CX Q&A with Blaine E. Hurst, Chief Transformation Officer, Panera

John Dalton

Panera, the fast-casual restaurant chain, is completely transforming itself — from its back-office systems right down to the menu items. There are new services — including catering and table service — and there’s even a new kind of staff member, known as an “expo,” to double-check the accuracy of the firm’s new customizable orders and establish a little more rapport with visitors. At Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals, June 16th and 17th in NYC, Blaine Hurst, chief transformation officer at Panera, will be sharing lessons learned from this massive innovation initiative. Here are some comments Blaine made during a recent conversation I had with him. I hope you enjoy them, and I look forward to seeing you in NYC!

Q: I don’t meet chief transformation officers too often. How would you describe your role?

A: When I came onboard with Panera, it was to envision and launch what we’ve come to call Panera 2.0 — a truly enhanced guest experience, powered by technology and enabled by ops excellence. If you look at the way we approached 2.0, you start to understand the role of a chief transformation officer. We looked for the ways that technology could transform the guest experience versus focusing on the latest gadgets for the sake of being “first” or “cutting edge.” I use the same lens in my role as chief transformation and growth officer. How can Panera win by applying technology or innovative thinking to truly transform and grow? In my role, I oversee business processes ranging from digital strategy to catering and delivery.

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How To Implement The Customer Experience Advice In The US Digital Services Playbook

Rick Parrish

A few weeks ago, I advised federal agencies to build better digital customer experiences. I had no idea how polarizing the post would be, so I’d like to return to the topic of digital customer experience (CX) again this week.

Even the US Digital Service (USDS) thinks federal agencies need better digital CX. Last year, the USDS published a US Digital Services Playbook, a series of 13 plays to help federal CIOs create better digital customer experiences. (The playbook would work equally for agencies’ digital services teams, if they ever get funded.)

Notably, the Playbook doesn’t open with CIO staples like cloud services or automated testing or procurement. It starts with four CX plays that remind federal CIOs to begin every project with an outside-in customer-centric perspective.

These four CX plays are good advice. Federal CIOs who follow them will produce measurably better CX. That's because these guidelines, which are drawn from basic but proven best practices, correctly advise CIOs to:

  • "Understand what people need." Play No. 1 challenges CIOs to think from the outside in by putting "the needs of people" before the "constraints of government structures or silos" when designing new experiences. This guidance provides federal CIOs with the mandate they need to push back against rigid organizations and complex regulations that paralyze CX improvement efforts.
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Can Your Organization Build A Customer Experience To Rival The Cloud-Based Upstarts?

TJ Keitt

The cloud is not just reshaping how companies provision technology; it's changing customers' experience. A technology platform that is easily scalable for and accessible to the billions of connected devices customers use — PCs, smartphones, tablets, TVs, cars, jet engines, and more — has allowed cloud-services companies to completely reinvent experiences. No one was using black-car drivers' idle time to disrupt the taxi industry on a mass scale prior to Uber. Millions of customers, both consumers and business clients, have flocked to these cloud services, believing these are better experiences. The proof? The cloud computing elder Amazon is a perennial leader in Forrester's Customer Experience Index and has a market capitalization of more than $200 billion. So, the question you're probably asking is, "Does this mean that we need to build our customer interaction points in the cloud?"

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CX Interview On Simplicity With Mark McCormick Of Wells Fargo

Allegra Burnette

Mark McCormick, newly in the position of head of user experience for wholesale Internet services at Wells Fargo, has led customer experience teams for 20 years, the past 12 of which have been at Wells Fargo. He specializes in managing large research, design, and content strategy teams and driving cultural values and practices around customer centricity, innovation, and, lately, simplicity. We sat down to talk more about simplicity leading up to Mark’s keynote at CXNYC 2015

Photo of Mark McCormickQ: You’ll be speaking about ethnographic research at the CXNYC 2015 Forum. Could you give us some background on the role of research at Wells Fargo, particularly as it relates to design?

A: Ethnography is an enabler to design and decision-making. Design and research have always gone hand in glove at Wells Fargo, usually reporting to the same manager and working in tandem on projects. But when I talk about research, I’m referring to a few different kinds of research. In the case of usability, there needs to be a bit of a wall between the designers and research in order to maintain the objectivity that’s needed. With ethnography on the other hand, ideally you would have designers, executives, and product teams all in the field, side by side with researchers. With that kind of research, and with the rich qualitative data that comes out of it, it is extremely fruitful if you get designers and researchers parsing the data together. Then everyone has a stake in it, and if they have a stake in the data, they end up using it.

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Federal Agencies Must Treat Customer Experience As A Business Discipline

Rick Parrish

By now we all know that federal customer experience (CX) is disastrously weak and that improving it will boost both agency operations and the health of the political system.

We’ve also seen some pockets of hope popping up, as I predicted a few months ago. For instance: The Department of Education’s new portal is complete, the Department of Veterans Affairs My HealtheVet site now offers online tracking for mail-order prescriptions, and BusinessUSA.gov combines thousands of pieces of information from several federal agencies into a single site for entrepreneurs and business owners. Other improvements are still in the works, like 18F's upgrade of the Department of the Treasury's My Retirement Account website and the Office of Personnel Management Innovation Lab's redesign of USAJobs.gov.

These isolated projects are good, but not good enough. It’s time for federal agencies to get beyond one-off tech tasks and the find-and-fix mentality to truly institutionalize CX improvement throughout their organizations. And that means treating CX not as a sideshow, but as a real business discipline. To do this, agencies must systematically perform the practices associated with all six CX disciplines — strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture. Right now, federal agencies are failing in all of these areas.

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How To Measure The Customer Impact Of CX Projects — And Get Them Funded

Sam Stern

No one disputes that treating customers well is the right thing to do: Virtually all respondents in a Forrester survey of CX professionals said that executives at their companies consider customer impact to be at least somewhat important when making business decisions. But compared with hard return on investment (ROI) numbers in business cases for other initiatives, CX projects won't get needed funding if their estimated returns are limited to benefits like improved satisfaction or higher Net Promoter Score (NPS).

In my latest report, "How To Measure The Impact Of CX Projects — And Get Them Funded," I describe a four-step process companies should adopt to govern CX improvement initiatives and help ensure their projects can win funding.

  • Step 1: Prioritize customer experience improvement opportunities. Most companies are spoiled for choice when it comes to finding parts of the experience to improve. But all that choice can be debilitating when trying to decide how to best allocate scarce resources and small budgets. Core customer experience activities like collecting insights from customers and employees and mapping customer journeys are valuable in this step to help companies identify the improvement projects that will have the greatest CX impact.
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CX Q&A With Raul Leal, CEO, Virgin Hotel Group

John Dalton

On just about anyone’s shortlist of companies that deliver unique, high-quality experiences, you’ll be sure to find Virgin. And this year, the iconic brand opened its first hotel in the US — a 250-room property located in the Chicago Loop. How does Virgin Hotel live up to the high standards set by other Virgin businesses? At Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals in New York, June 16th and 17th, Raul Leal, CEO, Virgin Hotel Group, will explain. In the meantime, he shared with us a few thoughts about CX, the hospitality industry, and what it’s like to work for a knight. Enjoy! And I look forward to seeing you in NYC . . .

Q: In your industry, switching costs are pretty low. Indeed, one of the things that impresses me about the first Virgin Hotel in Chicago is how reasonably priced the rooms are! Is that why CX is so important to Virgin?

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How Governments Can Improve Everyone’s Customer Experience

Rick Parrish

I spend a lot of time talking about the poor quality of federal customer experience (CX) and the effects it has on the public. I’ve already talked about how federal agencies averaged the lowest score in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™). In fact, most of the worst performers in any industry were federal agencies and even the top agencies — the US Postal Service and National Park Service, which tied for the top spot — achieved scores far below private-sector leaders like USAA, Amazon, and JetBlue.

However, today I want to emphasize the national harm of bad private-sector CX. US consumers have hundreds of millions of frustrating interactions with companies every day, and that adds up to:

  • Degraded quality of life. About 50% of US households reported bad experiences, and 68% suffered customer rage in 2013, according to this study.
  • A weakened economy. Waiting for in-home services such as cable, TV, or appliance installation and repairs takes each US consumer out of the workforce for two days each year, costing $250 per person and the entire economy as much as $37.7 billion annually, according to another study.
  • Stymied business innovation. Poor CX also saps budgets that companies could otherwise use for research and development, capital investments, or other imperatives. And CX improvements translate into big bucks. Sprint saved $1.7 billion per year by avoiding problems that had prompted high traffic to its call centers.
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We Have Metrics — Now What?

Daniel Brousseau

Convergences are cool when they happen, and for the past two months, I’ve been experiencing one around customer experience measurement. Today, I was on the phone with a massive government agency talking about the way it measures customer experience and why it’s not working. Next week, I’ll have another discussion with a major communications company about rebuilding its customer experience (CX) measurement system from brownfield and will also meet with a leader from a major software company on overhauling customer experience measurement globally. Two weeks ago, I met with the head of digital at a top-five bank about rethinking how to measure the digital customer experience.   

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Don't Just Ask What CX Leaders Do; Ask Why It Works For Them

Megan Burns

Last week, I stayed in two different hotels in the greater Atlanta area. One was a Ritz-Carlton, and the other a Marriott.* Hearing those two brand names, you might be tempted to assume that the guest experience at the Ritz was far better than the one at the Marriott. But it wasn’t — at least not for me.

Don’t get me wrong, the Ritz was beautiful. But one aspect of the experience there drove me nuts. Every time that I stepped off the elevator into the lobby I was swarmed by no fewer than three extremely friendly, extremely eager employees. They bombarded me with questions about whether I wanted coffee (which I don’t drink), a donut, help with my luggage, or anything else my heart desired. Now in theory, I love that the staff was so attentive. But they missed a pretty important need of mine — the need for personal space. When I travel for work, I want to be greeted by friendly people. And I want to know that I can easily find an employee if and when I need help. But otherwise, I prefer to be left to my own devices. That’s exactly what I got at the Marriott.

This example serves as a great reminder that no experience is inherently good or bad. CX quality is a function of how well each brand aligns its CX vision with the needs, wants, and preferences of the particular set of customers that it chooses to serve (AKA its customer strategy).

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