Way back in January I spoke at the Luxury FirstLook conference put on by Luxury Daily in New York (a terrific event, by the way). Several of the other speakers intrigued me. One, in particular, gave a speech that I immediately wanted to bring to attendees at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East: John T. A. Vanderslice, the global head of luxury and lifestyle brands at Hilton Worldwide (those brands being Waldorf Astoria and Conrad).
Here’s one of many things John said that struck me: "Today's luxury buyers make investments of passion." That’s a far cry from the way customer experience (CX) practitioners usually talk about emotional engagement. But it struck me as an authentic way to describe super-affluent buyers who’ll pay to reenact the life of a Roman gladiator or to take a trek through the wilds of Nepal.
I ambushed John on his way out the door and recruited him to speak at our forum, which he did earlier this week. He was great. And he was also gracious enough to answer some questions that we posed to him, which we’re now happy to share with you.
1. When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
We just announced the winners of Forrester’s inaugural Outside In Awards at Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East this afternoon. The awards recognize organizations that excel at the practices needed for planning, creating, and managing a great customer experience. We accepted nominations in six categories that align with the six customer experience disciplines in our research: strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and customer-centric culture.
To evaluate the submissions, each panel of judges graded each nomination form on five criteria: clarity of approach, impact on customers’ experiences, impact on business performance, degree of innovation, and lessons provided for other firms. Each category was judged independently, and there could be up to three winners in any category. Winners and finalists were chosen based on their scores.
And the winners are . . .
Ally Bank for design.
American Cancer Society for measurement.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan for customer understanding.
Firms crave differentiation. But the truth is that even companies with dedicated time and budget for customer experience innovation focus most of their efforts on two things — whatever their competitors are doing and whatever the latest technology enables them to do. When companies blindly add shiny new features or trendy technologies to their mix of customer experiences, they’re innovating just for innovation’s sake.
To shed scattershot innovation efforts that produce little business value, customer experience professionals must examine their business challenges and associated opportunities in a different way — from the outside in. This first and vital step in the innovation process requires immersion in customers’ lives. The end goal? Developing empathy for your customers so that you can discover their unmet needs.
Someone who really understands this is Doug Dietz of General Electric Healthcare (GE Healthcare). Doug had been designing CT and MRI scanners at GE Healthcare for 20 years. As a product designer, he concentrated mostly on the aesthetics and the ergonomics of these machines, or what he calls “the shiny objects.” He was incredibly proud of these shiny objects. And he had good reason — on hospital visits, technicians would shower him with compliments.
But Doug’s machines didn’t so well work for one key customer segment: little kids.
On one particular visit to a children’s hospital, Doug watched a little girl walk in, holding her parents’ hands. She took one look at the MRI machine, which Doug had been so proud of just moments before, and she started to cry. Doug learned that a huge percentage of children get so panicked about their procedures that they actually require sedation. He says, “I thought to myself . . . I’m kind of a failure.”
Today’s customers are highly empowered, hyperactive, and incredibly distracted by all of the options available to them for connecting with the things and people that matter to them most. These customers come to you with highly complex goals that they themselves cannot always accurately define — goals for which they don’t necessarily follow the seemingly logical linear paths you’ve laid out for them. As customers multitask their way through stages of information gathering, evaluation, purchase, and servicing, they connect with multiple outside sources that influence and transform their goals if they don’t hijack them altogether.
Gone are the days of the funnel when companies could lure customers with big promises and push them through a set of steps that would lead to purchase. Today, customer processes are far more complicated than ever, and while many firms believe that the purchase is the endpoint of an experience, for many customers, it’s just the beginning. Instead of taking a fragmented approach, firms need to look at the broad customer journey and understand how they can meet their customers’ needs when and where their customers want to interact. They need to understand their customers’ context and weave together a unified experience that matches the expectations customers have of the brand according to their in-the-moment needs.
“It’s not about what’s your best option. This is your only option”
Those were the words of an airline employee in Pittsburgh, following the cancellation of my flight to Washington, D.C. The agent had put me onto the next available flight. There was nothing more to do about the situation, and my questions were a waste of her time. The pressure on me to accept my fate and let her go home could hardly have been less subtle.
Most of us would like to think that we’re more customer-centric than that individual. However, unless we check the self-centered tendencies of our organizations, we run the risk of being every bit as difficult to deal with — expecting customers to adapt to our language, practices, and policies. That won’t cut it anymore because customers have plenty of options. Companies that want to thrive today had better understand how to meet or exceed their customers' expectations throughout their journeys.
That’s where customer journey maps come in. These tools are proving their value to companies that want to improve customer experience. When they’re used in strategic discussions, training exercises, and design practices, they help stakeholders throughout the organization to keep in mind the processes, needs, and perceptions of customers who are trying to achieve their goals. In my recent research on "Tools For Mastering The Customer Experience Ecosystem," I explained how the packaged vacation firm, TUI, used journey maps to plan for the future of vacationers' end-to-end experiences and how a logistics firm used journey maps to improve customers' experience with its parcel tracking service.
Marketing and customer experience are two sides of the same coin: Marketers are responsible for communicating the brand promise, and customer experience professionals are responsible for making sure that the promise is kept.
It’s that synergy between marketing and CX that led us to invite Jamie Moldafsky, CMO at Wells Fargo, to speak at Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals in New York on the morning of June 25. As a run-up to our event, Jamie took the time to answer a few questions about why Wells Fargo cares about customer experience and how its approach to CX has evolved over the years.
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
Treating customers with courtesy and respect has been a core value at Wells Fargo for more than 160 years. Back in 1888, its agents were given the following instructions: “Proper respect must be shown to all — let them be men, women, or children, rich or poor, white or black—it must not be forgotten that the Company is dependent on these same people for its business.”
As we do each year, we compiled a list of brands whose scores went up five or more points in our Customer Experience Index over the past year (in this case, between 2012 and 2013). We asked CX leaders from those brands if they’d be willing to tell us what they did to drive those improvements. Finally, we synthesized their answers into a list of best practices that others can learn from.
As you’d expect, we heard about a host of projects designed to boost the three aspects of customer experience quality. Here’s just a sampling of what we uncovered:
Meets needs. Marriott used one of my favorite qualitative research techniques — diary studies — to understand exactly when its guests would need a mobile device during their travels. The firm identified roughly 300 user needs that a mobile device could fill, prioritized them, and is using the resulting hierarchy as a road map for future investment.
Easy. Vanguard and Progressive were just two of the brands that said they upgraded website designs to make it easier for customers to get the information they need online.
Enjoyable. Days Inns trained more than 20,000 employees on how to make hotel guests feel welcomed.
There is a staggering amount of customer experience work going on in the healthcare industry these days. From providers (the docs), to pharma companies and payers (health insurers), everyone is trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.
At Forrester, we define customer experience as how customers perceive their interactions with your company.
Over the past few years, my colleagues and I have written a lot about the perceptions piece of that definition. Here’s a quick overview: Customers’ perceptions occur on three different levels, which we collectively refer to as the customer experience pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is “meets needs.” Do customers perceive that you’ve met their basic needs and provided value through the interaction? Then we layer on “easy.” Do customers perceive that you’re easy to do business with or that they have to jump through a bunch of hoops? And at the top of the pyramid is “enjoyable.” Do customers perceive that you’re enjoyable to do business with — that you’re connecting with them on some personal, emotional level?
Now let’s talk about the interactions themselves. Customers interact with your company at all stages of the customer journey: discover, evaluate, buy, access, use, get support, leave, and re-engage. But it’s not enough to know that these interactions exist. If you want to shift your customers’ perceptions, you have to examine those interactions on a deeper level. Specifically, you need to look at the types of interactions customers have and the qualities that those interactions embody. And that’s where your business model and your brand come into play.
The nomination period has officially closed for the new Forrester Outside In Awards for customer experience excellence. The companies nominating themselves have done their hard work, and now it’s the judges’ turn to evaluate the submissions and pick the winners.
We’ve been getting some questions about the Outside In Awards and what to expect on stage at our June Forum. First of all, we’ll be handing out the awards the morning of June 25th at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum in New York City. If you’ve been on the edge of your seats wondering who will win, the suspense will finally be over.
The awards ceremony itself is so short, though, that you’ll only get a taste of what makes these programs award-winning material. Bummer, right? Not so fast!
What we found with our other award programs — the Voice Of The Customer Awards and the Groundswell Awards — is that companies tell us great stories about what they’re doing. In their nomination forms, we hear about all kinds of interesting practices that these companies have been able to link to business results, which is what we look for in the awards. Rather than keep all of the details to ourselves, we like to get them up on stage so that they can tell their own stories and answer questions from the audience about what they're doing.
The Outside In Awards will be no exception. On the afternoon of June 25th, I’ll be leading a track session panel with representatives from several of the winning companies. They’ll present more details about their award-winning practices and the results they’re getting, and you’ll get a chance to ask your burning questions and get some practical advice.