One of the most enjoyable and fulfilling things about helping Forrester clients become customer-obsessed is leading an experience co-creation workshop. Forrester defines co-creation as the active participation of employees, customers, and stakeholders working together to design new experiences. It’s a technique that helps companies define the right experience for their customers and provides critical information that supports human-centered design.
A typical co-creation session puts Forrester consultants, our clients, and our clients’ customers in a room for a whole day. Together we work through a set of creative exercises designed to expose customer needs, perceptions, and expectations for an ideal experience. Sometimes these sessions are targeted at getting high-level, sentiment-based feedback, such as: What do our customers want from this experience? What does our current state experience look like compared to the ideal? Other times, our clients want more concrete solutions or recommendations such as: What new experience should we offer? What features should go into our new mobile app? To see it in action, check out this video summary, produced by Western Union, showcasing a workshop we hosted together last year to co-create a new mobile experience.
While co-creation can provide direction on customer expectations and feedback on specific designs, we’ve learned that teams run into trouble when they try to do both of these things in the same session. Why? Because exploratory research and prototyping are two different activities that happen at distinct stages of a user-centered design process. Let’s examine the user-centered design process illustrated below:
A few weeks ago, I learned that my credit card number was part of a large data breach and that I needed to cancel it immediately. My first thought? Panic and trepidation — what if someone already charged on my card? What about the companies that I have recurring payments with — will they reject them and charge me fees? How do I remember all of the companies with which I even have recurring payments?
As all of these questions entered my mind and I started questioning my loyalty to Capital One, I received the following email (pictured) explaining what I needed to do as a customer and the companies that I needed to contact:
Capital One not only provided immediate relief but also demonstrated awareness of my individual profile and what could make or break my specific customer experience. It implemented personalization at a critical "moment of truth."
While much of the glitz and glam around customer experience has orbited around B2C organizations, Forrester believes that the imperative shift toward customer experience and subsequently, customer centricity, is creeping into the B2B space – sooner than we might expect.
Recognizably, there are inherent challenges in distributing through channel partners, not the least of which is a lack of direct contact with end customers and the complexity of trying to manage experiences that cannot ultimately be controlled. All of which pose sizable obstacles to CX professionals in such organizations. My most recent report describes six principles and examples that companies selling via channel partners should consider to better manage their prescribed end user experiences so as to align with the company’s CX strategy.
Here are several of the key collaborative principles that can help B2B companies foster better partner alignment:
· Apply B2C tools to understand your partners. More and more firms are creating B2B personas from stakeholder maps, co-creating customer journey and empathy maps with their channel partners, and implementing voice of the partner (VoP) programs to capture CX sentiment from their intermediaries.
In 2015, customer experience (CX) rose to the No. 1 priority for business and technology leaders. In 2016, it will be among the top 10 critical success factors determining who will win and who will fail in the age of the customer. And for good reason: Better customer experience correlates with stronger revenue growth. But this is only true when competitors provide meaningful differences in the experiences they offer and unsatisfied customers have the freedom to jump ship when treated poorly. So in order to reap the benefits that better CX can provide, in 2016, companies will need to get down to the real business of not only providing good experiences but also breaking away from the pack with meaningful internal operational changes.
This won’t be easy, because success in the age of the customer requires shifting to a customer-obsessed operating model that puts customers at the center of all strategic decision-making. In 2016, leaders will tackle the challenge of making this shift; laggards will underestimate the magnitude and speed of change required and will instead push forward with uncoordinated digital efforts and flawed business priorities.
This is a guest post by Erna Esa, a Research Associate on the Customer Experience team based in Sydney.
In the movie Love Actually, the chemistry between an Englishman (played by the very dashing Colin Firth) and a Portuguese housekeeper (Lúcia Moniz) was evident — but not having the tools to communicate in each other’s language left the pair feeling frustrated and annoyed.
Employees experience a similar type of frustration when they are not offered the opportunity to contribute to the conversations companies have about their customers. How do we know this? Well, we have found that 70% of information workers say that their job requires them to engage with or understand their customers but fewer than 40% of organizations in Australia and New Zealand systematically capture input from their employees about those interactions. That leaves a lot of employees who interact with customers and have knowledge of their company’s customer experience ecosystem without a structured, systematic way of telling their organization what they are seeing and hearing — and that’s frustrating.
Successful voice of the employee (VoE) programs have the potential to transform your organization into one in which talented, dedicated individuals strive to build a career. In many cases, these programs are inexpensive to set up and maintain, yet deliver considerable benefits when implemented across the entire organization. Forrester clients can read about these benefits in our latest report, Engage Employees To Nail The Customer Experience.
Every March, children run around, eagerly filling baskets with Easter eggs. The eggs come in all sorts of colors and sizes, some hard to find, some more easily discovered. The ritual continues every year with the Easter Bunny (or parents in rarer cases) hiding eggs to impart joy and wonder in innocent children.
One can analogize that smart companies have taken over the role of the Easter bunny, trying to bring joy and delight to customers, not children.
While the holistic brand experience, or Easter egg hunt, looks at the sum of these interactions – each interaction can be broken down further into a series of microinteractions. These small-scale opportunities, when carefully tied back to the brand, give birth to what Forrester calls ‘Signature Moments’ - which we define as:
Memorably crafted and branded microinteractions that deliver delight and value to customers in an often subtle yet, recognizable way.
In my report, Differentiate your Customer Experiences with Signature Moments, I describe the ‘what, how, and where’ of Signature Moments, provide examples, and look at how they can be carefully designed and infused into broader customer journeys to delight, differentiate and ultimately resonate with local customers.
During ideation of these moments, take stock of the following:
■ Is it sufficiently differentiating?Assess whether the proposed microinteraction is like a literal signature, unique only to your company and not easily replicated by others in the market.
Your customer experience (CX) is the product of the interactions between your employees, partners, and customers within your operating environment. Forrester has labeled this as a customer experience ecosystem. It's important to understand CX ecosystems' two components — the people and the operating environment — for two reasons:
People participate in the ecosystem if they get value from it. Each actor in the CX ecosystem is asking, "What's in it for me?" Employees want things like professional development, recognition, and advancement. Business partners want access to customers, sales support, and strong revenue growth. And the customers expect quality products and services that meet their needs.
The operating environment affects people's definition of value. Every ripple in the operating environment changes what employees, partners, and customers value and how they expect that value to be delivered. The economic downturn, for example, meant that many workers valued stable work over things like personal fulfillment — which is reflected in Gallup's report that just 32% of US workers are engaged. Many software companies transitioning from delivering server-deployed software to cloud services has changed how those vendors' traditional channel partners are compensated, going from large payouts on perpetual licenses to annuities from subscriptions. And disruptive sharing-economy upstarts, like Uber, have reset consumers' expectations of how they find and use services as diverse as car services, hotels, and office rentals.
In April 2015, we started a conversation about what is different between business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) customer experience (CX). That early discussion focused on the fact that in B2B scenarios, there isn't one customer; there are multiple stakeholders within a client account whose work depends on interactions with the vendor. Now we're ready to elevate this conversation to its next level: How do B2B CX pros help their businesses find the stakeholders who matter?
I know what you're saying: "Don't all client stakeholders matter?" Yes — you want to make sure that each individual in an account who interacts with your firm has an experience that helps them achieve their goals. But when business leaders assess the value of customer experience, they want to know that it contributes to revenue growth, a business success indicator. So when B2B CX pros examine customer experience, they must understand the perceptions of stakeholders who influence:
Retention. Who are the stakeholders who must see value in the vendor's products and services before the buyer(s) renews the contract?
Upsell and cross-sell. Who are the stakeholders whose perceptions of value influence their colleagues' decision to acquire more products and services from the vendor?
Advocacy. Who are the stakeholders whose opinion of the vendor can sway their colleagues' or industry counterparts' decision to do business with the vendor?
I am an eternal optimist. My take on the Dow’s spiraling downward in Q3? Buying opportunity! That “exercise pill” scientists are working on that promises the benefits of exercise without any of the effort? I’m thinking my six-pack abs are now a sure thing. And I’m even holding out hope that the next season of Homeland will be as good as the first. But the Q3 2015 data from our Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) is making it hard for an optimist like me to find a lot of bright spots.
We’re in a world fraught with persistent economic imbalances where customers with copious options are flexing their market muscles more than ever before. If this is still news to you, I suggest reading up on our research about the age of the customer. But I think most of you know that an obsession with winning, serving, and retaining customers is a must and that you should transform your company to be more customer-focused.
Given that, I expected our latest US CX Index report would reveal that brands are delivering customer experiences that are getting better at strengthening the loyalty of their customers. But while much remained the same in the second round of Forrester’s 2015 US CX Index study (scores didn’t change for 69% of brands), when scores did change, they got worse instead of better. So of 92 scores that changed significantly from round one to round two, only seven improved; 85 got significantly worse. It’s hard being an optimist when:
It's been eight years since the last presidential transition. Since then, we've seen real progress on the federal customer experience (CX) front, including the creation of the "customer service" cross-agency priority goal; the launch of 18F, the US Digital Service, and similar digital services shops; and the appointment of chief customer officers at four agencies.
Unfortunately, the next presidential transition could derail it all. The new administration might have different management priorities, misunderstand CX and its value, or simply want to undercut the current administration’s achievements. Improving federal CX may be good politics for nearly every conceivable incoming president, but that may not be enough. Some presidential transition experts bemoan times when neither good politics nor effectiveness were enough to save existing initiatives from a new administration's desire to appear different. As one expert put it, "Never underestimate the power of crazy."
Formally, the transition won't begin until the next president is chosen. In reality, work on the transition has already begun. The current administration has already refocused from rolling out new initiatives to securing its legacy; many senior executives are already planning their retirements or looking for work in the private sector.