Forrester’s 2012 Customer Experience Predictions

Kerry Bodine

2011 was a pivotal year for the field of customer experience. A major increase in the number and types of consumer technologies had a wide-ranging impact on daily life: People controlled their TVs with tablets, asked their phones questions, and played video games without using physical controllers. The extensive reach of these changes — and the screaming pace at which they happened — triggered a corporate awakening to the value of great customer interactions.

Brisk consumer technology adoption may have been the ultimate driver of many customer experience initiatives in 2011. But an increasingly competitive industry landscape, the ever-increasing power of consumers, and a slippery economy will be the major drivers of customer experience efforts in 2012.

In our latest report, Ron Rogowski and I outline what these market drivers mean for customer experience professionals in the year ahead — and what they’ll need to do to keep up. The report includes predictions for how organizations will change the way they work, what types of interactions they’ll focus on, and the resulting implications for customer experience vendors. For example:

  • C-level execs will officially name customer experience as a top strategic priority. Toward the end of 2011, we started hearing of more companies in which the CEO or board of directors decreed customer experience to be a top strategic priority. For example, the chief information officers at several large telecom companies recently told us that, for the first time ever, customer experience was one of their top concerns. We expect this trend to accelerate in 2012, much to the delight of customer experience professionals who have been clamoring for executive support for years.
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Want To Know How Your 2012 Customer Experience Plans Compare To Others? Take Our Benchmarking Survey To Find Out.

Megan Burns

Calling all customer experience professionals! It’s that time of year again . . . time for Forrester to take a snapshot of what’s going on inside customer experience programs around the globe.

Want to see how your company’s 2012 plans stack up? All it takes is 10 minutes. Complete Forrester’s Q4 2011 Customer Experience Survey, which will ask you a few questions about:

  • Your company’s goals and objectives for customer experience in 2012.
  • How your organization manages customer experience on a daily basis.
  • The customer experience categories you plan to funnel budget into for 2012.

Once the survey closes in mid-December, we’ll analyze the data and write a summary report titled “The State Of Customer Experience, 2012.” We’ll send you a copy of that report when it publishes in January — even if you’re not a Forrester client.

Thanks in advance for helping with our research. This data will fuel not only this report but also much of our other research throughout the coming year.

(By the way, this survey is for customer experience professionals who are working to improve customer interactions with their own companies. Agency employees, technology vendors, and consultants should take a pass on this one. There will be surveys for you later in the year.)

Help Forrester Make Its 2012 Customer Experience Predictions!

Kerry Bodine

It’s that time of the year again . . . Most of you are well into your 2012 planning, and at Forrester, we’ve also got our eyes on the year ahead. 

But first, we’re taking a look back. Ron Rogowski and I recently revisited our 2011 customer experience predictions report and chatted about what’s happened over the past 10 months.

In some cases, our predictions were accurate (if we do say so ourselves). For example, we said that tech vendors would engage in an “all-out war to own the customer experience management space” and that it would create a “confusing marketplace that will not shake out in 2011.” We also said that “customer service will gain popularity as a key opportunity for engagement.” Given our ongoing research and client conversations, we think these predictions were spot on.

And on a few points, we missed the mark. When we wrote our last doc, people had just started hacking the Kinect for Xbox 360 to create fun demos like real-time light sabers and digital shadow puppets. We wrote, “In 2011, we'll see companies start to leverage this technology, too, with healthcare (think guided physical therapy exercises) and marketing (a la interactive product demos) diving in first.” Well, we haven’t exactly seen a tsunami of activity in this area. But were we way off? Or did we just jump the gun? Only time will tell!

In either case, the fun continues.

Ron and I are collaborating again on our 2012 CX predictions report — and we want to know what you think. So here’s your chance for fame and fortune — or at least the opportunity to be mentioned in a Forrester report! If your ideas or comments contribute to our final analysis, we’ll add you as a contributor to the research.

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Sourcing & Vendor Management: A Key Driver In The Customer Experience Ecosystem

Kerry Bodine

Many customer experience initiatives don't meet their full potential — or worse, fail completely — because companies don’t have a complete picture of the dynamics that go into creating it. In order to break from their tunnel vision, companies need to understand their customer experience ecosystem: the complex set of relationships among a company’s employees, partners, and customers that determines the quality of all customer interactions.

In their quest to seek out the root causes of customer experience issues, companies often overlook the impact of sourcing and vendor management (SVM) professionals — often referred to as “procurement” by the rest of the organization. That’s too bad, because these decision-makers influence the customer experience in two key ways.

They influence which technologies and tools will be purchased. Some of these technologies are used internally. One example is: customer relationship management software, which enables employees across the organization to better understand customers and their ongoing relationships with the company. Other tools — like content management systems — directly affect the information that customers can access through digital touchpoints like the Web and mobile devices.

They shape the nature of service-based partner relationships. Some partners — like interactive agencies — help from behind the scenes to design and develop customer interactions. In contrast, partners like outsourced call centers and service technicians have direct contact with customers every single day.

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Why Customer Experience? Why Now?

Kerry Bodine

For decades, companies have been promising to delight customers, while simultaneously disappointing them in nearly every channel. That tactic won’t cut it anymore. Why not? We’ve entered a new era that Forrester calls the age of the customer — a time when focus on the customer matters more than any other strategic imperative. In the age of the customer, companies find that:

  • Commoditization has stripped away existing sources of differentiation. Competitive barriers of the past like manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery can’t save you today — one by one, each of these corporate investments has been commoditized.
  • Traditional industry boundaries have dissolved. Companies in every industry find themselves competing with new types of competitors — automakers with services like Zipcar, newspapers with Google News, travel agents with Expedia, and the entire retail industry with eBay.
  • Customers have more power than ever. With online reviews, social networks, and mobile web access, it’s easy for your customers to know more about your products, services, competitors, and pricing than you — and to share their opinions of your company with their friends.
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The Greatest Thing To Come Out Of The Mind Of The Late, Great Steve Jobs: His Perspective

Harley Manning

Those of us who work in the field of customer experience are especially hard hit by the passing of Steve Jobs. He symbolized the power of experience — how much a great experience can transform a product, a business, an industry, and even our daily lives.

Do you remember personal computers before the mouse, how you bought and listened to music before iTunes and the iPod, or how many animated films you watched in theaters — with or without the kids — before Pixar?

Steve Jobs even changed the way many of us think. If you own an iPhone or an iPad, you’ve probably found, as I have, that you don’t bother to memorize very much anymore. Why should you when you can dig up facts anytime, anywhere with just a few taps on a touchscreen?

Now please don’t get me wrong: I don’t idealize the man. For one thing, many people contributed to the success of everything I just mentioned. And not all Apple experiences are perfect, and Jobs didn’t succeed at everything he did (remember the NeXT Computer?).

But to go cynical is to miss the point, or more specifically, the point of view — the one that makes Jobs an icon for customer experience professionals. He put it out there when he famously said, “You've got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology — not the other way around.”

Frankly, “the other way around” is how most companies still operate. Not just technology companies but firms in every industry. Someone has an idea (maybe great, maybe not), and that turns into a product or service in the marketplace. The customer experience that results is whatever it turns out to be.

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Customer Experience Ecosystem Mapping: The Workshop!

Kerry Bodine

I’ve been talking a lot lately about customer experience ecosystems. And I’ve been getting tons of questions from people who would like to learn the tools and processes for mapping their own ecosystems.

Good news! Paul Hagen and I are hosting a Customer Experience Ecosystem Mapping workshop in San Francisco on Wednesday, November 16. During this full day of presentations, hands-on exercises, and discussions, you’ll learn how to use Forrester’s ecosystem framework to:

  • Detail a specific customer journey and key touchpoints. (If you’ve got them, bring your existing personas and customer journey maps.)
  • Identify the people, processes, policies, and technologies that influence those customer interactions — both the parts of the ecosystem that are in plain view of customers as well as those parts that influence the customer experience from behind the scenes.
  • Identify the root causes of customer experience problems.
  • Prioritize fixes to these problems.

You’ll leave with a solid start on your own ecosystem map — and the know-how to complete it back at the office with your extended team.

Ecosystem mapping is a collaborative exercise, and we feel you’ll get the most out of this workshop if a colleague joins you — so we’re offering a 10% discount to companies who send two attendees.

For more details, please check out the Customer Experience Ecosystem Mapping workshop page on our website.

We hope to see you in San Francisco!

Corporate Customer Experiences Need Startup Mojo

Kerry Bodine

I’m a Dropbox customer. I originally signed up for the basic plan — 2 GB for free — but ran out of space quickly and decided to upgrade to 50 GB of storage. So I forked over my $99 and got the following confirmation page:

A gold star! A hand-drawn cartoon! Now I know this page wasn’t designed specifically for yours truly, but when I saw it, I felt special. Like the people at Dropbox actually gave a damn that I had just given them $99 of my hard-earned money. 

Compare that with the $700 I spent recently for several nights at a large hotel. My final bill was printed on a plain white sheet of paper and was so devoid of any brand messaging that I feared it would raise eyebrows with our finance department! Consider the $1,600 I just plunked down for a multi-leg transcontinental flight. The airline’s confirmation email didn’t waste any time trying to sell me on a rental car, hotel room, and credit card — but didn’t even wish me a pleasant trip. Or take my credit card company — which processes tens of thousands of dollars of business expenses for me each year. When I look at my bill, the things that pop out are how much I owe them, by when, and a late payment warning — key pieces of information, yes, but reading that bill leaves me feeling like I need a shower.

These small touchpoints — a receipt, a confirmation email, a bill — play a functional role in customer interactions. But they also represent prime opportunities for companies to reinforce their brands and (perhaps even more importantly) make customers feel good about where they spend their time and money.

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Smartphone To Call Center Agent: Seize The Cross-Channel Opportunity

Adele Sage

In the US alone, Forrester is forecasting nearly 100 million smartphones by the end of 2011. And digital customer experience professionals are meeting the new mobile demand by creating or redesigning mobile experiences: 34 of the 48 customer experience professionals we surveyed at the end of last year said that they’re planning major mobile design projects in 2011.

In the rush to create great mobile experiences, most end up focused only on what occurs within the browser/app experience. But we know that consumers often call the call center when they can’t accomplish their goal on the Web. And that transition isn’t always seamless.

Let’s say we have a customer using a mobile banking app to look up the balance on his mortgage. Once he sees how much is left, he wonders what his options are to refinance at a better interest rate. He can get some basic refi rates in the app, but he wants to know whether, as a longtime customer, he can get a better rate. He goes to the "Contact Us" screen in the app and clicks on the phone number.

What happens next? He starts at the top of the IVR. He has to identify himself all over again and route to an appropriate agent. Talk about a frustrating experience for the customer and a waste of time for the agent to recapture what he was doing!

Remember: A smartphone is also a phone.

If the browser or app experiences are built for seamless transitions to phone agents, they should:

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A Great Customer Experience Depends On Customer Understanding

Harley Manning

My colleague Andrew McInnes recently wrote a post about the tunnel vision that results when companies rely solely on analytics for understanding customers. By neglecting qualitative research methods like ethnography and related tools like personas and customer journey maps, firms run the risk of thinking they know what customers want and need but in reality not having a clue. And that’s the root cause of some of the worst customer experience problems — issues that can drag down a business.

Take the case of Kevin Peters, Office Depot’s president, North America. Kevin recently spoke at our Customer Experience Forum where he described the biggest puzzle that confronted him when he got his job. Even as sales declined, store mystery-shopping scores compiled by a third-party research firm were going through the roof. How could this be? How could customers be having a great in-store experience but not actually buying?  

As it turned out, the mystery shoppers had been asking the wrong questions. They were accurately reporting that the floors and bathrooms of Office Depot stores were clean and that the shelves were stocked with merchandise. But as Peters put it: “Who cares?” When he personally visited 70 stores incognito, walked the aisles, and talked to customers, he discovered his real problems. For example, the combination of very large stores, weak signage, and employees who weren’t all that helpful made it hard to find products. That resulted in customers who walked in determined to buy and walked out without a purchase.

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