Are you looking for a vendor or vendors to support your voice of the customer (VoC) program? Or are you reviewing your current VoC vendor(s)?
Selecting the right vendor or vendors can be hard! Why? The VoC vendor landscape is hard to decipher. There are many but relatively small vendors, and they rely on an interconnected network of partners, acquire each other at an impressive rate, and regularly expand into new spaces. And companies often already have a number of vendors they work with. In my recent webinar about VoC, most of the attendees had from three to five vendors that supported their VoC program in some shape or form.
But there are a few beacons to help orient you in your quest:
The VoC vendor market is an ecosystem. What vendors are the right “lid” for your “VoC program pot” depends entirely on your internal capabilities and the characteristics of your VoC program. We identified customer feedback management (CFM) platforms and VoC specialist vendors. CFM platforms support VoC programs with a robust set of capabilities that include feedback collection, integration of feedback with other data in a centralized data hub, analysis, reporting, and closed-loop action management. VoC specialists offer a subset of VoC platform vendor capabilities. Their areas of expertise range from surveying customers in order to generate measurement data to mining your unstructured feedback with text analytics, monitoring social media data, and consulting to help establish or evolve a VoC program.
Many companies tie rewards to a rise in either Net Promoter Scores (NPS) or customer satisfaction scores. Unfortunately, that's exactly the kind of mistake that leads employees and partners to game the system. Porsche discovered that its stellar NPS was the result of dealers offering freebies to customers in exchange for higher scores. Similarly, when it noticed that satisfaction scores and comments didn't match, music retailer Guitar Center had to retool its rewards and recognition system to prevent store associates from massaging customer survey results.
My report describes the process for ensuring your rewards and recognition reinforce customer-centricity, rather than tempting employees to game the system. To avoid common pitfalls, companies must:
Communicate the importance of customer-centricity. Effective communications programs share updates with employees about initiatives to reinforce customer focus and highlight the importance of customer experience to the organization. As part of their customer-centric communication programs, companies should connect senior leaders with frontline employees and ensure that all corporate communications reinforce customer focus.
Companies like Avis Budget Group and E-Trade focus on changing the tone and content of all corporate communications.
General Motors (GM) assigned leaders the task of explaining the new customer focus to their respective departments. Involving senior leaders in this way reinforced to all employees that customer centricity was now an organizational imperative.
My colleague John Dalton and I recently published a report outlining our major predictions for customer experience in the coming year. What we envision is perhaps best summed up by the old William Gibson quote: “The future is already here, it’s just not evenly distributed.”
Here’s why: As I wrote in a recent post, roughly half of the attendees at Forrester’s three customer experience forums in 2013 said that their organizations are in the first phase of the path to CX maturity (repair). Their priority is — and for the immediate future will remain — finding and fixing broken experiences.
A much smaller group of companies — no more than 10% — say that their organizations are in the ultimate phase of CX maturity (differentiate). In contrast with companies in the repair phase, they'll build on their past success with well-funded efforts that leverage their skills in strategy, customer understanding, and design.
With that as background, we predict that two major themes will deserve the most attention in the coming year.
Companies in the repair phase will fight to advance along the path to customer experience maturity. Companies just starting to fix their broken experiences will find themselves in a struggle that's hard, slow, and increasingly costly. They'll focus on getting key infrastructure in place to assess what's broken, manage a portfolio of repair projects, and measure the results they need to build enterprisewide support for CX.
The top spot this year went to Amazon.com, but not for its score in the retail category. Amazon earned an Index-leading score of 91 for its debut in the consumer electronics manufacturer category (for the Kindle). I guess that’s what happens when one of your company’s core principles is to obsess about customers. (It’s also worth noting that our study happened to coincide with the launch of the Kindle’s innovative Mayday feature and corresponding ad campaign.)
Roughly half of companies on the path to customer experience maturity say that they’re in the repair phase today — and that’s probably a conservative estimate. But there are companies at more advanced stages of CX maturity, including a few in the most advanced phase, differentiate. That’s where firms reframe business challenges in the context of unmet customer needs, connect innovation ideas to their customer experience ecosystem, and infuse innovations with the brand.
We had two speakers at our event who represented companies in the differentiate phase: Dean Marshall, director of Lego brand retail store operations Europe, and Declan Collier, CEO, London City Airport. What is it that their organizations do that’s so different?
Lego stores goes beyond even the typical design best practices used by companies in less advanced (but still pretty advanced!) phases of CX maturity, practices like ethnographic research and co-creation. How? By combining the two.
Companies can turn to a variety of experts — like interactive agencies and customer experience transformation consultants — for help with improving or innovating the customer experience. But despite years of experience and a thriving professional network, one type of expert remains virtually unknown to customer experience professionals: the service design agency. Customer experience professionals should seek out service design agencies because:
Service designers tap into the power of human-centered design. Unlike customer experience firms that take an approach akin to management consulting, service design agencies leverage human-centered design practices like ethnographic research, co-creation, and low-fidelity prototyping. The combination of these practices enables service design agencies to more quickly — and cheaply — identify the real customer and corporate problems that they need to address and develop effective solutions. These activities also serve as potent communication vehicles, exposing assumptions and marshaling early buy-in from employees and stakeholders.
Earlier this year, I spoke with Kathleen Cattrall, interim chief experience officer at VCA Animal Hospitals about the company’s customer experience transformation efforts. VCA is a publicly traded company (fittingly, its NASDAQ ticker symbol is WOOF) that owns and operates more than 600 pet hospitals in the US and Canada. Its work to create more customer-centric hiring processes features in my latest report, "How To Hire And Onboard Customer-Centric Employees."
Kathleen and her colleague Aaron Frazier were gracious enough to answer a few more questions about their progress in building a more customer-centric culture and what they’ve learned about creating great pet-owner experiences. Here are some of their insights.
Q. How did VCA know it needed to improve customer experience? Was there a “burning platform,” or did someone senior at the organization decide it was time to make a change?
A. Art Antin, co-founder and COO, was the real visionary here. VCA was approaching its 25th anniversary, and Art was frustrated with clients visiting less frequently. Our customer retention rate was lower than VCA wanted to see. Complaints were escalating, and they all pointed to a poor customer experience. Art said, “We’ve spent 25 years becoming the leader in veterinary health services. We’ve accomplished more than any other company in that regard. We need to focus the next 25 months on improving our customers’ experiences with us.”
What is “customer experience maturity”? We define it as the extent to which an organization routinely performs the practices required to design, implement, and manage customer experience in a disciplined way. In other words, does the organization apply the same level of business discipline to customer experience as it does to well-established business practices like marketing, logistics, and accounting?
In our study of how companies become mature at the practices in the customer experience discipline, we’ve discovered that successful firms all follow the same path, which passes through four phases:
Repair. Companies find broken experiences, fix them, and measure the results.
Elevate. Firms start to adopt practices that lead them to deliver sound experiences in the first place.
Optimize. Companies become systematic at customer experience practices.
Differentiate. Firms reframe business challenges in the context of unmet customer needs, connect innovation ideas to their customer experience ecosystem, and infuse innovations with the brand.
In my new report, "How To Hire And Onboard Customer-Centric Employees," I describe how companies can transform their hiring processes to ensure new employees are customer-centric. CX professionals must partner with their HR department and hiring manager colleagues to change the way they screen, interview and onboard new employees. The report describes specific ways to make each step in the hiring process more customer-centric. For example:
Get customer-centric applicants into the hiring funnel. A customer-centric hiring process starts by attracting the right kind of applicants and filtering out the wrong kind. The careers section of a website provides an opportunity for companies to tell applicants what they value in employees. For example, The Container Store's website describes the company's commitment to putting employees first and draws a clear distinction from other companies that focus on shareholders first. Contrast that first impression with the careers landing page on Bed Bath & Beyond's site, where the opening sentence talks about stock performance and its expansion.