I had fun last week speaking with talk show host Jim Blasingame, the “small business advocate.” (In fact, listening to the first segment of the show — embedded below — I was probably having a little too much fun at first.)
One reason I was keen to do the show is that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about showrooming. You’ve probably heard about showrooming — maybe you’ve done it yourself. It’s when a customer goes into a retail location to touch and feel a product and then goes online to buy the product at a lower price.
Showrooming causes a particularly acute problem for small business owners. Their very existence is at stake: Just last weekend, I walked by a small bookstore in Concord, Mass., and saw a sign in the window that said, “If you see it here, buy it here, to keep us here.”
I sympathize with that small store owner’s plight, so I’d like to offer some advice: Putting a sign in the window that begs people to buy from you is the wrong approach. Do customers want to “keep you here” because of convenience? Nope. They can get lower-priced products delivered the same day at little to no shipping cost. Do they want to add you to the list of charities they support? No, and you don’t want that either — you’re in business to make a profit, and you probably take pride in being able to do just that.
Here’s a better way to compete: Focus on delivering a superior customer experience. As a local business owner, you have the chance to know your customers better than any website can know them — even the increasingly sophisticated websites that make recommendations based on past behavior. If you develop that understanding and marry it with expertise about the products or services you offer, you’ll have a winning combination.
Digital touchpoints such as websites, mobile phones, or tablets can drive revenue, lower costs, build brands, and engender customer loyalty. This shouldn’t be new news to anyone reading this. But to achieve these potential benefits, you need to deliver digital interactions that meet your customers’ needs in easy and enjoyable ways. That isn’t as easy as it sounds. Companies struggle on a daily basis to identify what digital experience improvements they need to make — and, once that’s nailed down, how exactly to make them.
In our recent report, Ron Rogowski and I outline the top tools and processes that can help you make digital customer experience improvements that matter. Want a preview? Read on.
The first set of recommendations will help you determine what it is you need to improve:
No. 10: Flex Your Analytics And Operational Data. Quantitative data from analytics platforms and internal operations systems — like those used in your call center — separates fact from fiction. In other words, it shows you customers’ real behavior patterns. Mining this data can uncover experience improvement opportunities.
No. 9: Conduct Expert Reviews Of Web, Mobile, And Tablet Touchpoints. Expert reviews, also known as “heuristic evaluations” or “scenario reviews,” are quick and inexpensive ways to determine what’s currently broken on your sites and apps. To conduct an expert review, you need to jump into the shoes of your customers and try to complete realistic tasks, all while looking for well-known customer experience issues.
Here’s a typical conversation we have with businesspeople when trying to gauge the level of customer experience maturity at their company:
Forrester analyst: “Do you have a customer experience strategy?”
Manager: “We sure do!”
Forrester analyst: “Great! What’s in it? What’s the intended experience that it describes?”
Manager: “Well, uh, hmmm… You know, maybe we don’t have a customer experience strategy.”
The fact is, people at most companies are in the same boat as that manager (or director or VP or SVP or…). Why? For the most part, it’s because it never occurred to them that customer experience – like other business disciplines such as marketing and branding – requires a strategy to keep it on track.
Here’s why your organization needs a customer experience strategy: Without one, you’ll tend to mix and match best practices that may be great for someone but don’t align at all with the customer experience that you want to deliver.
People love those genius bars in Apple stores, right? And Apple is known for delivering a great customer experience. So why doesn’t Costco put genius bars in their stores? Simple: A genius bar provides an experience that aligns with Apple’s overall strategy of differentiating through innovation but flies in the face of Costco’s overarching strategy to be a cost leader.
Marketing Manager: “Net Promoter Score is the one number we need to grow!”
Customer Intelligence Manager: “Nonsense! ‘Satisfaction’ predicts customer loyalty better than ‘likelihood to recommend’ – it says so in the wonky business journals I read!”
Marketing Manager: “You don’t understand how business works!”
Customer Intelligence Manager: “You don’t understand how math works!”
The sad thing is that in a micro sense they’re both right, but in a macro sense they’re both wrong. The reason? They’re each taking an inside-out point of view based on their own specialties.
Where NPS Fits In A Customer Experience Measurement Framework
In our research into customer experience measurement, we see many organizations that use Net Promoter Score. Some use it poorly because – like the fictional marketing manager above – they don’t understand the limitations of what NPS can do.
Here’s how they should think of it: Customer experience is how customers perceive their interactions with a company along each step of a customer journey, from discovery, to purchase and use, to getting service. NPS measures what customers say they’ll do as a result of one or more of those interactions. It’s what Forrester calls an “outcome metric.”
But outcome metrics are just one out of three types of metrics captured by effective customer experience measurement programs. The best programs gather and analyze:
My coauthor, Harley Manning, and I are thrilled to announce that our new book, Outside In: The Power Of Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business, is released today! We encourage you to read this book if:
You want to figure out what the heck customer experience really is.
You need to make the business case for customer experience.
Your company understands the power of customer experience, but you’re not sure where to start.
You’ve got some customer experience initiatives underway, and you’re ready to take your efforts to the next level.
You want rigorous, battle-tested customer experience tools that have been implemented by companies around the world.
If you’d like to know more about the ideas in Outside In or would like to engage directly with Harley and me, please:
Bring your questions to our #OutsideIn tweet chat next Wednesday, September 5, from noon – 1PM Eastern time.
Join us for one of two free Webinars on Wednesday, September 19. If you miss us at 9AM Eastern, you can catch an encore presentation at 2PM Eastern.
Customer experience is fundamental to the success of every business. For most companies, in fact, customer experience is the single greatest predictor of whether customers will return — or defect to a competitor.
Customer experience goes to the heart of everything you do: how you conduct your business, how your people behave when they interact with customers and each other, and the value you provide. You literally can’t afford to ignore it, because your customers take it personally each and every time they touch your products, your services, and your support.
In our new book, Outside In, my coauthor, Kerry Bodine, and I explore the real meaning of customer experience; prove the business benefits of delivering a great experience; and describe the six disciplines of customer experience leaders like American Express, JetBlue, Office Depot, and Vanguard. Our goal is to help readers understand why and how customer experience leads to profits — which it does, but only if you treat it as a business discipline.
Why is customer experience so important?
“Customer experience” is literally how your customers perceive their interactions with your company.
Those interactions occur at each step along a customer journey. That journey begins when people realize that you offer a product or service they might want, then compare your offer to other options. If things go your way, they’ll buy from you. Then they’ll use what they bought. If they encounter a problem, they’ll call for support.
No matter how solid your strategy is or how carefully you design your customer experience, it’s simply impossible to plan for every single customer interaction at every last touchpoint. At some point, you need to put your trust in your company’s most valuable resource, its employees, to do the right thing for customers. Similarly, sharing customer insights, measuring the results of your work, and introducing customer experience governance programs will only get you so far if your company’s workforce — from your top execs down to entry-level staff members — isn’t ready to embrace new ways of working.
That’s why building a customer-centric culture is critical to customer experience success.
In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of a customer-centric culture through a case study about John Deere Financial, one of the largest providers of financial services to agricultural and construction customers in the US. Like many companies, it had a product and process focus for decades. Then, as part of a recent call to action to become more customer-focused, the company developed a new set of customer promises:
You’re at home when your phone rings. It’s your child’s summer camp calling to tell you that she never arrived. No one knows where she is.
Make your gut churn? Yes, if you’re a parent — or even if you’re not.
If you were following the news last week, you know that Annie and Perry Klebahn did get that phone call. That’s when they found out that their 10-year-old daughter Phoebe hadn’t gotten off a United Airlines flight to Traverse City, Michigan.
Here are the highlights of what happened.
Phoebe had been traveling alone. Her parents had paid United a $99 fee for the “unaccompanied minor” service and had every reason to believe that their daughter was in good hands. According to the complaint letter that her parents wrote to United, when they dropped Phoebe off at the San Francisco airport, a United employee put an identifying wristband on her and told her to “only go with someone with a United badge on and that she would be accompanied at all times.” But when Phoebe arrived in Chicago to change planes, no one met her. The little girl reportedly asked flight attendants three times to let her use a phone to call her parents, and they told her to wait. She also asked if someone had called camp to tell them she had missed her flight, and they said they’d take care of it (but then didn’t).
Firms are increasing their focus on and investment in digital touchpoints. Why? Because digital touchpoints are critical parts of the customer experience ecosystem that offer your customers access to your firm anytime, anywhere. But when these touchpoints aren't optimized to reflect the way customers want to interact, firms:
Lose customers entirely. Seventeen percent of frustrated digital customers report walking away from a purchase, and 11% give up shopping entirely when they can't complete their online research. More alarmingly, when trying to purchase a product or service online, 17% of US consumers who fail to complete their goal take their business elsewhere. These missed opportunities can result in $30 million or more in direct revenues lost per year.
Damage their brands. In today's world of empowered consumers, the stakes are higher than ever. Poor experiences can have a ripple effect that not only damages the brand in the eyes of a single customer but also can spread like wildfire through social media.
Last week my son, Alex, had reconstructive surgery to repair his torn ACL (the ligament that holds the inside of a knee together).
He’s 11 years old.
I have to admit that this procedure worried me like hell for all sorts of irrational reasons. Sure, things could have gone wrong. But the surgeon who operated on my son literally invented this type of surgery, which is only used on children and pre-adolescents who are still growing. Plus we had the procedure donev at Boston Children’s Hospital, which topped the U.S. News & World Reporthonor roll of best children’s hospitals.
All that gave the left part of my brain comfort, even as the right part of my brain tried its hardest to give me high blood pressure. Fortunately, the operation was an unqualified success, and as I write this, we are three days into the recovery period, which is also going well.
Now normally I wouldn’t blog about something this personal. But throughout the process, Alex — who knows what I do for a living — kept telling me that he was having a great experience and that I should write about it.
Frankly, I was quite curious as to why Alex thought — and forgive me for being graphic — that getting his leg opened up and put back together with a bunch of new parts was “a great experience.” So I asked him.
Harley: You’ve said a number of times that you had a great experience at Boston Children’s Hospital. From your point of view, what made it a great experience?
Alex: Everyone was really nice to me. And they did a great job at keeping my pain level down.