CXDC 2016 Q&A with The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)

Rick Parrish

CXDC 2016 is just around the corner, and we have an incredible agenda featuring 25+ Federal CX leaders and top Forrester analysts. 

I asked two of our speakers from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) – Sarah Brooks, Director, Insight & Design and Julia Kim, Chief of Staff, Veterans Experience – to chat about some of the ways VA is improving the customer experience (CX) for veterans.

Rick: The CX team at VA has been very busy! What two or three CX improvements over the past year are you most proud of? Why?

Sarah and Julia: It has been busy! Especially when we are trying to build the office while also doing the work. We are proud of many things (more than we can put into a blog post!), but here are a few things we’ll highlight:

  • Reframing the Disability Compensation and Pension application process from Veterans’ points of view. There were only five people in our office, and Secretary Bob asked us to look into this thing that he was getting a lot of calls and emails about. What we found is that VA is not managing our Veteran-facing touchpoints during this process – in fact, we have very few front stage touchpoints at all. We have done a lot of work to optimize the back stage (see figure 1). We were not thinking about how to help Veterans understand what was happening and why it was happening. This was our first exposure to what has become a recurring theme at VA.
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Thoughts on Customer Experience Strategy: Should All CX Be Awesome?

Amit Bhatia

So I visit this coffee shop close to office pretty often. The other day I was waiting in line and I paused to ask myself – why do I keep coming here? I mean, everything about the exercise including the taste is pretty unremarkable. I order, I’m served, I leave. So then why do I repeatedly give them my business?

You guessed it. I go there day after day, month after month because it is – wait for it… convenient. And predictable. Certainly not because it’s “awesome”. I’m not looking for a fake smile or a scripted line. It’s a really tiny part of my day. My expectations are minimal, they are met, and I’m satisfied. That’s it.

Globally, companies swoon over the superior experience delivered by the likes of Amazon and Apple; paeans have been written about Zappos’ legendary customer service. Last time I looked, a Zappos service associate apparently spent over 10 hours on a service call! Good for them!

Should you follow suit? May be not.

Of course CX is critical. In fact, in the Age of the Customer, we propose it’s the only way forward.

However, people don’t need “awesome” all the time. In my recently published Forrester report Should All Customer Experiences Be Awesome? I dissect this very issue.

At Forrester, we talk to many companies as well as customers the world over. In our experience we observe two things:

  • Customers and companies compare experiences across industries.  And, as a result,
  • CX laggards often want to emulate leaders. For instance, Citi, acting on Apple-fever went ahead and built an Apple Store-inspired “bank of the future” using the same architects.
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The US Customer Experience Index For 2016, Part 3: Emotion Holds The Key To CX-Fueled Loyalty

Roxana Strohmenger

Over the past two weeks, my colleagues Harley Manning and Rick Parrish have discussed the rising tide of CX quality, stagnation among top brands, and CX-fueled digital disruption in the results of our US 2016 Customer Experience Index™.

In this post, I’ll explore another big finding from our research: The way an experience makes customers feel has a bigger influence on their loyalty to a brand than the effectiveness or ease of the experience.

CX professionals often think that getting emotion right is simple: Make your customers happy, not angry. However, we find that anger and happiness do not have a very strong influence on customer loyalty. What does?

  • Making customers feel valued, appreciated, and confident drives loyalty. Consider the hotel industry, which had the largest percentage of customers that reported feeling “valued.” We found that 88% of these “valued” individuals will advocate for the hotel brand, and over three-quarters of them will keep their existing business with the company as well as enrich their relationship.
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Federal CX Professionals: Your Time Is Now

Rick Parrish

This post is part of a series dedicated to the challenges, opportunities, and realities of federal customer experience. Interested in learning more? Check out our recent webinar to learn why CX success is vital for government success.

In my last post, I explained how forces arrayed against federal customer experience (CX) improvement hinder Washington’s efforts. Luckily, there’s a way out of this quagmire. To overcome anti-CX forces and achieve all the advantages of better federal CX, customer experience professionals should:

  • Form an unstoppable coalition. Don’t try to fight alone. Instead, join forces with like-minded feds to share information, challenges, and solutions. Start by leveraging the large network of the General Services Administration’s CX Community of Practice, which has over 500 members from more than 70 federal, state, and local government organizations. Then tap into the bureaucratic muscle of the senior program managers, OMB staff, and other officials on OMB’s new Core Federal Services Council, the “government-wide governance vehicle to improve the public’s experience with federal services.”
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Yes, Federal CX Professionals, They Are Out To Get You

Rick Parrish

This post is part of a series dedicated to the challenges, opportunities, and realities of federal customer experience. Interested in learning more? Register for our complimentary government CX webinar next week, and be sure to join me as I host Forrester's first-ever CXDC Forum on Sept. 12th in Washington, DC.

It's been 23 years since the White House first told federal agencies to improve the experiences they provide to customers. Yet three presidents, two executive orders, and a bevy of memos and committees later, federal customer experience (CX) is still in crisis. In fact, federal agencies have:

  • The lowest average score on Forrester's CX Index. The federal average of "poor" was worse than all 17 private sector industries we rated and far below the overall average of "OK." In fact, even the weakest performers in most industries still outscored the government average. The National Park Service and US Postal Service, the highest-rated federal agencies, scored only as high as the average for banks.
  • A near-monopoly on the worst experiences. Seven out of the 10 worst organizations in the CX Index – and five out of six in the "very poor" category – were US federal agencies. Only internet service providers and TV service providers came close to matching this level of underperformance.
  • Shockingly bad websites. Forrester's Consumer Technographics survey shows that only 53% of customers agree that federal websites are "exactly what [they] should be." Fewer than three in five customers consider federal sites easy to use or well organized.
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The Democratization Of Customer Service Forces Vendor Consolidation

Kate Leggett

Today, customers expect easy, effective customer service which build positive emotional connections.  And they expect this type of service from all companies that they do business with – companies that are both big and small.  

Companies use complex software from different vendors to support customer service operations. They use:

  1. Queuing and routing technologies. They capture the customer inquiry, which can be via voice, digital, or social channels, and route and queue the inquiry to the right agent pool.
  2. CRM customer service technologies. They enable customer service agents to create and work the incoming service request.
  3. Workforce optimization technologies. They record agent interactions with customers, evaluate the quality of these interactions, recommend targeted training based on quality scores, manage agent schedules, forecast future schedules and more.
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Winning On The Battleground Of CX

Victor Milligan

The customer is changing market fundamentals...and customer experience (CX) is changing operating fundamentals.

In a recent webinar, key CX analysts Moira Dorsey, Harley Manning, and Blaise James tackled how CX is changing operating fundamentals with a deep dive on the state of CX and special attention to the real implications of CX.

There is broad market acceptance that winning on the basis of experience is a customer-led mandate. You can look at the reasons why from two different angles:

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The Data Digest: Upping The Emotional Ante Down Under

Anjali Lai

Emotions are at the basis of how customers perceive experiences – and why they choose to stay loyal to certain brands. But, not all emotions are equal: Different emotions lead to unique behavioral outcomes depending on context, emotional intensity, and even industry.

For example, in our latest study, my colleague Tom McCann and I measured the emotional impact of CX among banks and retailers in Australia. We discovered that feeling valued is one of the most powerful emotions driving loyalty toward a bank: Australian customers who feel that their bank puts them first are willing to pay a premium for the bank’s experience and are more forgiving when something goes wrong. However, among retail customers, valued is good – but happy is better. Australian retailers that leave customers in a cheery mood are more likely to retain their shoppers and turn their customers into advocates.

And what makes Australian shoppers happy? Forrester’s Consumer Technographics® survey data shows that details in the experience go a long way. For instance, customers are pleased with perceptibly low prices or special deals, stocked inventory, and pleasant customer service reps.

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Accelerating Digital Business And Innovation In Financial Services

Fred Giron

From discussions with our clients in the financial services industry (FSI) in Asia Pacific, we’ve noticed that their digital agenda has changed dramatically over the past 18 months, shifting from a consideration of acquisitions and distribution channels to a broader business transformation imperative.

In fact, leaders at banks and insurance firms are increasingly realizing that:

  • Customer experience is fast becoming the only competitive differentiator.
  • Banks and insurance have to accelerate their ability to innovate and deliver new sources of value to customers faster. 
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CRM Success Requires Focus On People, Not Only Technology

Kate Leggett

There’s a very large graveyard of failed CRM projects. There’s more CRM initiatives that have spiraled out of control to become multimillion-dollar investments that negatively affected large numbers of customer-facing employees and didnt deliver any real results.  The cost of poor CRM adoption is twofold: underutilized investment and unmet business objectives.

We recently ran a survey in partnership with  CustomerThink to understand the risks and pitfalls that CRM professions need to navigate to achieve a successful CRM technology project. We surveyed 414 individuals who had been involved in a CRM technology project as a business professional in sales, marketing, customer service, or technology management within the past 36 months. Not surprisingly, we found that successful CRM technology projects are not only about choosing the right software. They demand a balanced, multifaceted approach that addresses four critical fundamentals: 

  • People issues. Nearly two-fifths (38%) of respondents stated that their problems were the result of people issues such as slow user adoption, inadequate attention paid to change management and training, and difficulties in aligning the organizational culture with new ways of working.
  • CRM Process. One-third (33%) of respondents faced problems because of poor or insufficient definition of business requirements, inadequate business process designs, and the need to customize solutions to fit unique organizational requirements.
  • CRM Strategy. One-third (33%) of respondents had challenges related to CRM strategy, such as a lack of clearly defined objectives, a lack of organizational readiness, and insufficient solution governancepractices.
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