You Asked, We Answered! Questions From Webinars About Our New Book, Outside In — Part 2

Kerry Bodine

On September 19th, my co-author Harley Manning and I delivered two webinars outlining the concepts in our new book, Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business.

We received so many questions that we couldn’t answer them all during the webinars. So we split them up, and we’re answering them (in brief) in two blog posts. Harley posted Part 1 yesterday, and this is Part 2.

How can you develop a customer experience strategy before you know your customers?

You can’t. In the webinar, I described how Holiday Inn developed a customer experience strategy that led to a completely new lobby experience. (You can read more about this in one of my recent blog posts.) It’s important to note that the reason Holiday Inn’s strategy was so successful is that it was rooted in a clear and accurate understanding of who the hotel’s target customers were and what they needed when they were traveling. If you don’t know your customers, it’s nearly impossible to create a customer experience that will meet (or exceed) their needs and expectations.

How does social media affect the ability to understand the customer experience?

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You Asked, We Answered! Questions From Webinars About Our New Book, Outside In — Part 1

Harley Manning

On September 19, my co-author Kerry Bodine and I delivered two webinars outlining the concepts in our new book, Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business.

We received so many questions that we couldn’t answer them all during the webinars. So we split them up, and we’re answering them (in brief) in two blog posts. Here is Part 1. You can see Part 2 from Kerry here.

How many full-time employees are needed to build and maintain systematic customer experience processes?

Becoming systematic about customer experience isn’t about adding people to your company. It’s about changing the activities that the people you have today perform. Instead of proposing projects with no consideration for how those projects will affect customer experience, for example, add a mandatory customer experience impact assessment — as companies like FedEx, Fidelity, and Bank of Montreal do.

Are there benchmarks for measurement? Can you please provide some guidance for what a “good” customer experience is?

If you want to drive business benefits like increased sales and positive word of mouth, create a customer experience measurement framework and then start by benchmarking against yourself.

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To Survive In The Post-PC World, Device Manufacturers Need To Get Tough

Tony Costa

While Google and Microsoft downplay the significance of their Nexus 7 and Surface tablets, the message to their device manufacturers is abundantly clear: If you’re not building devices that surpass what we can do ourselves, you’re not adding value. Their intent in sending this message is to push device manufacturers to abandon their race-to-the-bottom strategy that emphasize low prices and incremental improvements over new product innovation. 

As I discuss in my new report, Humdrum Hardware: Why Google And Microsoft Are Goading Their Partners To Innovate, this strategy worked well in the Windows PC era, when there were no other viable ecosystems to draw consumers away and device manufacturers competed primarily on price, but they are no longer relevant in today’s post-PC world, where multiple ecosystems (Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft) compete against one another. To survive in the post-PC era, device manufacturers must get tough:

  • Pick sides in the platform wars. Device manufacturers need to concentrate their resources and commit to a single platform if they expect to develop compelling and innovative products that can compete against Apple.
  • Start playing hardball with Google and Microsoft. When Nokia went all-in on Microsoft, Nokia demanded special benefits, support, and concessions in exchange for platform-exclusive innovations. Other device manufacturers should replicate this model.
  • Push Google and Microsoft to adopt a co-opetition-based ecosystem model. In order to compete effectively against the vertically integrated ecosystems of Amazon and Apple, Google and Microsoft need to coordinate and optimize the innovation efforts of device manufacturers. 
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Hire The Will, Train The Skill

Harley Manning

If you scroll down, you’ll see a link to part two of my appearance on Jim Blasingame’s talk show, The Small Business Advocate. Among other things, in this segment, we talked about one of the keys to customer experience success: hiring the right employees.  

Hiring is one of the tools for creating a customer-centric culture that my co-author Kerry Bodine and I describe in our new book, Outside In. Although hiring is fundamental, it’s something that many hiring managers get wrong. That’s because they’re still looking primarily at what their candidates know — their job skills — and not focusing enough attention on to who their candidates are

Here’s why that’s a problem. You can teach people how to perform tasks, whether it’s stocking shelves or doing the books. And you can teach them enough about your products and services to be able to help your customers. But if they’re people who don’t want to help customers, you’re not going to teach them to be different people.

Are there really that many people out there who just don’t want to help customers? Yes. That’s a lesson Kevin Peters, the president of Office Depot North America, learned several years ago.

Kevin asked all 22,500 store associates to take a personality assessment test designed to evaluate employees’ skills, behaviors, and aptitudes as they related to serving customers. To his surprise and disappointment, a significant percentage agreed with statements like, “If the job requires me to interface with customers, I’d rather not do the job.”

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Co-Create Great Experiences With Your Customers

Kerry Bodine

Henry Ford purportedly quipped that if he had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said, “a faster horse.” It’s a well-trod line, one that’s guaranteed to receive nods and chuckles in any business meeting. We can all relate. After all, nothing’s really changed since Ford’s time. Customers today still can’t tell us exactly what they want or imagine products and services that don’t currently exist. No one in 2009, for example, was screaming for a computer that was smaller than a laptop and bigger than a phone — and yet the iPad has become one of the most successful consumer devices on the planet, spawning dozens of copycats.

But here’s the problem: Ford’s quote is a cop out. It bolsters our self-serving belief that we know what’s best for our customers. We hide behind Ford’s lesson, using it to justify our decision to not ask customers what they really want or need. Perhaps this approach worked in the early 1900s. But today, in the age of the customer, the balance of power has shifted from companies to consumers — and companies can no longer afford to make business decisions based on what they think they know about their customers.

One of the most effective ways to make sure you’re delivering products, services, and experiences that meet your customers’ needs is to actually bring them into your design process. I know this can sound like a shocking suggestion, so let me say it again. You should ask your customers to work with you on developing potential solutions to their biggest pain points. Designers call this co-creation.

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When It Comes to Total Returns, Customer Experience Leaders Spank Customer Experience Laggards

Harley Manning

Whenever I talk about the business impact of customer experience, there’s one thing that always grabs people’s attention. It’s an analysis done by Jon Picoult of Watermark Consulting, who took five years of data from Forrester’s Customer Experience Index and constructed two model portfolios. One is a portfolio of the top 10 publicly traded companies in the index (customer experience leaders), and one is a portfolio of the bottom 10 publicly traded companies in the index (customer experience laggards).

You can read details of how Jon conducted his analysis in our new book, Outside In, and in this post on Jon’s blog. The results are striking. Over the course of the five-year period, the customer experience leaders spanked the laggards in stock performance. The leader portfolio had a cumulative total return of +22.5%, compared with a -1.3% decline for the S&P 500 market index and a -46.3% decline for the laggard portfolio.

Five-Year Stock Performance Of Customer Experience Index (CXi) Leaders Versus Laggards Versus S&P 500 (2007 to 2011)

Customer Experience Leaders Portfolio deliver 5 year return of 22.5 percent

What follows is an interview I recently conducted with Jon to get his thoughts on why making a compelling business case for customer experience is so challenging — and so important.

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Apple Maintains The Status Quo With The iPhone 5, But For How Long?

Tony Costa

Apple's new iPhone 5 is a case study in incremental improvement. Nearly every aspect of the product -- the CPU, display, cameras, radio modem, size, weight, etc. -- are all improved over the iPhone 4S and at the same $199 price point. No doubt, the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 will sell millions of units, preserve Apple's momentum, and hold off the competition, but significant threats are mounting that Apple cannot afford to ignore:

  • Nokia is delivering Apple-quality innovation. As Nokia demonstrated last week at its Lumia 920 event, Nokia's innovation engine is firing on all cylinders. When the Lumia 920 launches (rumored for November 2), it will outclass the iPhone 5 in key areas such as imaging (PureView imaging, Cinemagraph) and location (Maps, City Lens, Transit) as well as bring wireless charging and NFC into the mainstream. While the breadth of accessories will be nowhere near what the iPhone offers, Nokia gets strong marks for showing Apple how NFC can enhance the accessory experience. 
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Customer Experience Disciplines Apply To Small Businesses, Too

Harley Manning

I had fun last week speaking with talk show host Jim Blasingame, the “small business advocate.” (In fact, listening to the first segment of the show — embedded below — I was probably having a little too much fun at first.)

One reason I was keen to do the show is that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about showrooming. You’ve probably heard about showrooming — maybe you’ve done it yourself. It’s when a customer goes into a retail location to touch and feel a product and then goes online to buy the product at a lower price.

Showrooming causes a particularly acute problem for small business owners. Their very existence is at stake: Just last weekend, I walked by a small bookstore in Concord, Mass., and saw a sign in the window that said, “If you see it here, buy it here, to keep us here.”

I sympathize with that small store owner’s plight, so I’d like to offer some advice: Putting a sign in the window that begs people to buy from you is the wrong approach. Do customers want to “keep you here” because of convenience? Nope. They can get lower-priced products delivered the same day at little to no shipping cost. Do they want to add you to the list of charities they support? No, and you don’t want that either — you’re in business to make a profit, and you probably take pride in being able to do just that.

Here’s a better way to compete: Focus on delivering a superior customer experience. As a local business owner, you have the chance to know your customers better than any website can know them — even the increasingly sophisticated websites that make recommendations based on past behavior. If you develop that understanding and marry it with expertise about the products or services you offer, you’ll have a winning combination.

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Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Digital Customer Experience

Kerry Bodine

Digital touchpoints such as websites, mobile phones, or tablets can drive revenue, lower costs, build brands, and engender customer loyalty. This shouldn’t be new news to anyone reading this. But to achieve these potential benefits, you need to deliver digital interactions that meet your customers’ needs in easy and enjoyable ways. That isn’t as easy as it sounds. Companies struggle on a daily basis to identify what digital experience improvements they need to make — and, once that’s nailed down, how exactly to make them.

In our recent report, Ron Rogowski and I outline the top tools and processes that can help you make digital customer experience improvements that matter. Want a preview? Read on.

The first set of recommendations will help you determine what it is you need to improve:

No. 10: Flex Your Analytics And Operational Data. Quantitative data from analytics platforms and internal operations systems — like those used in your call center — separates fact from fiction. In other words, it shows you customers’ real behavior patterns. Mining this data can uncover experience improvement opportunities.

No. 9: Conduct Expert Reviews Of Web, Mobile, And Tablet Touchpoints. Expert reviews, also known as “heuristic evaluations” or “scenario reviews,” are quick and inexpensive ways to determine what’s currently broken on your sites and apps. To conduct an expert review, you need to jump into the shoes of your customers and try to complete realistic tasks, all while looking for well-known customer experience issues.

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Does Your Company Have A Customer Experience Strategy? No, Really

Harley Manning

Here’s a typical conversation we have with businesspeople when trying to gauge the level of customer experience maturity at their company:

Forrester analyst: “Do you have a customer experience strategy?”

Manager: “We sure do!”

Forrester analyst: “Great! What’s in it? What’s the intended experience that it describes?”

Manager: “Well, uh, hmmm… You know, maybe we don’t have a customer experience strategy.”

The fact is, people at most companies are in the same boat as that manager (or director or VP or SVP or…). Why? For the most part, it’s because it never occurred to them that customer experience – like other business disciplines such as marketing and branding – requires a strategy to keep it on track.

Here’s why your organization needs a customer experience strategy: Without one, you’ll tend to mix and match best practices that may be great for someone but don’t align at all with the customer experience that you want to deliver.

People love those genius bars in Apple stores, right? And Apple is known for delivering a great customer experience. So why doesn’t Costco put genius bars in their stores? Simple: A genius bar provides an experience that aligns with Apple’s overall strategy of differentiating through innovation but flies in the face of Costco’s overarching strategy to be a cost leader.

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