CX And The Power Of Shared Experience

One of the things we spend a lot of our time doing with our clients is delivering workshops with their key stakeholders. These workshops take many forms, but our most effective (and popular) are the customer journey mapping workshop and the customer experience maturity assessment workshop. These workshops are great: a killer combination of research-based structured framework and the brain trust of key client stakeholders who really know their business.
 
But it occurred to me after the last workshop I helped to deliver that something else was happening . . . something that wasn’t on the agenda, wasn’t in the statement of work, and wasn’t really planned. And this thing happened in pretty much every workshop I’ve been fortunate enough to experience.
 
The thing that happened was that people talked. I mean really talked. These workshops are structured so that people are not just sitting around a conference room table. They’re standing up and moving around the room, writing on little bits of paper on the walls, windows, and even the floor. And it’s at this point that something really cool happens. The discussions get focused. In one recent case, Manulife arranged a series of Client Experience Labs, and it invited all the most senior people from across all of Asia Pacific. Because this was not a Forrester-run event (we were just helping out by delivering content on our maturity assessment and customer experience ecosystem frameworks), I had a chance to observe the participants as they were working through the journeys their clients had to go through. What I noticed was this: at one point, 11 senior executives standing around a journey map on the wall talking about their clients. Nothing else mattered in that moment. How often does that happen in our busy work lives?
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Broken Customer Experience Ecosystems: Australia Post

It all started with Johnny Cash. There he was looking out at me, his greatest hits, from the bargain bin at my local electronics shop for a fiver. Wow, a great bargain feeling that you simply don’t get from digital downloads. Unfortunately, upon returning home, I realized that my MacBook does not actually have a place where you can stick in a CD. How was I going to transfer this music now?
 
So I did what I normally do (and what the majority of consumers now normally do). I jumped online and went looking for an external CD drive for my MacBook to transfer my A$5 CD (the bargain cost of that CD suddenly lessened by needing to buy a piece of hardware to transfer it). I found what I wanted easily, bought it easily, paid for it easily. Satisfied.
 
And then it all went to pieces, thanks to Australia Post. And why did it go to pieces? Because Australia Post’s customer experience ecosystem is broken. Here’s why.
 
When customers in Australia are not home to receive a package, the delivery person leaves a small postcard telling them that they can pick up their package from their local Australia Post depot. Mine is a 10-minute drive away in a place called St. Leonards. I’ve received many of these cards, and I noticed with frustration that sometimes I was actually home when the card was delivered, and no attempt had been made to try to deliver the package.
 
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A Clean Well-Lighted Place . . . For CX?

An old man sits in a Spanish cafe. It’s late and warm, and he drinks brandy by the light of the cafe’s gas lights. While sitting within that light, the old man feels content, safe, and happy.
 
Ernest Hemingway wrote this short story in 1933, called A Clean Well-Lighted Place, and it has been my favorite story since reading it as an undergraduate more than 20 years ago. I have always strongly identified with the idea of finding one’s own “clean well-lighted place” — a place that is a productive and an inspiring place for one to do one’s work (or live one’s life). Mihály Csíkszentmihályi talks about a similar concept in positive psychology terms as being in “flow” in his book Good Business: Leadership, Flow, and the Making of Meaning.
 
But this is a blog post about customer experience. How is my love of a Hemingway short story and the concept of “flow” relevant? It occurs to me that the most successful CX programs I have witnessed unconsciously include these two ideas. Using the title of Hemingway’s story as a guiding metaphor, I think it nicely summarizes some of the best practices customer-centric companies imbue into their work.
 
Customer experience programs should have the following characteristics.
 
They should be clean:
  • They rely on human processes that are documented and clear.
  • Their processes, goals, and vision are transparent.
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Strive For A Stress-Free Customer Experience

For years, Forrester has been talking about customer experience in terms of a pyramid. While Forrester defines customer experience as simply "how customers perceive their interactions with your company," we also subdivide this overall experience into three key aspects. First, and the base of the pyramid, is that an experience must meet a customer's core needs. Next, it must be easy for them to accomplish their goals. And last, and most difficult, the experience should be enjoyable. If an experience isn't inherently something that actually can be enjoyable -- think renewing your car insurance -- then the top of the pyramid is about creating delight from an experience that could be really awful.
The customer experience pyramid
It's this last element I want to focus on, by way of a story. Recently I was going to be presenting at a conference overseas, and though I travel extensively around Asia Pacific, I had not yet visited this particular country. But the consulate for that country in Australia (where I live) requires business visitors to apply for a visa in the old-fashioned kind of way -- standing in line with an application (even if you filled it out online), your passport, and payment for the visa.
 
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Contextual Customer Experience

The Forrester Asia Pacific team is currently meeting in Bangkok to discuss how we support our clients in the age of the customer. Meeting friends and colleagues overseas is always a great experience. We get away from our desks and exchange ideas, bringing focus to our efforts for the following year. But, of course, you have to get everyone to the destination venue for this to happen.

One of the first things we always end up discussing on first meeting one of our colleagues is the quality of the journey. “How was your flight?” is the first question we end up asking each other. As I talked with two of my colleagues from Sydney, I learned that all three of us had been on the same Qantas flight to Bangkok that same afternoon. As we compared our journeys, it was amazing to discover that we had had three markedly different experiences, despite all being on the very same aircraft.

I was in economy, having paid a little extra for emergency exit seats. The flight wasn’t full, so I had a row of three seats to myself. Lots of room to spread out, and the flight was very quiet, easy, and uneventful. My experience, though, was of an older plane with technology that was, frankly, no longer meeting my minimum standard. The entertainment units were old and tiny, and the user interface was absurdly complex. But because I was comfortable, I was willing to overlook it.

One of my colleagues, the regional sales director from Australia, was one section ahead of me on the plane, also in economy. She reported a nightmare flight with no air conditioning, poor food, and crowded seats. Her experience was quite negative. We both ate the same food, but her experience of it was undoubtedly influenced by the hot temperatures and crowded seating.

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CX Predictions For 2014 — Australia And Asia Pacific

Last month I contributed to Dane Anderson's excellent report "Asia Pacific Technology Predictions: 2014." As it's the time of year for predictions (and the occasional fireworks display and glass of champagne), I wanted to revisit my thoughts on what will be important in 2014 from a customer experience perspective, in addition to the predictions I made in that report.

We who research customer experience full-time and have been doing it awhile can't help but notice a change in how customer experience is being viewed by firms and organizations. Five years ago when I was last at Forrester, for example, the main thrust of our work was convincing business leaders that CX was something that was essential to invest in. Now our work has changed. It seems that the CX message has been received, and it's less about convincing firms that it's a good idea and more about gauging where companies are with their CX efforts and giving guidance on how they can achieve the goal of truly differentiating their businesses through the quality of the experiences they deliver (consistently and systematically).

So as I listen closely to what customer experience professionals, CIOs, and CMOs are talking about, it's clear to me that we're actually cresting the wave of a trend. Customer experience brings proven benefits, the C-suite gets it and funds it, empowered customers expect it, and companies that ignore this trend are going to be left behind.

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A Christmas Customer Experience Story

I have lived in Australia for almost two years, and while my family in Canada loses power due to ice storms and snow squalls, I sit writing this post in 38-degree Celsius heat as Sydney experiences the first heat wave of the summer (but not the last). So, this time of year does not at all feel like Christmas to me. However, there are certain inevitable experiences that remind me that yes, indeed, this is the festive time of the year. Christmas parties, decorations and lights, mobs and mobs of people doing their Christmas shopping (in shorts and T-shirts), and for at least the past decade, the now-inevitable act of waiting for holiday packages from online shopping to arrive.

This is where this Christmas story really begins. eCommerce shopping is now a stalwart of the holiday season, as savvy shoppers do their Christmas shopping online to avoid the crush of people at the shopping mall. While this is definitely a stress-saver, the online shopping experience produces a new kind of stress — the stress of wondering if the package ordered will arrive in time for the big day.

One of Forrester's customer experience key frameworks is called "the customer experience ecosystem." This ecosystem is an observation of the fact that companies that deliver good customer experiences understand that their businesses exist in a highly complex network that extends far beyond the walls of their headquarters. This includes partners like agencies, suppliers, tech vendors, contractors, etc., etc. And all of these other residents of the ecosystem can make or break a great customer experience.

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Introduction

My name is Craig Menzies, and I am what Forrester calls a "boomerang." Forrester has a long tradition of welcoming back former employees who have gone off and done something a bit different for a while. In my case, I left Forrester at the end of 2008 in London and rejoined in August 2013 here in Sydney, Australia. In my previous role, I was a member of the global customer experience (CX) team and the lead CX analyst for Europe. While away from Forrester, I held several senior user experience and experience design leadership roles with agencies in the UK and Australia as well as ran my own independent customer experience and digital strategy consulting practice.

However, I am thrilled to be back as a principal analyst serving customer experience professionals and excited to be not only launching a dedicated customer experience research stream based out of Australia but also focusing on the rest of the Asia Pacific region. Most specifically, I will be spending a significant amount of time focusing on regions like Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, etc. Forrester believes strongly in both the need for more research in marketing and strategy disciplines in this region and these regions' demand for real relevant regional research.

My core remit is to provide world-class user experience and customer experience strategy services and research streams to this region, which I now call home. I am also very proud to be again a member of the global customer experience team and to have the privilege to represent our industry-leading thinking in the customer experience space. This includes our host of methodologies and frameworks that have helped customer-experience-obsessed companies transform the customer experiences they deliver. These include our frameworks for:

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Web Analytics In Action

Craig_menzies_forrester_1 The first time I used Web analytics, I mean "really" used Web analytics, was to end an argument. I was running the technical and eCommerce department for an online retailer, a really amazing online gadgets Web site, and the creative director and managing director were near to shedding blood over the following business-critical issue: Should a button on the home page be blue or purple, or maybe it should blue plus purple (blurple), as opposed to purple + blue (purue)? Two hours had gone by, and eight people sat in the room while the two worked themselves further and further away from rational thought and principles of civilized behaviour. I feared for the health, safety and sanity of my work colleagues.

So, I think it's safe to say that I used Web analytics for the first time as an act of sheer desperation. I used to it end the argument once and for all -- I logged in to our new Web analytics software while the two fought, and was able to show them that not only did the customers not care what colour the button was, but in fact, not a single customer had used the button in 6 months.

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