Customers today have more choices than ever. Not only that, they have more information about those choices than ever. And they can get that information anytime, anywhere, and on whatever device they happen to be using at the moment. These changes have collectively put customers in the driver’s seat.
If you’re a fan of strategy guru Michael Porter, you can think of this as a shift in one of his five forces of competition: buyer power. But even without a sophisticated analytical framework, you can feel this change in your daily life. That’s because you’re a customer, too, by virtue of the fact that you buy goods and services, day in and day out.
Try comparing the power you used to have as a customer with the power you have today. I recently tried this exercise by comparing the way I picked my bank in 1998 — when I moved to the Boston area for a job — with the options I have for picking a bank today.
In June of ’98, I wanted to switch to a local-area bank but didn’t know where to begin. I dreaded doing the research on top of moving my home and starting a new job. The woman who recruited me suggested that I sign up with Bank Boston because it had the most ATMs in our area. With a sense of relief, I did just that and went on with my life.
Over the intervening years, Bank Boston was acquired by Fleet Bank, which was later acquired by Bank of America. Today that makes me a Bank of America customer, even though I never decided to do business with it. Fortunately, the relationship has worked out okay. But what if it stopped being okay and I wanted to switch? How hard would it be to pick a new bank and switch in 2012?
Where will you be at 5:20 p.m. on Tuesday, June 26th? I know where I’ll be: announcing the winners of Forrester’s annual Voice Of The Customer Awards at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum in NYC!
We’ve read through the incredible submissions, graded them, picked our finalists, and picked our winners. And I’ve been busy for the past few weeks organizing everything for the big announcement on June 26th and the Forum track session panel featuring the three winners that’s happening on Wednesday, June 27th, at 1:20 p.m.
Yes, you heard right. This year I’m not just announcing the winners on Day 1; I’m also moderating a track session where you can hear more about the winning programs. First, the companies’ representatives are going to describe the types of improvements they’ve made and the business results associated with those improvements, and then I’m going to open up the floor to Q&A. This is your chance to ask the burning questions about what makes these programs so successful.
As a prequel to some of what we'll hear from Laurie at our event, we sent her questions about the FedEx customer experience and why she sees it as a competitive advantage. Her answers appear below.
Q: How would you describe the experience that you want FedEx customers to have?
A: Relationships oftentimes start with a simple handshake. For example, when you meet someone for the first time and extend your hand in greeting, you’re offering to build a relationship. In the same way, we want to offer a hand to our customers to establish a personal and meaningful connection. After all, FedEx is more than just delivering packages. We’re an innovative company that thrives on delivering solutions and programs that meet our customers’ needs and expectations.
I had a chance to catch up with David Lessing, COO of wealth management at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, in advance of his keynote next month at the Customer Experience Forum. I spoke with David about what it means to have an outside-in perspective on customer experience at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Here are some of his thoughts.
Q: How would you describe the experience that you want Morgan Stanley Smith Barney customers to have?
A: The most significant driver of a client’s experience with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney is that client’s financial advisor and service team. We are focused on ensuring that our firm offers clients the most talented financial advisors with access to the best tools and investment insights in the industry. Although each client has somewhat different expectations of what they’d like to receive from us, we are committed to both excellent service and deploying our expertise to help drive investment results in line with the client’s goals, something we define as “investment excellence.”
Q: How does Morgan Stanley Smith Barney’s customer experience provide a differentiated experience from direct competitors?
Although the book won't be available to the general public until August 28th, attendees of our Customer Experience Forum at the end of June will get digital copies of the manuscript. They'll also hear keynote speeches from some of the people who appear in the book, like Kevin Peters, the president of Office Depot North America; Laura Evans, chief experience officer at The Washington Post; and Laurie Tucker, senior vice president of corporate marketing at FedEx.
If you'd like to get a preview of some of the concepts in the book, check out the video below — and then stay tuned for more announcements!
It’s that time of year again. We’re already in the midst of planning our annual Customer Experience Forum, and now we’re gearing up to collect and evaluate nominations for our Voice Of The Customer Awards — which we’ll present at the Forum.
If you’re new to the awards, here’s some background: Forrester's annual Voice Of The Customer Awards recognize organizations that excel in collecting, analyzing, and acting on feedback from their customers, incorporating customer insights into everyday decisions. We conduct the awards for three basic reasons: 1) to emphasize the importance of voice of the customer (VoC) programs; 2) to celebrate organizations that are leading the way; and 3) to highlight best practices.
If you (or, if you’re a vendor, your clients) have a strong VoC program, we encourage you to participate. It's free and it offers a great opportunity to earn some solid PR while sharing your wisdom with other customer experience pros. Also, we only reveal the names of the finalists and winners, so the potential downside is limited.
You can find all of the information you need on our VoC Award home page. The 2012 nomination form will become available there on March 5th. In the meantime, you can review this year's timeline, get answers to FAQs, and check out information about past winners.
My colleague Andrew McInnes recently wrote a post about the tunnel vision that results when companies rely solely on analytics for understanding customers. By neglecting qualitative research methods like ethnography and related tools like personas and customer journey maps, firms run the risk of thinking they know what customers want and need but in reality not having a clue. And that’s the root cause of some of the worst customer experience problems — issues that can drag down a business.
Take the case of Kevin Peters, Office Depot’s president, North America. Kevin recently spoke at our Customer Experience Forum where he described the biggest puzzle that confronted him when he got his job. Even as sales declined, store mystery-shopping scores compiled by a third-party research firm were going through the roof. How could this be? How could customers be having a great in-store experience but not actually buying?
As it turned out, the mystery shoppers had been asking the wrong questions. They were accurately reporting that the floors and bathrooms of Office Depot stores were clean and that the shelves were stocked with merchandise. But as Peters put it: “Who cares?” When he personally visited 70 stores incognito, walked the aisles, and talked to customers, he discovered his real problems. For example, the combination of very large stores, weak signage, and employees who weren’t all that helpful made it hard to find products. That resulted in customers who walked in determined to buy and walked out without a purchase.
Over the past few weeks, Paul Hagen, Kerry Bodine, and I have been posting our takes on Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011. We’ve included video of moments we like from 10 out of the 11 main-stage sessions (sadly, we don’t have video of the Voice Of The Customer Awards, but at least we have a list of the winners!).
Late last year, I attended a workshop at a small but quite interesting conference in London. The two guys running the workshop separated the attendees into small groups where each of us took turns describing the worst customer experience we’d had, and then the best customer experience we’d had.
I thought it was a remarkably effective exercise, and I would have liked to try something like it at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011. Of course with roughly 1,200 attendees, we couldn’t do that so instead we did the next best thing. A few weeks before our event we took a camera crew out to Harvard Square and asked some people on the street to tell us about their experiences.
Let me tell you a little bit about Harvard Square. It’s right in the heart of the Harvard University campus, which is right in the heart of Cambridge, Mass. — a town that Amazon.com recently ranked as the country's most well-read city.
The day we were there, it was graduation week. So in addition to the usual students and tourists from around the world, we met parents there for their kids’ graduation and alumni there for reunions.
We heard some fascinating stories, which led us to a few conclusions. For example, it’s very hard to satisfy every customer, every time — even for a customer experience icon like Apple.
Hopefully that first segment scared you just a little because when companies get the customer experience wrong, it makes a big impact.
But of course, there’s good news, too. When companies get the customer experience right, that also makes a big impact.
Although he just turned 10, my son is very serious about his finances. And his entire life savings (such as it is — he only gets $3 per week for his allowance) is at Citizens Bank.
Personally I'm more interested in how my kid gets treated by his bank than I am about his account balance. So I was quite keen to hear from Nick Primola from Citizens Financial Group, one of the speakers at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum, 2011.
Nick is senior vice president of direct marketing at Citizens Financial Group, where he’s responsible for enterprisewide direct marketing efforts supporting all of the bank’s business lines. As a self-confessed "data guy," that could have put us at odds. Was he going to be the driving force behind a spam attack on my kid? But as it turns out, Nick has a very enlightened view of how data gets used.