Customer experience is, quite simply, how your customers perceive their interactions with your company. In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I show that customer experience is a fundamental business driver and — in an age when customers have access to vast amounts of data about your company and its competitors — it’s also the only sustainable source of competitive advantage.
In most industries, customer experience is the greatest untapped source of decreased costs. Fidelity Investments recently spent a modest $20,000 to fix a problem that made it difficult for customers to log into their accounts through the company’s automated phone system. This single fix saves Fidelity $4 million a year by averting calls to customer service. And it’s just one of more than 160 projects that came through Fidelity’s experience improvement system in 2011. Together those projects account for more than $24 million in annual savings.
Customer experience also drives increased revenue. Several years ago, B2B technology reseller and service provider CDW added a question to the customer survey it fields: “What additional things would you like to talk to your sales team about?” The company funneled the answers to this new question to the appropriate account managers. The account managers, in turn, closed the loop by getting back to the customers with a simple message: You told us that you have a need, we’d like to offer you something that could meet that need. And guess what? Customers took the CDW sales reps up on it. This seemingly simple innovation drove more than $200 million in incremental revenue in just one year.
Although the book won't be available to the general public until August 28th, attendees of our Customer Experience Forum at the end of June will get digital copies of the manuscript. They'll also hear keynote speeches from some of the people who appear in the book, like Kevin Peters, the president of Office Depot North America; Laura Evans, chief experience officer at The Washington Post; and Laurie Tucker, senior vice president of corporate marketing at FedEx.
If you'd like to get a preview of some of the concepts in the book, check out the video below — and then stay tuned for more announcements!
Last week, I released an update to a very popular report titled “The State Of Customer Experience, 2012.” The research is based on a survey of customer experience pros about their plans for this year. The data mirrored what we hear anecdotally when talking with clients every day and should help you answer the perennial question, "What's everyone else doing?" But beyond that, here are my big takeaways:
Everyone is talking about customer experience. Ninety-three percent of respondents said customer experience (CX) is on their company’s list of top strategic priorities. For 28%, it is the top priority. And when we asked CX pros how they plan to build customer-centric culture in 2012, about three-quarters said they expect to run training, education, and internal communication programs.
Think about your favorite action movie. Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The Matrix. Any James Bond flick. What do they have in common? A storyline that goes something like this: In the first few minutes, you’re drawn into a short chase or adventure — something that immediately gets your heart pounding. It builds up quickly and then resolves with a big boom! You’re hooked. And at that point, the main narrative begins. Over the course of the next 90 minutes or so, the storyline twists and turns as the main characters fight off bands of aliens, spies, mummies, and the like. The action crescendos with a series of increasingly exciting events that make you say, “Wow . . . wow. . . WOW!” as you scoot to the edge of your seat. Finally the action-packed finale delivers one last thrilling and explosive BOOM!! As a movie-goer, you’re left breathless.
You’ve no doubt experienced this type of storytelling countless times. And if you paid attention in literature or drama class, you might recognize this narrative structure as a classic dramatic arc dating back to Aristotle. But I bet you haven’t thought about it in the context of your company’s customer experience. Or, at least I hadn’t — not until I attended the Service Design Network conference last fall and attended a workshop led by Adam Lawrence of Work•Play•Experience, a design firm that helps companies design customer experiences using theatrical methods.
Good news for those of you requesting extensions: We heard you, and we're extending the deadline for Forrester's Voice Of The Customer Award submissions to Friday, April 6th at 5:00 p.m. ET.
While I have you, here are answers to some of the questions I've been getting about the awards:
I'm a vendor. Can I still apply? Yes — but only if your submission is about your own VoC program. We don't accept submissions from vendors on behalf of their clients.
Does my company have to be headquartered in North America? No! This year we've gone global! We'll accept any submission, as long as it's written in English.
Will you honor confidentiality? Yes! No matter what, we'll publish the names of the 10 finalists and three winners. But any specifics that we want to publish beyond that, we'll fact-check with you first.
Do I have to be a Forrester client? No! We'd love to hear from you whether you're a client or not.
Does the cover page count toward the page limit? No, we're only asking you to limit the content of the submission to seven pages.
Can I get an extension? You already did! And no, we won't be offering any extensions beyond Friday, April 6th.
In the industries we modeled, the revenue benefits of a better customer experience range from $31 million for retailers to around $1.3 billion for hotels and wireless service providers.
What’s behind these impressive numbers? It’s pretty simple, really.
Companies with better customer experience tend to have more loyal customers. We’ve shown through both mathematical correlations and actual company scores that when your customers like the experience you deliver, they’re more likely to consider you for another purchase and recommend you to others. They’re also less likely to switch their business away to a competitor. These improved loyalty scores translate into more actual repeat purchases, more prospects influenced to buy through positive word of mouth, and less revenue lost to churn.
We model the size of the potential benefit using data from real companies. In each industry, we create an archetypal “ACME Company” that scores below industry average in the Customer Experience Index (CXi). We then look at what would happen to ACME’s loyalty scores if it went from below average in the CXi to above average for its specific industry based on the actual scores for companies in that industry.
Once again, I'm going to write an overview of the European interactive design agency market to help Forrester clients identify design agencies to help them with their projects in Europe. The report title will be "2012: Where To Get Help For Interactive Design Projects In Europe." Participants will receive a copy of the research and their details will be included in the report.
I would like to invite interactive design agencies in Europe to participate. Please complete the agency survey at the following location:
The survey is designed to gather data from European firms that have significant experience in designing and developing digital experiences (web, mobile, etc.). Survey questions cover interactive agency size, practice areas, industry expertise, locations, and a range of costs for typical engagements. If you know any agencies that should be included in my report, please forward the survey link to them or show them this blog post.
P.S. If you want a preview of the survey, you can see all the questions on the following site:
In the two months since I published "The Customer Experience Index, 2012," the number of companies requesting a deeper look at the data has been quite high. Many have asked me to suggest ways to use the information that’s available, so I thought I’d share the analyses I've found most interesting so far:
Compare Customer Experience Index (CXi) respondents to your company’s target customer profile. As part of the CXi survey, we collect a range of demographic data including age, gender, marital status, household income, employment status, parental status, and location. Clients find it helpful to see if differences between our scores and their internal data stem from the fact that we’re surveying different populations. They’re also using it to think through why scores on a given criteria are what they are — for example, if most respondents for a TV service provider have small kids, the firm’s parental controls may have a bigger impact on the “meets needs” score than they would if most respondents had grown children.
After more than 12 years of evaluating website user experience, Forrester reached a major milestone — completing 1,500 Website User Experience Reviews. That's more than 100 reviews per year or more than 10 per month. Whew! We've been busy.
These reviews (using an expert/scenario/heuristic review methodology) span B2C and B2B sites, intranets, and employee portals across many industries and countries. What we do: We identify target users and attempt to accomplish realistic user goals for those users, and then we evaluate the experience on a set of 25 criteria graded across possible scores of -2 (severe failure), -1 (fail), +1 (pass), or +2 (best practice) for each criterion.
Many poor experiences. Since scores for each of the 25 criteria range from a -2 to +2, total scores could range from -50 to +50, and passing all tests would result in a grade of +25 or higher. But the average score across all of our reviews was only +1.1, and only 3% of the sites earned a passing score (that's a total of 45 sites out of the 1,500. Yes, you read that right: 45).
Fluctuations in scores over time. The average score rises and falls when we look across versions of the methodology and over time. But, finally, in the latest version, there was a significant increase in the average score over the years just prior — a trend we hope to see continue. There's a similar pattern when we compare B2C and B2B sites. B2B sites have consistently lagged behind B2C sites in user experience scores, but we're finally seeing that gap narrow.
The Holy Grail of customer experience for many firms goes beyond useful and easy to interactions that create an emotional connection with the customer. That’s not easy to do, but step 1 is creating an experience that is at least enjoyable. Now, before you object . . . I’m not talking Disney-level enjoyable here — just generally pleasant and maybe even a little fun. Two brands that proved it’s possible with high scores on the CXi’s “enjoyable” criteria are: