For the past two weeks, I’ve been on the other side of the planet, spending a few days each in four very different cities: Sydney, Singapore, Beijing, and Shanghai. While Sydney was much like I remembered it — an exotic version of San Francisco but with better weather — the Singapore skyline had changed drastically and now appears to be a science-fiction version of the seaport I remembered. (If you think I’m kidding, just do a search on “Marina Bay Sands Hotel.”)
In contrast to Sydney and Singapore, I hadn’t been to either Beijing or Shanghai before. I was blown away by how vibrant those cities are and how much prosperity is on display: If the Chinese economy is truly slowing down, you wouldn’t know it from all the luxury cars on the road.
Despite all the diversity I saw on my trip, for me, there was one constant across all four cities: the high level of interest in customer experience.
In Sydney, I gave talks about customer experience to three different groups of 20 to 40 people each. Even though the attendees came from very diverse companies — like insurers, quick-serve restaurants, technology vendors, and giant professional services firms — all three groups asked questions that showed this wasn’t their first CX rodeo.
I also gave a speech to the digital team at a major bank, and as a bonus, I got to see the company’s chief experience officer give a talk. Frankly, there are a lot of US and European banks that could learn from that large, enthusiastic, clued-in group.
My time in Singapore started out with a customer experience ecosystem mapping workshop for around 35 people. This was also a diverse group, with varying levels of customer experience expertise, even among attendees from the same company. They all picked up on the concepts, though, and generated an impressive amount of insight.
My colleague John Dalton and I recently published a report outlining our major predictions for customer experience in the coming year. What we envision is perhaps best summed up by the old William Gibson quote: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”
Here’s why: As I wrote in a recent post, roughly half of the attendees at Forrester’s three customer experience forums in 2013 said that their organizations are in the first phase of the path to CX maturity (repair). Their priority is — and for the immediate future will remain — finding and fixing broken experiences.
A much smaller group of companies — no more than 10% — say that their organizations are in the ultimate phase of CX maturity (differentiate). In contrast with companies in the repair phase, they'll build on their past success with well-funded efforts that leverage their skills in strategy, customer understanding, and design.
With that as background, we predict that two major themes will deserve the most attention in the coming year.
Companies in the repair phase will fight to advance along the path to customer experience maturity. Companies just starting to fix their broken experiences will find themselves in a struggle that's hard, slow, and increasingly costly. They'll focus on getting key infrastructure in place to assess what's broken, manage a portfolio of repair projects, and measure the results they need to build enterprisewide support for CX.
Roughly half of companies on the path to customer experience maturity say that they’re in the repair phase today — and that’s probably a conservative estimate. But there are companies at more advanced stages of CX maturity, including a few in the most advanced phase, differentiate. That’s where firms reframe business challenges in the context of unmet customer needs, connect innovation ideas to their customer experience ecosystem, and infuse innovations with the brand.
We had two speakers at our event who represented companies in the differentiate phase: Dean Marshall, director of Lego brand retail store operations Europe, and Declan Collier, CEO, London City Airport. What is it that their organizations do that’s so different?
Lego stores goes beyond even the typical design best practices used by companies in less advanced (but still pretty advanced!) phases of CX maturity, practices like ethnographic research and co-creation. How? By combining the two.
What is “customer experience maturity”? We define it as the extent to which an organization routinely performs the practices required to design, implement, and manage customer experience in a disciplined way. In other words, does the organization apply the same level of business discipline to customer experience as it does to well-established business practices like marketing, logistics, and accounting?
In our study of how companies become mature at the practices in the customer experience discipline, we’ve discovered that successful firms all follow the same path, which passes through four phases:
Repair. Companies find broken experiences, fix them, and measure the results.
Elevate. Firms start to adopt practices that lead them to deliver sound experiences in the first place.
Optimize. Companies become systematic at customer experience practices.
Differentiate. Firms reframe business challenges in the context of unmet customer needs, connect innovation ideas to their customer experience ecosystem, and infuse innovations with the brand.
Design is, without a doubt, the sexiest of the six customer experience (CX) disciplines. So when we talk about CX design at Forrester, our favorite example comes from a really sexy industry: water utilities.
That’s right — water utilities. And one in particular: Southern Water, located in the southeast of the UK.
We like the Southern Water example because it shows that CX design is not about what shade of blue your logo should be, and it’s not just for people who wear black turtlenecks. No, CX design is about a repeatable problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of customers, employees, and other business stakeholders.
And that’s why we invited Darren Bentham, chief customer officer at Southern Water, to speak at our SOLD OUT Forum For Customer Experience Professionals EMEA in London on November 19th and 20th. Darren has taken on one of the biggest, toughest CX challenges we know of: installing thousands of water meters for customers who have never had them before, didn’t ask for them, and in many cases don’t want them. And yet, by applying CX design principles, he’s making this a positive experience for all parties involved.
In the run-up to the event, Darren took the time to respond to a series of questions about what he’s been doing to improve customer experience and what advice he’d give to others in his shoes. His answers appear below.
I hope you enjoy his insights, and I look forward to seeing many of you in London on November 19th and 20th!
Q. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
I can’t tell you how excited I am about how the London event is shaping up.
On second thought, I can tell you. Read on!
This year’s theme is “Boost Your Customer Experience To The Next Level.” What’s that about? Well, we know from our research that companies are at wildly varying levels of customer experience maturity, ranging from not having gotten started yet to pulling even further ahead of competitors through CX differentiation. That’s why we’ve tailored this event to show attendees the one sure path to CX maturity and provide detailed guidance on how to advance along that path.
For one thing, if you’ve ever been to London City Airport, it’s an experience that’s far superior to what you’ll get at bigger and better-known airports that I won’t name.* So even though I like to think that I know a bit about customer experience, Declan clearly has something special going on.
For another thing, Declan is charming. Taken together, that combination of content and presentation is, well, intimidating for your humble forum host.
In the run-up to the event, Declan took the time to write some great detailed answers to our questions about what he’s been doing, how his efforts have evolved, and what advice he’d give to others on the journey to customer experience maturity.
I hope you enjoy his answers, and I look forward to seeing many of you in London on November 19th and 20th!
Q. When did London City Airport first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
A. London City Airport (LCY) has been focused on customer experience since its doors opened in 1987 — it’s a niche player, serving the travel needs of the business communities of Canary Wharf and the City and the political establishment of Westminster, and our passengers expect a consistent, best-in-class experience.
Ever since Forrester began conducting its Customer Experience Index study, retailers have topped all other industries. They not only have the highest average scores (as rated by their own customers), they comprise the majority of the companies in the “excellent” category. In fact, the only other industry that comes close to retailers is hotels.
That’s one reason why we’re delighted to have Jo Moran, head of customer service for iconic retailer Marks and Spencer, speak at our Customer Experience Forum EMEA in London on November 19th and 20th.
The other reason is that Jo has been on a journey to boost Marks and Spencer to a higher level of customer experience maturity — which is exactly what our forum is about.
In the run-up to the event, Jo graciously agreed to answer our questions about what she’s done so far and what she’d do differently if she had it to do over again. Her answers appear below.
I hope you enjoy her responses as much as I did, and I look forward to seeing many of you in London on November 19th and 20th!
Q. When Marks and Spencer (M&S) first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
How’s this for a challenge? Imagine you’re the president of one of the largest economy hotel chains in America. Your goal: deliver a consistent, high-quality on-brand customer experience across all of your properties.
Now add in that the brand is more than 40 years old, you have 15 major direct competitors, and the behavior of your customer base is changing rapidly. And oh, yeah, you have to work through franchisees.
If you can imagine all that, then you might have a rough idea of what it’s like to be Clyde Guinn. I love talking to Clyde because he’s both grounded in the traditional hotel business and on top of how that business is rapidly changing. In the run-up to Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals West in Los Angeles on October 9th and 10th, Clyde was kind enough to answer some questions that we posed to him.
I hope you enjoy his responses as much as I do, and I look forward to seeing many of you in Los Angeles!
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
A: As a hospitality company, customer service is something that we, as well as our industry in general, have always focused on to some degree. It’s a vital part of ensuring success. I think what’s changed, or perhaps evolved, is how we measure the customer experience.
Interest in customer experience at pharmaceutical companies has shot up in the past few years. This came home to me more than a year ago at our 2012 Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East, where every meeting I took was with one or more decision-makers at pharma companies.
But there’s another reason why I’m looking forward to Tony’s speech. In talking to him during the run-up to our event, I’ve gotten a good look at what he’s doing and why it matters to so many people. Because let’s face it: The prescription drugs we take go right to the most important experience in most of our lives — our health.
Why does customer experience matter to a life-sciences company like Lilly, and what is it doing to make it better? We recently put some of these questions to Tony, and you can read his answers below. I hope you enjoy them and that I get to see you in Los Angeles where we can all hear Tony in person.
Q. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
A. Lilly’s focus on customer experience actually can be traced back to the company’s beginning in 1876 when Colonel Eli Lilly went against the trend of the time and focused on developing products of the highest quality to provide the best experience for his customers.