How Good Is The Brand Experience At Hotel Sites? Not Very

Ronald Rogowski

As part of Forrester’s ongoing initiative to provide annual industry benchmarks of online customer experiences, we recently evaluated the Brand Experience of four hotel brands’ Web sites (Crowne Plaza, Hilton, Marriott, and Sheraton). Using our Web Site Brand Experience Review methodology, we set out to test 1) how well the sites supported their key brand attributes in a manner consistent with other channels (Brand Image), and 2) how well the site supported user goals (Brand Action).  

The results were disappointing. None of the sites passed our Brand Action Review. Actually, that's not terribly surprising since our data show just how challenging the online booking experience is for travelers. Our review found that most sites suffered from common problems that plague sites across all industries, such as missing or misplaced content and illegible text. Again, not surprising. But what was surprising was that only one site, Sheraton, passed our Brand Image Review.  After all, hotels (at least those on the nicer end of the spectrum like those we reviewed) take great pains to keep their lobbies clean, their grounds manicured, and their rooms inviting. But the underperforming sites suffered from poor quality in their visual designs, bland imagery, and just-the-facts content that failed to hit on key brand attributes. In contrast, Sheraton stood out for its high-quality visual design and messaging that's consistent with how the brand is presented in other channels.

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Ease Of Use Is Now “A Federal Case” For Mortgage Paperwork

Harley Manning

When I was kid, when we thought someone was overreacting, we used to say “don’t make a Federal case out of it!” Maybe people still say this, but I haven’t heard it in a while. I suspect that it went into the Museum of Way-Historical Sayings. Still, I’m sure you get the idea: If the Federal Government is involved, it’s a big deal.

I thought of this expression this morning when I read an article in The Wall Street Journal. There is quite a battle going on over an attempt to make mortgage-disclosure documents easier to understand. On the one side, we find our Federal Government in the persons of Elizabeth Warren and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. On the other side, you find the mortgage industry (or at least a big chunk of it — the article could have offered some more details IMHO).

Now if you’ve ever taken out a mortgage, you know that the documentation you received was close to the polar opposite of “easy to understand.” You may have thought (as I did) that the difficulty stemmed from a failed attempt by lawyers and bankers to communicate effectively. But apparently not! (Or at least that’s not the only reason — I’m pretty sure that most lawyers don’t have John Grisham potential).

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Gaylord Hotels Prioritizes And Delights

Paul Hagen

I recently talked to a business analyst at Gaylord Hotels who shared how the company is changing its customer interactions using sentiment analysis derived from its Clarabridge software. Three points were particularly illustrative of a company maturing in its delivery of customer experience:

  • Success is about being great at key interactions, not every one. Originally the hotel believed that during a stay, guests experienced 100 different things — 80 that staff needed to do great and 20 that staff needed to do satisfactorily to satisfy customers. After watching sentiment data for the past couple years, the company realized that in fact only five activities most strongly correlate with guests recommending the hotel to others. For example, the first 20 minutes is absolutely essential, a period that the hotel had broken into several discreet steps but that guests viewed as a single experience. Hotel management now works with staff on executing on these five critical activities perfectly, while on the other 95, they only need to perform adequately.  
     
  • Prioritizing investments based on target customer needs saves misspent money. While some managers felt that it was necessary to renovate rooms in a wing of the hotel to transform the property and improve customer satisfaction, analysis showed that the hotel was getting no negative comments about it, particularly from its most important segment of guests. Based on the findings, the hotel decided to invest that large sum of money in other areas, such as a technology solution that helped people find their way through the hotel, which was generating more negative sentiment.
     
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Setting And Meeting Experience Expectations

Paul Hagen

One of my favorite customer experience graphics here at Forrester speaks to companies “making promises” through marketing and branding channels, while “keeping promises” by delivering value through other channels. However, there are external forces at play that raise people’s expectations. Companies like Google make us wonder why we can’t have good search when looking on a manufacturer’s site for a product; Trader Joe’s makes us wonder why floor staff at other stores isn’t as friendly and helpful; and Zappos makes us wonder why products don’t always arrive ahead of schedule.

I’ve taken liberties and updated the graphic to reflect that the “promises” companies make are really “expectations” that they set, and those are influenced by lots of external factors. In order to meet customer expectations — thus delivering a good experience — companies have to account for those factors that may lay outside of the firm or even the industry.

 

Why Does It Matter?

About 67% of companies that we surveyed describe their customer experience goal as simply trying to differentiate from competitors in their industry. But, they must also factor in the expectations set from outside of their firm or industry. Does this mean that every company needs to deliver a Zappos-like experience? Absolutely not! But it does mean that companies need to understand clearly what their customers really expect from them.

Live Streaming From Forrester Customer Experience Forum 2010 — Day Two

Harley Manning

It’s Day 2 of Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum 2010, and I'm incredibly excited to see this morning’s opening speech by our own James McQuivey. He's going to demo Microsoft’s new interface that uses gestures and natural language commands with help from the company that built it, PrimeSense. You may have heard of this as Project Natal or Kinect — but hearing about it does not do the trick. You have to see it and then hear James’ take on what it means for e-tailers, financial planners, media companies . . . wow. Forgive me if I seem a little blown away, but I’ve been watching the rehearsals, and all I can say is that I have to have one of these! Check back throughout the day for more about this speech and others.

Today's Live Stream

8:30-8:35 a.m.
Day 2 Opening Remarks
Harley Manning
, Vice President, Research Director, Forrester

8:35-8:45 a.m.
What Our Ethnographic Research Tells Us About . . . You!

Victoria Bough
, Vice President, Practice Leader — Customer Experience & Customer Intelligence, Forrester

8:45-9:30 a.m.
How Radical New Interfaces Will Transform Consumer Product Experiences

James McQuivey, Ph.D.
, Vice President, Principal Analyst, Forrester

Sponsored by RightNow

Live Streaming From Forrester Customer Experience Forum 2010 — Day One

Harley Manning

Welcome to all of you at Forrester’s second annual Customer Experience Forum in New York City! And to all of you who can’t be here — we’ll miss you. Sales for the event were so far beyond our goals and expectations that we are flat out amazed. There are about 900 people here from many industries, especially financial services. Attendees come from many professional roles: We’re seeing a good mix of people who work in marketing, eBusiness, customer intelligence, and customer experience (of course), including a strong contingent of senior managers and executives. So please keep checking in here for the latest updates and discussions around our theme of customer experience breakthroughs!

Today's Live Stream

8:30-8:50 a.m.
Welcome And Setting The Stage 
Harley Manning
, Vice President, Research Director, Forrester

8:50-9:35 a.m.
Engage Online Customers With Emotional Experience Design

Ron Rogowski
, Principal Analyst, Forrester

Sponsored by Rightnow

Entries For Forrester's Voice Of The Customer Awards 2010 — Wow!

Harley Manning

We just finished judging the entries for Forrester's Voice of the Customer Awards 2010. Announcing the winners will have to wait until we’re onstage at the Customer Experience Forum in New York on June 29. But there is something I want to announce right now: I am really impressed by the entries! :-)

Because I was also a judge last year, I couldn’t help but notice some big changes from last year. Here they are in no particular order:

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Trends In Customer Experience

Paul Hagen

I’m moderating the “Trends in Customer Experience” panel at the upcoming “Customer Experience Forum” in New York on June 29th and 30th… and couldn’t be more excited.  In preparation for the event, I’ve been talking with my panelists, who include: Kathleen Cattrall, Vice President of Branded Customer Experience for Time Warner Cable; Neff Hudson, Assistant Vice President of Member Experience at USAA; and Janice Brown, Manager of Channel Strategy and Orchestration at FedEx. Among others, here are three reasons to come see this session:

  • Building an organization-wide customer experience movement. Kathleen is a powerhouse who describes her work in terms of a grassroots revolution. She credits, in part, Time Warner Cable’s 14-point CxPi jump this past year to her success at making customer experience the key agenda item for a 3-day set of sessions with 400 senior leaders company-wide.
     
  • Orchestrating cross-channel strategy. Janice devotes her waking hours to orchestrating customer experience across channels, which makes her a treasure trove of ideas about getting buy-in from a diverse group of leaders company-wide.
     
  • Integrating marketing, sales, and service. Customer experience veteran Neff Hudson focuses on this integration, ensuring quality across all customer touchpoints, including social media, call center, IVR, Web, mobile, and face-to-face. He has great perspective on bringing the customer voice into new product design, which includes USAA’s launch of Deposit@Mobile, a mobile app that lets members deposit checks using the camera in their smartphone.

Returning To Forrester

Paul Hagen

I’m delighted to return to Forrester and its Customer Experience team after eight years of running my own business and technology strategy consulting practice.  

I’m returning to the same group in which I worked before with Harley Manning and his team. It was in that group that I helped develop and implement Forrester’s Web Site Usability methodology, wrote reports like “Must Search Stink?” and “Smart Personalization,” promoted the use of customer data intelligence and CRM systems to drive proactive interactions that I called “Tier Zero Customer Service,” and reported on the uses of early community-based tools for customer service (today it's "social CRM").

A frequent question that I've been asked in the scores of phone calls over the past several weeks since my return has been: What are you going to cover? The short term answer is primarily four topic areas: 

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CEO As Chief Customer Officer

Harley Manning

In preparation for our upcoming Customer Experience Forum in New York at the end of June, I’ve been having phone discussions with our speakers and their people. Yesterday Robinette Dixon from Sprint pointed out something I hadn’t quite realized. Two of the companies that are speaking have a lot in common despite the fact that they could hardly be in more different industries.

First there’s Sprint. Dan Hesse took over as CEO of Sprint, which is headquartered in Kansas, in December of 2007.  He immediately made customer experience a priority and set out to ingrain customer experience into the company’s culture and processes. You can see evidence of the results in the 15 percentage point rise Sprint made this year in our Customer Experience Index.

Then there’s H&R Block. Our Day Two speaker, Sabrina Wiewel, is Chief Tax Network Officer at that company, which is also based in Kansas. But the bigger coincidence (no, this isn’t a post about Kansas) is that H&R Block also got a new CEO recently: Russ Smyth, who took over in August of 2008. Like Hesse, Smyth made customer experience a priority. Among other changes he literally flipped the corporate org chart upside down to put customers at the top, and re-engineered how the field offices interact with customers.

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