Why Seth Godin's Service Design Tips Miss The Mark

Kerry Bodine

In Seth Godin’s recent post, "Who’s responsible for service design?" he points out several service issues with questions like, “How many people should be answering the phone at Zappos.com on a Saturday? What’s Southwest Airlines' policy regarding hotel stays and cancelled flights? Should the knobs on the shower at the hotel go side by side or one above the other?” He then goes on to say, “Too often, we blame bad service on the people who actually deliver the service. Sometimes (often) it’s not their fault.”

I’m totally with him up to that point.

But then he goes on to blame two sets of people for service delivery issues: overpaid executives and service designers.  Yes, executives set the direction for customer experience. And yes, there is a growing cadre of service designers in service design firms and in-house design teams. But I’d argue that these professionals are responsible for just a tiny fraction of the service experiences that exist today. Unfortunately, most companies just aren’t aware of the field of service design or the value it brings, so they haven't hired service designers to assist with customer experience efforts.

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Want To Win A Voice Of The Customer Award? Prove Business Impact

Harley Manning

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been part of a group that picked the winners of Forrester’s Voice Of The Customer Awards for 2011. I can’t yet tell you the names of the three winners — those companies will be announced on June 21 at our Customer Experience Forum in New York, along with the other seven entrants that made up our top 10. But I can share some insight into what separated the winners from the contenders.

At one end of the spectrum, the clarity with which entrants described their programs didn’t create much differentiation. With very few exceptions, descriptions ranged from very clear to extremely clear and “please stop with the detail already, my eyes are starting to bleed” clear.

At the other end of the spectrum, the business benefits that companies derived from their voice of the customer (VoC) programs provided diamond-hard clarity as to which companies were great and which were just good.  

To understand why that is, consider the question in the awards submission form that asks about business benefits. It was worded exactly like this:

“How has this activity improved your organization's business results? Please be as specific as possible about business benefits like increased revenue, decreased cost, increased customer satisfaction, or decreased customer complaints. Please specify how you measure those benefits.”

The judges were looking for a response along the lines of:

  1. We heard these specific things from customers through our VoC program.
  2. As a result of what we heard, we made these specific changes.
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The Root Of Most Customer Experience Problems

Kerry Bodine

I recently read a story about the butterflies in Zion National Park. Apparently, there aren’t as many of them as there used to be. And after decades of research, scientists have finally figured out why.

Zion National Park was developed in the early 1900s — and with that development came an influx of tourists. Scared off by human foot traffic, cougars retreated from certain areas of park. And with no natural predators, the deer population exploded. These cute (but ravenous) animals became unstoppable in their quest to devour everything in their path — including cottonwood tree saplings. And with fewer cottonwood trees reaching adolescence and maturity, the streambanks lost their primary source of erosion protection. Soil erosion made it difficult for wildflowers to bloom — and fewer wildflowers meant fewer butterflies.

Natural ecosystems, like the one in Zion National Park, comprise complex interdependent relationships that change over time.

A customer experience ecosystem is quite similar. It encompasses a complex set of relationships among a company’s employees, partners, and customers — and it’s these people’s decisions and actions that collectively determine the quality and characteristics of all customer interactions. 

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Harvard Business Review Feature On Creating A Customer-Centered Organization

Kerry Bodine

Harvard Business Review (HBR) is currently running a month-long feature on its blog called Creating a Customer-Centered Organization.  We’re thrilled that HBR is focusing on this topic, as it indicates that customer experience is finally rising to the attention of top business executives.

The HBR editors asked Forrester to contribute a couple of pieces to this feature based on our recent research, and we happily obliged.

My post, Focus on Your Customer’s Customer, looks at how B2B companies can be successful by taking a B2B2C approach. Here’s an excerpt: “Often, the best way for B2B companies to satisfy the multitude of business customers is to focus on the needs of their customers’ customers. That’s exactly what Portuguese airport operator ANA Aeroportos de Portugal did in its quest to attract more major airlines and connecting routes. To understand the work, first you need to understand an airport’s business model: Its real customer isn’t travelers, but the airlines that rent the gates and terminals, much like a mall owner leases space to retailers.”

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How The “Most Improved” Companies Raised Their Customer Experience Game Last Year

Harley Manning

Every year in January, Forrester publishes its Customer Experience Index (CxPi), which reports how customers rate their interactions with major companies. We learn a lot from studying leaders in various industries — like USAA, which was the top credit card provider, top bank, and top insurance provider this year.

Last week, we published a follow-up report, which examined companies that raised their CxPi scores by at least five points year over year. Among others, these brands included Aetna (up six points), Citi’s credit card business (up 12 points), Charter Communications (up 20 points as an ISP and up seven points as a TV service provider), and Office Depot (up nine points). Our goal was to discover what, if anything, these firms did to earn their improvements.  

And as it turned out, their big gains came as a result of major efforts.

Our research uncovered customer experience initiatives that fell into two buckets. The first bucket was business process re-engineering. Efforts here included creating or enhancing voice of the customer programs, measuring customer experience consistently across the enterprise, and changing incentive programs to reward customer-centric behavior by employees.  

But perhaps the biggest impact came from upgrading the customer experience governance process at the enterprise level. For example, Aetna transformed its decentralized part-time customer experience task force into a full-time enterprise customer experience team. Cox Communications made an even more drastic change, consolidating any function with material customer interactions into one group led by a new senior vice president of customer operations.

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Upcoming Workshop: Transforming Your Firm's Customer Experience (May 11th, New York City)

Megan Burns

Lately I’ve noticed a theme in my conversations with customer experience professionals — they’re feeling a bit overwhelmed as to where to start the enterprise customer experience transformation process. Some aren’t sure what to do first, second, and third. Others have a plan but are struggling to get executives to understand it and lend their support (a.k.a. resources).  

To help clients solve that problem, I'm leading a workshop called Transforming Your Firm’s Customer Experience on May 11th at Forrester's New York City office. It’s a one-day workshop that starts with an overview of the state of the practice in customer experience today and then takes attendees through our latest research on how to:

  • Choose the right customer experience strategy for your company.
  • Build a world-class voice of the customer program.
  • Generate active executive participation in customer experience programs.
  • Transform your company culture to be more customer-centric.

I’ll share what’s working inside real companies and lead a series of exercises designed to help attendees benchmark their own firms against best practices. At the end of the day, we'll put it all together into a set of customized, actionable steps designed to jump-start your customer experience program.

This session will be an educational, interactive, and entertaining way to figure out how to start turning your organization into a customer experience powerhouse. For more information and a detailed agenda, please visit the event page for this workshop. I hope to see you in New York!

Seize Your Opportunity For Big-Time Brand Differentiation Through The Call Center Customer Experience

Kerry Bodine

Back in March, I blogged about how bad call center experiences spoil millions of daily opportunities to drive business value. But the business value of improving these interactions varies, of course, by industry and by individual company — and my most recent report, "Call Center Experiences Leave Consumers On Hold For Something Better," sheds some light on this.

For example, satisfaction rates for the five banks in our study spanned nearly 40 percentage points. An independent credit union took top honors with an impressive satisfaction score of 90%, while Bank of America came in at just 53%. Ouch. The credit card industry fared similarly: Discover Bank took the top spot with 81% consumer satisfaction, while Citi and Capital One tied for last place with twin scores of 58%. Meanwhile, phone interactions with the four Internet service providers (ISPs) in our study — AT&T, Comcast, Road Runner (Time Warner Cable), and Verizon — were universally loathed. The average satisfaction score for the ISPs was the lowest of any industry, and scores for the individual brands saw only an eight percentage-point spread.

Low call center satisfaction is admittedly bad news for brands, agents, and callers alike. But it also means that firms have a near-term opportunity for big-time brand differentiation through the call center customer experience.

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How To Create Real Value Through Branded Mobile Experiences

Kerry Bodine

We use mobile devices throughout the day to communicate with each other, get timely information, and entertain ourselves. And, because they’re almost always within a few feet of us, these devices offer myriad opportunities for brands to insert themselves into our lives in meaningful ways. But brands have been slow to realize this opportunity.

Whenever I browse the Apple app store, I’m always shocked by the small number of apps that have been commissioned by big brands — and this holds true for the Android and BlackBerry app stores, too. The app landscape is absolutely dominated by new startups — and big brands are getting left in their dust.

Take, for example, Apple’s list of top free iPhone apps from 2010. Big brands were noticeably missing from the following categories, where only one of the top 10 apps was from a big brand:

  • Education (kudos to NASA, which was the only big brand)
  • Entertainment (kudos to Fandango)
  • Healthcare and fitness (kudos to WebMD)
  • Medical (kudos to WebMD)
  • Photography (kudos to Adobe)
  • Utilities (kudos to AT&T)
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How To Close The Loop Without Being Creepy

Kerry Bodine

As Andrew McInnes pointed out in his report "Ten Major Voice Of The Customer Trends," more companies are closing the loop with their customers. During Forrester's 2009 Voice Of The Customer Awards, entrants with closed-loop processes were the exception. In 2010, they were the rule, with many top finalists integrating closed-loop processes into their sales and marketing efforts. For this year’s awards (by the way, nominations are now open), we expect to see a new crop of innovative closed-loop applications.

But just like any well-intentioned action, closing the loop isn’t always the right thing to do.

A few months ago, a friend of mine got married. I was really excited to see that her gift registry site included severable charitable donation options, and I quickly decided on a $100 donation to the Massachusetts SPCA. On the gift registry site, I needed to enter a “quantity” of $1 donations to get to my desired total donation which is a bit weird in and of itself but the real problem I had was that the quantity field would only accept two digits! So instead of making a nice round $100 donation, I ended up donating $99.

Because I didn’t want to look like a complete weirdo to my friend and her new hubby, I added this explanation to the gift message I sent them through the donation site: “Hmmm. The field where I could enter the quantity of our donation would only allow for two digits, so that's why you're getting a wacky $99 donation.  :)  I just can't take a break from usability . . . ”

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Differentiate Digital Experiences By Building A Strong Brand Personality

Ronald Rogowski

Ever wonder why most digital interactions fail to engage users? In part, it’s because users can’t easily decipher who they’re dealing with. Instead of actively developing unique experiences that support how they want their brands to be perceived, companies chase features and functions that others have implemented. At best, the result is bland cookie-cutter experiences that leave users uninspired. At worst, brands can seem downright schizophrenic to users who get unpredictable experiences as they move from channel to channel.

It’s not easy to create a strong emotional bond through an interface because it’s difficult for users to see the people behind digital interaction points. Instead, they see a mere screen or a system. But people are far more predisposed to creating connections with other people than they are with an interface. That’s why firms need to pay attention to the brand personality they’re trying to convey and make their digital experiences feel more human. Of course, the solution isn’t just to plaster your website with happy faces or buzzwords. Instead, firms can take a more systematic approach and follow the principles of Forrester’s Emotional Experience Design framework. Here are a couple of ways for firms to establish brand personality:

  • Match visual designs across channels so that users can easily recognize the brand as they cross interaction points.
  • Keep in sync with the brand attributes that they want people to associate with them by creating content that conveys brand messages and by crafting the right voice to further convey those messages. 
  • Adopt a human tone that lands in the right place in between robotic, just-the-facts approaches and overdone marketing speak that comes off as fake.
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