings calendar is filled with startups and incumbents pitching new offerings in this space. This brings me back to my original question: Why?
The business press has come alive over the past few weeks as companies as diverse as Delta, Facebook, and Tesla have publicly declared that they want to own software development for key applications. What should catch your attention about these announcements is the types of software these firms want to control. Delta is acquiring the software IP and data associated with an application that affects 180 of its customer and flight operations systems. Facebook is building proprietary software to simplify interactions between its sales teams and the advertisers posting ads on the social networking site. And Tesla has developed its own enterprise resource management (ERP) and commerce platform that links the manufacturing history of a vehicle with important sales and customer support systems. Tesla's CIO Jay Vijayan, in describing his organization's system, sums up the sentiment behind many of these business decisions: "It helps the company move really fast."
When Forrester first introduced the customer experience (CX) ecosystem concept three years ago, we found that companies’ attempts to innovate their CX were limited by tunnel vision. They couldn’t see beyond the surface layer of individual touchpoints to understand the intricate web of behind-the-scenes dynamics that really create the customer experience.
To update our research on the CX ecosystem, I’ve spent the past few months conducting dozens of interviews with senior executives from a range of industries. I’ll reveal my complete findings at our Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East next month, but I’d like to start the conversation here by sharing one piece of good news: Companies are starting to get it — at least theoretically. Most companies now understand that interactions deep within their own organizations and outside their borders determine the quality of all customer interactions.
Like it or not, the success of your customer experience initiatives depends on business technology.
That’s because the quality of customer interactions with your brand results from a complex system of interdependent people, processes, policies, and technology that we call the “customer experience ecosystem.” And just like a natural ecosystem, when your CX ecosystem gets out of balance, every part of it suffers — especially your customers.
An increasing number of CIOs, enterprise architects, and application developers get this. That surprises many of the marketers and other business people I talk to on a regular basis. But it shouldn’t: Business technology leaders are ideally placed to see the connective technology tissue needed to create a standout omnichannel customer experience.
To help shed insight into the complex interplay of customer experience and business technology, I recently sat down with Stephen Powers, Forrester vice president and research director serving application development and delivery professionals, to record a podcast. You can hear it in its entirety below (episode 1) or choose topic-sized cuts (episodes 2, 3, and 4).
I’m not the biggest NFL fan in the world, but now that I live in Boston, I follow the Patriots. I think it’s actually a requirement of citizenship.
And I do have a passing interest in some other teams. Who doesn’t love watching anyone named “Manning” throw a football? (Unless it’s against the Pats in the Super Bowl.)
With that as background, may I say that the now-ended lockout of NFL refs set the low watermark in football customer experience? Yeah, customer experience — not just for all those who buy tickets, but for all of us who “pay” for the games with our time by watching ads.
Lest we forget, let’s count some of the ways that the replacement refs ruined our Sunday afternoons and Monday nights:
Stopping the game every other play to try and figure out what really happened. Football is supposed to be a sport, guys, not a meeting of the local debate team.
Making game-changing calls that the replay showed were dead wrong. Hey, if you screw up, 'fess up — then make it right and move on. My sixth-grader knows that, so why doesn’t Roger Goodell?
Clogging the air time on ESPN with self-righteous defenses of their bad calls. (Okay, that didn’t happen on Sunday afternoons or Monday nights, but it was worse because it spread more pain across three weeks when all I wanted was to see the top 10 sports plays from the previous day. Argh!)