First, our final lineup of external speakers is confirmed. All of our main-stage speakers are from companies featured in our new book, Outside In — some of them are even the subjects of case studies in the book.
Many of you have asked us to feature more business-to-business content in our events, so in response, we have both Randy Pond, EVP of operations, processes, and systems at Cisco Systems, and John Taschek, VP Mof market strategy at salesforce.com. Both companies are in the book, and Randy is the executive sponsor of the program that won one of our 2012 Voice Of The Customer Awards.
In addition to Randy and John, we have Dr. Jim Merlino, the chief experience officer for Cleveland Clinic, a world-famous, $6 billion healthcare provider. The work he is doing is as applicable to organizations outside of healthcare as it is relevant to all of us who have ever been (or will ever be) patients.
We’re also excited about our main-stage panel on building a customer-centric culture with Nancy Fratzke of US Cellular and Kelly Harper of BMO Financial Group. Transforming a culture is one of the hardest things any of us will do, and both of these panelists have successfully done it.
Softbank, which owns Japan's third-largest mobile carrier, just announced that it will buy a 70% stake in Sprint Nextel. What exactly will that mean for wireless customers?
First, a little background . . .
In our new book,Outside In, my co-author Kerry Bodine and I describe the customer experience turnaround that CEO Dan Hesse engineered at Sprint. By relentlessly identifying the top problems that customers called to complain about and then systematically eliminating those problems, he took the company from having the lowest customer satisfaction rating of any major US carrier to having the highest customer satisfaction rating. Fewer unhappy customers meant fewer calls to Sprint's contact centers. As a result, Hesse recently reported that Sprint saves $1.7 billion a year from averted call center contacts.
Hesse’s current challenges have centered around shareholder displeasure with the cost of licensing the iPhone and the cost of building out Sprint’s high-speed network capabilities. As I said in a previous blog post, that lack of shareholder support seems strange to me. Isn't it obvious that it's critical to offer customers the smartphone they want and a fast network with a lot of capacity to support that phone — especially in a world where they have so many choices? It should be.
In contrast to current Sprint investors, Softbank President Masayoshi Son understands that smartphones and the networks that fuel them are essential: Not only is Softbank already building a high-speed network to help it compete in the smartphone war in Japan, but also Son said that the iPhone 5 was a trigger for the Sprint deal.
Last week I got a question via email from one of Forrester’s clients, who asked:
“How do you explain the success of companies that consistently provide a poor experience but perform well financially?”
I wish more people asked this question because it shows that they’re thinking about customer experience in the right context: as a path to profits. Here’s my answer:Creating a superior customer experience is the most important thing that companies need to do. But it will never be the only important thing they need to do.
My co-author and I describe the relationship between customer experience and other factors that lead to business success in Chapter 13 of our new book, Outside In:
“Is customer experience a silver bullet that will kill off all your company's problems and make your stock price soar? No. If there is such a bullet, we haven't seen it. The fact is, regardless of your customer experience, you can still get clobbered by a big, strategic threat like a new market entrant (Netflix if you're Blockbuster) or a substitute product (digital photography if you're Polaroid). That's especially true if the new market entrant or the provider of the substitute product offers an amazing customer experience (Amazon.com if you're Borders or Barnes & Noble).”
When you have a virtual monopoly, you can get away with providing a poor customer experience — right up until you can’t.
After moving to a new apartment in September, I needed to get a new TV. My first instinct was to gather information from a few sources. I browsed online retailers to get an idea of prices, and I looked at manufacturers’ marketing content to understand the latest technologies like 3D TV. After all of that, I turned to consumer reviews and discussions to get a feeling for whether I would actually find those features valuable. (For example, some customer reviews helped me confirm that I didn’t want 3D TV.)
Where did I find those reviews? Everywhere — there are star ratings and comments on product pages at retail sites (like John Lewis and Amazon.com), technology media sites (like CNET) and manufacturer websites. Interestingly — I got the feeling that the manufacturers still aren’t entirely comfortable with the transparency that social media brings. They’d like to put a spin on the message, even if they can’t entirely control it — For example, Panasonic’s UK site has a page that promotes “5 Star Reviews Of The Month” (see the screenshot below). I can't think of a situation when I'd want a firm to guide me only to the most positive reviews of its products. Can you?
This summer, I vacationed in Redwoods National Park on the northern coast of California. Each day, my husband and I enjoyed peaceful hikes among the awe-inspiring trees that towered several hundred feet above us. But one thing caught me off guard: Far more often than I had anticipated, we encountered redwoods ripped from their roots, sprawled horizontally across the forest floor. Most had taken several other trees down with them. At first, I lamented the fate of each of these fallen giants. How unfortunate, I thought, that such a magnificent redwood would grow for half of a millennium, only to be toppled over in an unforgiving windstorm or to have its base weakened by fire.
And then I realized that the fallen trees might actually be a good thing. Standing at the base of each upended root system and looking up toward the sky, I could see a hole punched in the canopy above me that allowed rays of sunlight to reach the forest floor. I’m no biologist, but the sunlight seemed to encourage lush undergrowth that was absent elsewhere. Informational signs confirmed my suspicions: “Massive logs crisscross the forest floor, holding soils in place. Dozens of species of insects, birds, and mammals use them for shelter and food over the centuries of decay. Tanoaks, hemlocks, ferns, and huckleberries sprout on the nurse logs . . . Insects and bacteria live and feed on the wood.”
Reflecting back on my hikes through the redwood forest, I can’t help but wonder: What do most companies do when they encounter the customer experience equivalent of a fallen tree?
Now that Apple has apologized and the uproar over Mapplegate is starting to subside, it's time to step back and focus on why Apple had to do what it did. The fact is, Apple had to replace Google Maps for three reasons:
iPhone map users are too valuable to leave to Google. According to ComScore, the iPhone users account for 45% of all mobile traffic on Google Maps, with the remaining 55% coming from Android. This means approximately 31 million iPhone users access Google Maps every month. iPhone users also use Google Maps more intensively than Android users. On average, iPhone users spend 75 minutes per month in Google Maps versus 56 minutes per month for Android users. And iPhone users access Google Maps more frequently than Android users, averaging 9.7 million visits daily versus 7.1 million visits for Android users. Given this data, Apple has a vital strategic interest in moving its iPhone users off Google Maps and onto an Apple mapping solution. Doing so not only deprives Google of its best users but also gives Apple the customer base they will need to drive adoption of new location-based services.
Customer experience evangelists like to focus on how customer experience aligns beautifully with business metrics like increased revenue, brand equity, and cost savings. That’s all true. And we’ve got the data to prove it.
But the reality is that producing amazing customer experiences can require tradeoffs, like, say, delaying the launch of a key product (and its related revenue) or doubling your development staff (and your related budget) to meet that launch date. These are tough tradeoffs — and they’re ones that companies are often unprepared to make in light of greater business pressures.
Clearly Apple needed to move away from Google Maps. Relying on a competitor to provide such core mobile functionality was not a viable long-term strategy, and someone at Apple decided that the switch would happen in iOS 6. Somewhere along the line, that same someone realized that Maps wasn’t quite ready for primetime — and chose to sacrifice the short-term mapping experience to meet its launch target.
It’s a decision that I believe goes against what Steve Jobs — who always put the customer experience first — would have done if he were alive today. And, for the record, I don’t think Jobs would have delayed the launch. I think he would have cracked the whip to make sure Maps was ready in time.
That’s because Steve Jobs defined a clear customer experience strategy for Apple: providing the most incredible possible experience and commanding a premium price for it. Under Jobs’ watch, nothing left the shelves until it was pixel perfect. It’s what made Apple famous, and it’s what its legions of loyal customers across the world expect.
Many of the conversations I have with clients about voice of the customer (VoC) programs center on ways the programs can improve and best practices they can adopt. What I think is really underlying these discussions, though, is the question, "How does my program compare with all the others that are out there?" Or, more succinctly, "How am I doing?"
My anecdotal conversations, though frequent, do not make for a quantitative study. So I did just that: I surveyed our Global Customer Experience Peer Research Panel about their VoC programs. The results will be published shortly in a Forrester report called, "The State Of VoC Programs, 2012," but in the meantime, I'd like to give you a sneak peak.
Our most important finding was that customer experience professionals aren't getting the value they could be from their programs. Specifically, we asked how valuable their programs were in improving customers' experiences and how valuable they were in delivering financial results. It turns out that VoC programs help companies improve the customer experience; we saw more respondents getting that kind of value. But firms struggle to connect the dots to financial value.
So why the gap? It turns out that customer experience value is pretty easy to recognize. Respondents told us that the feedback data they collect helps them identify problems with the experience that need to be fixed. It also helps them prioritize what to fix because they can take the input from their customers into account when looking at all the various improvement project opportunities. The resulting projects make the experience better.
I’m not the biggest NFL fan in the world, but now that I live in Boston, I follow the Patriots. I think it’s actually a requirement of citizenship.
And I do have a passing interest in some other teams. Who doesn’t love watching anyone named “Manning” throw a football? (Unless it’s against the Pats in the Super Bowl.)
With that as background, may I say that the now-ended lockout of NFL refs set the low watermark in football customer experience? Yeah, customer experience — not just for all those who buy tickets, but for all of us who “pay” for the games with our time by watching ads.
Lest we forget, let’s count some of the ways that the replacement refs ruined our Sunday afternoons and Monday nights:
Stopping the game every other play to try and figure out what really happened. Football is supposed to be a sport, guys, not a meeting of the local debate team.
Making game-changing calls that the replay showed were dead wrong. Hey, if you screw up, 'fess up — then make it right and move on. My sixth-grader knows that, so why doesn’t Roger Goodell?
Clogging the air time on ESPN with self-righteous defenses of their bad calls. (Okay, that didn’t happen on Sunday afternoons or Monday nights, but it was worse because it spread more pain across three weeks when all I wanted was to see the top 10 sports plays from the previous day. Argh!)
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?