It’s impossible to have great customer experiencewithout digital transformation in the age of the customer. Most of us think first about the front-end experience when challenged with improving digital customer experience. We naturally gravitate toward the direct human interface: web features and functionality, design, native mobile apps vs mobile web and more. This is the glitz of digital customer experience and there is no relaxing here—your competitors and peers continue to raise the bar.
Look at online retailers for example. Companies like Amazon and Etsy scored high on our Customer Experience Index, and both have done so being customer obsessed--not only in their behaviors but in the digital experience they deliver.
But that’s Amazon and Etsy, both digital-only brands you’d expect are creating great digital customer experiences. How about a company you wouldn’t necessarily expect? Take Grainger, a B2B seller of construction and maintenance products, that is driving significant company growth through digital success.In 2014, ecommerce made up 36% of the its revenue and accounted for nearly all of its sales growth.Over the past couple of years, it has invested in the front- and back-end: it launched a new website and mobile app while expanding its products online over 1.2 million and constructing a one-million square foot distribution center in Illinois. Grainger’s revenue and profit growth are the direct result of new, preferable digitally-based customer experiences rooted in operational excellence.
Mandates for better federal customer experience (CX) have been piling up for more than 20 years. The trend began way back in 1993, when Executive Order No. 12862 required federal agencies to create basic CX standards. The strongest and most recent mandate is last year’s “customer service” cross-agency priority goal, which requires federal agencies to provide the public with experiences “comparable to [those] they receive from leading private sector organizations.”
That’s a tall order, especially since federal CX is so bad. Despite these two decades of mandates, federal agencies earned an average rank of “very poor” on Forrester’s CX Index™ — the lowest ranking of all of the industries we rated. Even the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the highest-rated federal agency, was still among the very-lowest-ranked organizations in any industry.
But why does that matter? After all, government agencies usually have no competitors, so there’s no pressure to get and keep customers. The basic market motivation just isn’t there.
My research has revealed a host of reasons why federal agencies must improve their CX, despite not having to worry about market factors. Here are the top four reasons I’ve uncovered:
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 the airline industry, Southwest is no stranger to customer experience accolades. In fact, it consistently earns top marks on Forrester’s Customer Experience Index compared to other carriers – offering enjoyable and easy experiences that meet customers' needs.
It will be a pleasure to hear directly from Southwest’s Managing Director of Customer Strategy and Development, Ryan Green, next month at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum West in Anaheim, CA. To get an early taste for why Southwest is known for its experience, and the strategy behind it, read on.
Q&A with Ryan Green, Managing Director Customer Strategy & Development, Southwest Airlines
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
A: Southwest Airlines has always been focused on the Customer. Our company started with the vision to give people the freedom to fly and our differentiator has always been policies and services that lean towards the Customer. As a result, we now fly more passengers domestically, increased our airports served dramatically and Southwest Airlines’ Customer complaints are the lowest in the industry. As we’ve grown and the industry has become more competitive we’ve definitely continued uncovering what our Customers need and want from Southwest Airlines and we are focused on giving them that experience to keep them coming back time and again.
Q: What aspects of the experience that your company delivers matter most to your customers?
It’s with great pleasure that I announce the agenda for Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in Anaheim, CA, on November 6 & 7. We’re mixing things up this year — new formats for speakers, new hands-on, activity-based workshops in addition to track sessions, and a stellar gallery of guest speakers. And we’ve wrapped all of this up with an overarching theme: “Why Good Is Not Good Enough.”
We picked this theme because our Customer Experience Index (CXi) told us to. Seriously. Check this out: According to the latest CXi, the number of brands scoring in the “very poor” category is down to one out of 175. What’s more, only a handful of brands — 10% — are in the “poor” category. Together, these findings show that as customer experience improvement efforts gained momentum over the past year or so, the number of truly awful experiences declined, dramatically. That’s reassuring. Kudos to all the businesses out there that screw up less!
Now for the sobering news: Only 11% of brands in the CXi made it into the “excellent” category.
What that means of course is that most brands are clustering in the middle of the curve — they’re not awful in the eyes of their customers, but they’re not remarkable either. Translation: A merely good customer experience is no longer good enough if you want to deliver a differentiated experience and reap incremental sales, positive word of mouth, and better customer retention. You’re gonna have to raise your game.
Have you ever wondered if your home broadband is being effectively utilized? What if you could squeeze more out of your data allowance when outside your home? Telstra may have cracked this problem in Australia: It will invest more than A$100 million to build a nationwide Wi-Fi network as part of a strategy to increase connectivity in the places Australians live, work, and visit, including cafes, shops, sports grounds, and transport hubs.
The strategy aims to offer all Australians — whether or not they’re Telstra customers — access to 2 million Wi-Fi hotspots across the nation within five years. Telstra home broadband customers can install new gateways that allow them to securely share a portion of their bandwidth with other Telstra Wi-Fi customers in exchange for broadband access at Telstra hotspots across the nation. Non-Telstra customers can purchase daily hotspot access. The network, scheduled to launch in early 2015, will also reach overseas; an exclusive deal recently concluded between Telstra and global Wi-Fi provider Fon will allow people to connect at more than 12 million hotspots worldwide.
What It Means
Telstra has been at the forefront of improving the telco customer experience; its CEO, David Thodey, has been a major driving force behind that. This has put Telstra’s local competitors on notice and provides valuable lessons in how to raise the customer experience game:
As far as I'm concerned, the best CX presentation by a guest speaker was given this morning by a former CIO, Paul Heller. Paul is now Managing Director of the Retail Investor Group at Vanguard. While his session was energetic and full of humor, it also conveyed his message about the business of delighting clients very clearly. Paul suggests we all need to get in touch with the why, how and who of our business:
Why are customers doing what they do? To answer this question we really need to get to know the reasons for customers doing business with us. Vanguard took the time to ask their customers why they invest and they discovered people want to have more time to do the things they enjoy, they want less stress and to avoid being bored. Trust me, it's way funnier the way Paul describes it.
As we do each year, we compiled a list of brands whose scores went up five or more points in our Customer Experience Index over the past year (in this case, between 2012 and 2013). We asked CX leaders from those brands if they’d be willing to tell us what they did to drive those improvements. Finally, we synthesized their answers into a list of best practices that others can learn from.
As you’d expect, we heard about a host of projects designed to boost the three aspects of customer experience quality. Here’s just a sampling of what we uncovered:
Meets needs. Marriott used one of my favorite qualitative research techniques — diary studies — to understand exactly when its guests would need a mobile device during their travels. The firm identified roughly 300 user needs that a mobile device could fill, prioritized them, and is using the resulting hierarchy as a road map for future investment.
Easy. Vanguard and Progressive were just two of the brands that said they upgraded website designs to make it easier for customers to get the information they need online.
Enjoyable. Days Inns trained more than 20,000 employees on how to make hotel guests feel welcomed.
"Can consumers respond to having an experience with multiple companies?"
In some cases, yes, and in some cases, no. In the bank, credit card provider, insurance, consumer electronics manufacturer, airline, hotel, and rental car categories, they can pick up to two brands they’ve done business with most in the past 90 days. For retailers, they can pick up to four. For the other six industries, they are limited to one.
"What is the threshold to determine if the person is a customer? Interactions one time, over time? A recent experience?"
We don’t strictly require the person to be a customer. The person could be a prospect or a former customer. All we ask is that this person has done business with the company in the past 90 days.
"Why don't you track high tech?"
We do, actually. Two years ago, we added the consumer electronics manufacturer industry, which covers most of the latest high-tech gadgetry. We don’t include software in part because there are just so many types of software and so many brands. It would be hard to narrow them down to something manageable.