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.
SXSW Interactive starts tomorrow! Are you making the trek to Austin? If so, please join me for a book reading and short presentation about the ideas in Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. In addition to outlining the business benefits of improving your customer experience, I’ll discuss the critical role that marketers play in shaping customers’ perceptions and propelling companies to their full customer experience potential. If you’ve already got a copy of Outside In, bring it with you – or buy one in the SXSW bookstore – and then head to the book signing immediately following my talk. Here are the session details:
On February 14, Amelia Sizemore and I delivered a Webinar about customer experience co-creation. We received so many questions that we couldn’t answer them all during the call, so I’m answering them (in brief) here:
How is co-creation different from human-centered design?
Co-creation is a process of face-to-face active collaboration with your company’s employees, partners, and customers. It’s not an explicit step in a human-centered design process – it’s a methodology that can be applied to any stage in that process.
How does co-creation fit with journey mapping?
Co-creation can help you explore and address misperceptions in your current customer journey maps. For example, you might plot out the customer’s journey as you perceive it, and then bring customers into a co-creation workshop to poke holes in it, point out inaccuracies, and tell you about steps you’re missing.
Once you’ve had customers define what’s really happening today, you can involve them in co-creating the ideal customer journey for tomorrow.
During the co-creation process, is there room for negotiation? What if customers want an experience that just isn't possible from a business perspective?
The term “co-creation” might sound like this activity is focused on defining polished solutions. However, its primary purpose is actually to unearth deeper insights.
Last month, I was in Europe with a group of customer experience professionals from various divisions of the same large company. Although their expertise was at varying levels, no one was clueless, and everyone seemed highly motivated. About halfway through the all-day session, one of the attendees asked me a question that I’m going to paraphrase here.
After some preamble about the pressures the company was under to increase revenue and profits, he asked, “Given that, when should we put aside the need for profits and fund customer experience projects instead?”
His question surprised me. And I clearly surprised him when I responded, “Never.” I let that hang in the air for a moment so that it could sink in. Then I added, “You should never put aside the need for profits when you fund customer experience projects.”
I could see that people were a little confused, so I went on. “You should only fund customer experience projects that will produce profits. That’s why you do those projects in the first place. And if you have other kinds of projects that will produce better business results, do them instead. But if you take the time to create the business models for your CX projects, you’ll probably find that they’ll produce better ROI than most of the initiatives they’re competing against.”
To be clear, the guy who had asked the question seemed very bright and had a lot of expertise in his area (metrics and measurement). But he had fallen into the same trap that so many customer experience advocates fall into. He wasn’t thinking of improving customer experience as a path to achieving business results. Instead, he was thinking of it just as a generally good thing to do for customers (which it is, but that’s not why you should do it).