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.
I’m excited to finally be able to talk publicly about our CX Forum East in New York at the end of June. The theme this year is “Boost Your Customer Experience To The Next Level.” We picked that theme because ever since last fall when we published Outside In, our book about customer experience, people have been asking us to show them how to either get started on the path to CX maturity or accelerate their progress. This forum is all about helping people create customized roadmaps for their organizations.
Megan Burns will kick off the first day of the event with a speech about “The Path To Customer Experience Maturity.” The speech will debut new research about companies that successfully adopted new competencies and changed employee behavior. Attendees will be the first ones to get copies of Megan’s new report that details her findings – I’m editing the report and I am really jazzed about what she’d discovering.
Kerry Bodine, my co-author for Outside In, will kick off the second day of the event with a speech about customer experience innovation. Her speech will also be based on new research. She’ll detail her findings into what distinguishes incremental CX improvements from true innovations. She’ll also describe how companies can create innovation engines within their organizations – the “road map” for the advanced class. For those of you who want to leap ahead of the pack and truly differentiate through customer experience, this is a “must see” presentation.
As an avid personal investor I’m often appalled by cable shows that report on the markets as if they were non-stop sporting events. Seriously, how many people care how the NASDAQ or the Dow are doing on any given minute of any given day? But apparently there are enough day traders out there that noon reports from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange are as compelling as half-time reports during the NFL playoffs.
I have to confess that there is one piece of financial analysis that I do look forward to – though in my defense, this is an annual occurrence and not an hourly update. The analysis comes from Jon Picoult, a gentleman who runs Watermark Consulting.
For a while now Jon has been taking the data from Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CXi) and using it to do a thought experiment. In this experiment he looks at what would have happened if, back when we first published the CXi, an investor had taken two equal buckets of money and created two U.S. stock portfolios. The first portfolio would have consisted of the top 10 publicly traded companies in our index (the customer experience leaders). The second portfolio would have consisted of the bottom 10 publicly traded companies in the index (the customer experience laggards).
In Jon’s model the investor would have held each portfolio for a year, then sold them both and taken his profits (or losses). He would have then used the proceeds to purchase the new year’s leaders and the new year’s laggards, continuing this cycle of selling and buying for all six years that the CXi has been in existence.
Intriguing, right? Even those of us who believe in the business value of customer experience (or in my case can prove it through research) don’t normally look at the impact on stock performance.
Of the six disciplines in Forrester’s customer experience maturity model, design is probably the least understood. It’s is not taught in most business schools (although this is starting to change at institutions like Stanford and the University of Toronto). It’s also not widely practiced in most companies outside of specialized groups that focus on digital touchpoints. And so it remains a mystery to most business people. That’s a shame, because design is an incredibly valuable business tool — and it’s accessible to just about anyone in any organization.
That’s why I wanted to take time this week to answer some of the questions that I’m frequently asked about customer experience design. In fact, all of the following are exact questions that I’ve received from Forrester clients over the past year.
What exactly is this design thing again?
Design is both a process and a mindset.
Let’s talk about the process part first. Designers typically follow a common set of steps when trying to solve a problem: research that helps them uncover deep emotional insights about people’s wants and needs, analysis that helps them identify the real problems and issues, ideation of dozens (or hundreds) of possible solutions, prototyping that helps them bring those ideas to life in tangible ways, and testing that helps them evaluate the proposed prototypes and solutions. Designers don’t go thought this process once — they iterate this process several times in order to learn from their prototypes and refine their solutions.
Voice of the customer (VoC) data is alluring. Once you start to collect customer feedback, there's always something more you could be gathering. You think: What else can I learn? What else are customers saying and thinking? Where else are they saying it? You want to know more.
But collecting the data — listening — isn't enough.
At Forrester, we describe the continuous cycle of activities that make up VoC programs as: listen, interpret, react, and monitor. "Listen" is all the customer feedback you're collecting via listening posts like surveys, emails, calls, and comment cards. "Interpret" is the analysis you do on that feedback (and other related data) to understand what it all means. "React" is what you do to fix the experience based on the analysis you've done, and "monitor" is how you make sure that whatever you did to react is actually working.
It's critical to go through the full cycle with whatever data you're already collecting. Because here's the hard truth: You get no ROI from listening or interpreting. None. Zero. Zip. You only get business results from actually improving the experience.
The last few days have been quite rough on PC-era titans Microsoft and HP. While my colleague Ted Schadler is correct in saying we're in a multi-device, "right tool for the job" era, the unfortunate truth for PC makers is that, for many consumers, the right tool for the job just so happens to be the mobile devices they carry with them, not the PC sitting in their bedroom or home office or wherever people keep them these days. In fact, 77% of mobile searches take place in the home or at work where a PC is readily available. Whether you call it lazy or convenient, the simple fact is smartphones and tablets are quickly becoming the go-to computing devices for consumers.
This shift in ownership and use behavior marks the dawn of a new age in customer experience. As I discuss in my new report, Customer Experience in the Post-PC Era, as customers shift their attention to mobile devices, their expectations are fundamentally changing. In the post-PC era, customers expect companies to provide experiences aligned with their needs and abilities, in the right context, and at their moment of need. To deliver on this, customer experiences need to become:
Apple’s acquisition of WiFiSLAM made a few headlines earlier this week, but it’s been largely been ignored by the popular press. Just a small start-up acquisition, right? Wrong. Apple’s acquisition of WiFiSLAM is a game changer in two ways. First, it fills a critical gap in Apple’s location and mapping offering, better positioning it to take on Google and Nokia’s extensive indoor location offerings. And, as I wrote last fall, Apple’s focus on maps and location is part of a larger strategic battle taking place.
Second, the acquisition is poised to act as a catalyst – as Apple’s entry into emerging markets so often does – that will ignite a new wave of innovative apps and solutions based on indoor location. To get a better understanding of what indoor location brings to the table, one only has to look at what is taking place in the retail industry, one of the first major industries to embrace indoor location technology. Already, retailers are using indoor location technology to:
There are six award categories for the Outside In Awards:
Best customer experience strategy.
Best customer understanding program.
Best customer experience design.
Best customer experience measurement program.
Best customer experience governance program.
Most customer-centric culture.
You can find all of the information you need on our Outside In Awards home page. The 2013 nomination forms are all available there, and nominations are due by 5:00 p.m. ET on May 3rd. You can also review this year's timeline, get answers to FAQs, and check out information about past customer experience award winners.
It disappoints me when customer experience (CX) professionals at business-to-business (B2B) companies won’t even consider CX practices from business-to-consumer (B2C) companies.
Sure, B2B firms can learn a lot from other B2B firms: Cisco has an amazing voice of the customer program, Boeing does great work conducting field studies of its customers, and Adobe has a notable CX governance practice. But unless B2B customer experience practitioners want to run the CX race with one foot in a bucket, they should also learn strategy from Holiday Inn and Burberry, customer understanding from Vanguard and Virgin Mobile Australia, and design practices from Fidelity and the Spanish bank BBVA — the list of relevant B2C case studies goes on and on.
There are two reasons why B2B companies should take this advice to heart. First, no industry has anything close to a monopoly on best practices. So unless companies cast a wide net, they’re cutting themselves off from lessons that could give them an edge over their navel-gazing competitors. Secondly, every customer that B2B companies serve is not only a businessperson but also a consumer, one who has his or her expectations set by daily interactions with Amazon, Apple, Starbucks, and Zappos. And those B2B customers no longer lower their expectations when they go to work — especially because work now gets interspersed with their personal lives.
There’s no question that executive support can make or break a voice of the customer (VoC) program. With an executive (or several) onboard, VoC teams can get the funding and tools that they need to succeed. And VoC leaders from Forrester’s 2012 Voice Of The Customer Awards almost unanimously gave others the advice to build executive support.
If you’re struggling to get your program off the ground, heed their wise advice. Appeal to executives with evidence (metrics, business results) and with compelling stories about what might be going wrong for customers and how they’ve been delighted by the experience. Ask for execs to support you in collecting feedback from customers, analyzing that feedback, taking on projects to improve the experience, and monitoring to make sure that those projects are working.
But executives aren’t the only key to a successful program. Top-down support is important, but it has to be balanced with bottom-up support, too. What happens when execs mandate that everyone cares about customer feedback? People don’t really care. It feels like a fad. Employees have to feel some ownership and control — or they just won’t buy in.