Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, Spring 2015: The Start of A Whole New Ball Game

Megan Burns

One week ago today, we Bostonians enjoyed a picture-perfect opening day at Fenway Park. The sun was shining, temps finally warmed up after an abysmal winter, opening ceremonies paid tribute to local heroes like the Richard and Frates families,* and our beloved Red Sox beat the Washington Nationals 9 to 4.

What I love about opening day at Fenway is the optimism, the sense that anything is possible. A new season means a clean slate; the less-than-stellar 2014 baseball season is all but a distant memory.

It is now, as they say, a whole new ball game.

We’re starting a new CX season, too, with the first release of Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) benchmark for 2015. It’s the first time we’ve benchmarked brands using the next-generation CX Index methodology that we announced in June 2014. (The Sox lost to Seattle that day 8 to 2, but at least one good thing happened!)  

The biggest change in our new approach is the way we judge CX excellence. To hit a home run, the 299 brands we studied had to do more than make customers happy. They had to design and deliver a CX that actually helps the business by creating and sustaining customer loyalty.  

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B2B Marketers: Borrow From B2C Loyalty Tactics To Deepen Business Relationships

Emily Collins

After almost every loyalty-related speech I give, I get some variation of the following question: "How does this apply to B2B?" Sure, customer loyalty programs are most frequently associated with consumer-facing rewards schemes, but earning customer loyalty is very important for B2B companies too. After all, loyal and satisfied B2B customers provide testimonials, case studies, and referrals that result in a fuller and more qualified pipeline of new business. It can be easy for B2B marketers to dismiss consumer loyalty models as inapplicable to their complex business relationships, but there's a lot more to consumer loyalty than points and discounts.

In my latest report, "B2B Loyalty, The B2C Way," I explore how B2B companies can use consumer loyalty principles to deepen their business relationships. Looking past rewards, they specifically stand to benefit from three core tenets of loyalty embraced by successful B2C loyalty marketers:

  1. A deep understanding of customer needs and motivations. B2B companies are not immune to the age of the customer, and in order to increase their customer obsession, they must continue to grow their knowledge about the customer. Building this knowledge-base from sources like satisfaction surveys, digital interactions, and customer success management systems is especially important given the complexity of B2B purchase decisions. 
  2. Consistent customer interactions across organizational silos. Business customers interact with many parts of the organization including marketing, sales, service, and support. Reaching across the aisle to teams that interface most frequently with customers, resellers, and end users leads to more productive customer outcomes.
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Are you a loyalty company?

Emily Collins

A version of this post originally appeared on AdAge.

It's harder than ever to earn your customers' loyalty. They are "always on," have instant access to myriad choices, and can easily find the cheapest prices from any supplier. Many companies think they've solved this with a loyalty program, but the competition is stiff there, too. On average, consumers belong to eight loyalty programs -- the majority of which are ruled by points, discounts and financial rewards. And let's face it: These transactional benefits are more about increasing frequency and spend than influencing emotional loyalty and devotion to a company.

The bad news? Traditional approaches to loyalty don't cut it anymore.

The good news? I'm not going to tell you to scrap your loyalty program. But, in my new report on customer loyalty, I am going to tell you to reframe how you think about your program. It should be treated as one of several tools -- alongside customer experience, brand and customer service -- that helps foster customer loyalty wherever customers interact.

Be A Loyalty Company, Not Just A Company With A Loyalty Program

Truly great loyalty strategies create a meaningful exchange of value between the company and the customer. This exchange encourages customers to share all kinds of profile, preference and behavioral data. And the insights derived from that customer knowledge have broad applications for all customer-facing strategies, and should radiate out across the enterprise to do the following:

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The Race From Good To Great CX Hits The Gas Pedal In 2015

Michael Gazala
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:
 
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Turn your customer loyalty strategic plan into an action plan

Emily Collins

Blogged in collaboration with Samantha Ngo, Senior Research Associate, serving Customer Insights professionals.

Even if you have a clear idea of where you want to end up, the route you take to customer loyalty isn't always straightforward. Outlining a strategic plan helps you understand what you need to do, but a roadmap identifies howwhen and with what resources you should tackle each step. Forrester believes there are six components to designing an effective loyalty roadmap:

  1. Time frame: The expected completion of tasks and delivery of results.
  2. Desired outcomes: Key performance indicators (KPIs)that help you benchmark the performance of your advancing strategy based on your maturity.
  3. Strategic themes: A summary of the objectives an organization needs to advance its strategy.
  4. Key steps: The specific tasks — pulled straight from the strategic plan — which an organization must complete to graduate to the next maturity level.
  5. Dependencies: The people, process, and technology required to execute the key steps. Changes to the current approach may require acquiring new team members, implementing formal processes, or buying loyalty technology.
  6. Investment level: Where and when the allocated loyalty budget will be spent.
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It's time to fall back on the loyalty basics

Emily Collins

Blogged in collaboration with Samantha Ngo, Senior Research Associate, serving Customer Insights professionals.

As a kid, I loved going back to school. The beginning of September always meant new classes, new classmates, and of course new notebooks, pens, and pencils. And even though I’m not in school anymore, I still see September as an opportunity to turn over a new leaf, and approach things — both personally and professionally — with a fresh perspective. So, in honor of the first few weeks of Fall, let’s all take some time to study the loyalty basics. Process, while not the most exciting aspect of loyalty marketing, is necessary for building a sound foundation. Without processes, your ability to execute on your loyalty strategy is shaky at best and sudden changes to the market or unforeseen obstacles may leave you in disarray.

To avoid loyalty strategy failure, you must streamline processes around these three objectives:

  1. Building a deep understanding of customer needs and motivations. Loyalty starts with knowing your best customers and asking for their input. But, if gathering data from your customers, make sure you use it. They will expect it.
  2. Preparing for relentless adjustment. Digital business is booming, and loyalty can’t miss out on opportunities to innovate. Test and learn new customer engagement tactics on a small scale. Don’t be complacent with your strategy, but don’t over spend on improvements that won’t last.
  3. Establishing enterprise wide alignment. Do you know who your key internal stakeholders are? Identify them then build teams and processes to help create seamless customer experience.
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You just found out you’re a loyalty laggard. Now what?

Emily Collins

Blogged in collaboration with Samantha Ngo, Senior Research Associate, serving Customer Insights professionals.

After taking the customer loyalty assessment, you know whether you’re a laggard, learner, leader, or legend:

Great, but you’re probably thinking "Where do we go from here?" You need a game plan that clearly identifies where and how improvements should be made. To do so, take the gaps in your current approach and prioritize your tasks based on whether each one is a:

  • Need to have. These are non-negotiable tasks that will make or break your graduation to the next maturity level.
  • Want to have. These are important, but not critical tasks for taking your maturity to the next level.
  • Nice to have. These tasks come in handy for differentiating your loyalty approach, but have little bearing on your maturity level.

Priorities will differ for each stage of loyalty maturity and I lay out examples of these needs, wants, and nice to haves in my recent report, Craft A Customer Loyalty Strategy That Raises Your Maturity. Do you have a plan?

Taking Loyalty Beyond The Program

Emily Collins

I really enjoyed sharing insights about loyalty in the Age of the Customer at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum East back in June. I got some great questions from the audience about how to start planning and advancing their loyalty strategy. Next up, I'll be continuing the conversations at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum West in Anaheim, CA, November 6-7. And, a few weeks later I'll also be at our EMEA Customer Experience Forum, November 17-18 in London. Here's a sneak peek of the content I'll be sharing at my track session. I hope to see you there!

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Video Recap: Day Two Of Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum East 2014

Harley Manning

Last week I blogged a video recap of day one of Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum East, 2014. I had originally planned that post to cover both days of the forum, which has grown to become Forrester’s largest event in our 30+ year history. But at some point I realized that there was just too much material to cram into a single post.

Which led, inevitably, to this post with my video recap of day two.

If you were also at CX East, here’s a reminder of what happened on that second day. And if you weren’t there, here’s a preview of the types of things you’ll see at our Customer Experience West in Anaheim on 11/6 – 11/7 and our Customer Experience Forum EMEA in London on 11/17 – 11/18.

Rick Parrish, Senior Analyst, Forrester

Rick Parrish kicked off the morning with a major update to our research on the customer experience ecosystem, which we define as: The web of relations among all aspects of a company — including its customers, employees, partners, and operating environment — that determine the quality of the customer experience.

That web of relationships often leads to unintended consequences for both frontline employees and customers. Why? Because back office players take well-intentioned but misguided actions – like what happened with the US federal government in this example from Rick. 

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The Landscape Of Loyalty Providers: Everything But The Kitchen Sink?

Emily Collins

I field a lot of inquires from clients in various stages of loyalty vendor selection projects. Some come with a tightly defined short list, but more often than not, they aren't even sure where to start. Customer loyalty initiatives take several forms including highly structured programs and loosely tied customer service, marketing, and product development tactics spread throughout the organization. As such, vendors of all types -- from loyalty-specific service providers and platforms to customer engagement agencies and analytics service providers -- bring loyalty strategy, management, and marketing chops to the table: 

Loyalty provider categories

With so many different providers knocking on their door, it's no surprise that marketers feel overwhelmed by the selection process. My most recent report cuts through the clutter by organizing loyalty providers into categories based on their core offerings and delivery models. But, before you start dropping vendor names into a shortlist, you first must answer these three questions:

  • How does your company approach loyalty? Take stock of your existing retention tactics and how customers currently interact with your products, services, and brand. Outlining your organization’s approach will help you select new partners but also potentially enrich relationships with existing partners.
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