Customer Experience Defined

Harley Manning

If you’re reading this post, you’re someone who cares about customer experience. You might even be one of the professionals who works in the field of customer experience full-time.

So I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you occasionally get the question, “What is ‘customer experience?’”

Now maybe when you’re asked that question, it isn’t phrased so directly (or politely). For example, I get asked, “Isn’t customer experience just marketing?” And, “How is customer experience different from customer service?” But the bottom line is that people are looking for a definition that’s crisp, useful, and distinct from the definitions of other things that companies do. They are right and reasonable to ask for this — but collectively those of us who work to improve customer experience have failed to answer them.

I mean no offense to the many people out there who have tried to define “customer experience.” I’ve read many of the attempts that are out there, and the ones I’ve seen tend to be longer and more convoluted than necessary.

Not that customer experience is an easy concept to define. The customer experience team at Forrester has been debating the definition of customer experience for a while now, and it took us until recently to reach consensus. We now define customer experience as:

“How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”

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Customer Experience And Marketing: Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Kerry Bodine

In my last post, I promised I might have a thing or two to say about marketing. I just didn’t realize it would be so soon!

Last week, Peter Merholz from Adaptive Path posted a rant entitled, "The Pernicious Effects of Advertising and Marketing Agencies Trying To Deliver User Experience Design." In it, he calls ad agencies unethical, poisonous, and “soulless holes” and extols the virtues of user experience (UX) design firms. (Go have a read — you don’t see polarizing tirades like this every day.)

On the surface, this argument pits agency against agency. But I think the issue goes much deeper: the growing intersection — and tension — between customer experience and marketing. Here’s how I see the landscape:

  • Neither customer experience nor marketing are going away. Customer experience is gaining importance in companies — we can see this in the rise of the chief customer officer (CCO) role, which several years ago was virtually nonexistent. But the rise of one discipline doesn’t mean the complete and utter downfall of the other. Even companies like Apple and Zappos — the poster children for great customer experiences — advertise.
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Top 10 Web Design Fixes For Improving Business Results Workshop (December 7th, San Francisco, CA)

Ronald Rogowski

Even the best Web sites have usability flaws that stop customers from buying products or services, finding information, and getting help. Yet many of these problems are easy to find and not much harder to fix — if you know what to look for. And the benefits of fixing these common usability problems can be huge.

If you are looking for a fast, objective way to spot the common — but serious — design problems that hurt online business performance, please join me in San Francisco on Tuesday, December 7th, for Forrester’s Top 10 Web Design Fixes For Improving Business Results Workshop.

This one-day intensive session helps participants uncover 10 Web design problems that afflict more than half of the 1,200+ sites tested by Forrester, are easy to spot, and produce ROI when fixed. During this Workshop, participants will learn and apply the same objective techniques Forrester analysts use to find well-known usability problems for research and for clients. These methods apply to any type of site, including B2C or B2B Web sites, extranets, and intranets.

This promises to be an educational, interactive, and entertaining way to learn the tools that will help you find and fix problems that frustrate your customers and limit your business performance. For more information, and a detailed agenda, please visit the event page.

How Zappos Brought Me Back To Forrester

Kerry Bodine

In 2008, after nearly four years as an analyst on Forrester’s Customer Experience team, I left to explore the world of the Mad Men. I led the interaction design team at a top-20 advertising agency in Boston and, after a move to San Francisco, advised marketing agencies on things like their corporate strategies and go-to-marketing messaging.

While it was an exciting time for me, I kept coming back to a belief that I’ve held for years: A great customer experience is truly the best marketing.

And then I read Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, the story of Zappos’ rise to one of the best-known (and, some could argue, most successful) customer-centric companies. I devoured the entire book, cover to cover, on a flight from JFK to SFO. I dog-eared pages and highlighted passages. I even ignored a really great in-flight episode of 30 Rock in order to keep reading. And as we pulled into the gate in San Francisco, I realized that I needed to return to my passion: customer experience. Ultimately, what really makes me happy is helping companies make their customers happy.

And so here I am. (Thanks, Tony!)

I’m thrilled to be back on Harley’s team and doing a job I love. Here are the types of things I’ll be exploring through my research:

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Brand-Building Web Site Best Practices From 2010

Ronald Rogowski

During 2010, my colleagues on the Customer Experience team at Forrester and I evaluated the Brand Experience at the Web sites of 14 companies across three industries (and wrote individual reports for each industry). Specifically, we reviewed five auto manufacturers (Chevrolet, Ford, Honda, Nissan, and Toyota), four hotels (Crowne Plaza, Hilton, Marriott, and Sheraton), and five skin care brands (Dove, L’Oreal Paris, Neutrogena, Nivea, and Olay). We’ve summarized our findings in my latest report, “The Best Of Web Site Brand Experiences 2010.”

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). While none of the 14 sites Forrester reviewed with our Web Site Brand Experience Review methodology passed both dimensions of our tests (Brand Image and Brand Action), there were some good practices that companies across industries can learn from.

Results of Web Site Brand Reivews of 14 Sites Across Three Industries

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iPhone Versus Droid: A Personal Perspective

Harley Manning

I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while. What got me past the tipping point was receiving yet another in the series of hilarious videos in the iPhone versus Evo wars. (I love those, no matter which side they come down on.)

Let me first disclaim that I do not cover mobile devices for Forrester so I am speaking strictly as an end user. Okay, I have disclaimed! Now for the story . . .

Way back in the spring, I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law in Ohio. My sister had recently gotten herself a Droid and was not very happy with it. She let me play with it for a while, and I have to say that I did not like its weight, the sharp corners, and the little vibratory “thunk” of physical feedback that probably seemed like a good idea to the designers but came off as annoying after about the third time it happened. The GUI was okay but didn’t strike me as an improvement over my iPhone — in fact, I thought it was a little worse.

My sister had come to similar conclusions. She had purchased the phone so she could stay with Verizon as her wireless service provider. Her biggest complaint, though, was the lack of a decent app store. And when I say “decent,” I mean that literally. When she called up her app store, she got a really bad interface that didn’t help her find relevant apps without a struggle. Worse, about every third listing was a porno app. (I guess that’s what happens when you don’t curate content.)

Anyway, she regretted her choice but felt locked in by her contract.

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Now More Than Ever, Firms Need Frameworks For Managing Global Online Standards

Ronald Rogowski

I’ve recently had several conversations with companies that are looking to improve how they standardize online experiences around the globe. It’s something I’ve been helping firms with for some time. It’s always been a complex issue, but now it’s getting even more challenging because we’re moving to a new era of online experience.

As outlined in the Forrester report, “The Future Of Online Customer Experience,” consumers will increasingly demand experiences that are customized for their context, aggregated from multiple sources, relevant at the point of consumption, and social by rule, not exception. As touchpoints proliferate across a range of devices, it will become increasingly difficult to manage the online experience in a single country, let alone in dozens of them. Add to that the increasing need for more specialized (and, by extension, localized) experiences, and it’s easy to see how a cookie-cutter online experience will be difficult to duplicate from one country to the next with maximum relevance.

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Great Customer Experiences Balance Empathy With Problem Solving

Ronald Rogowski

I recently wrote a post describing an experience I had with an Empowered customer service rep at American Express. To sum it up, my 2-year-old was getting credit card applications in the mail so I called to get it stopped. The agent was surprised that this could have happened and moved quickly to get my daughter’s name off the marketing list. She was genuine and helpful. It was a great experience.

Since then, I’ve had a couple of not-so-positive experiences with other companies that have amplified the impact of the experience I had with American Express. I’ve also witnessed another that a colleague of mine had that made the American Express experience even more genuine.

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Brand Experience Workshop: Learn The Tools Of Web Site Brand Experience Reviews (October 27th, Hilton Chicago)

Ronald Rogowski

Ever wonder why Web sites offer such lackluster brand experiences? Want to know how your site can help you differentiate your brand online?

If you care about how your brand succeeds online and are attending Forrester’s Consumer Forum 2010, I encourage you to consider attending our Web Site Brand Review workshop on Wednesday, October 27th (the day before the forum) at the Hilton Chicago.

During this one-day session, I will be presenting insights into the dos and don’ts of creating Web sites that effectively build brands. Attendees will learn the same methodology Forrester uses to evaluate how well sites build brands as published in reports such as “Best And Worst Of Brand Building Web Sites, 2008,” “Best And Worst Of Financial Services Brand Building Web Sites, 2009,” and "Web Site Brand Experience 2010: Hotels." 

This promises to be an educational, interactive, and entertaining way to learn the tools that will help you create the online experience your brand deserves. And, if you are attending the forum, we are offering a special discounted rate. For more information, and a detailed agenda, please visit the event page.

(By Any Other Name) RIAs Will Power Future Online Experiences

Ronald Rogowski

For a long time, people have debated the meaning of every part of the acronym RIA (rich Internet application). What is rich? What do you mean by "Internet"? What's an application as opposed to a site that renders content? (The last one has become clearer for some apps that sit outside of the browser but is still contested for functionality that runs within a browser.) The debate was really a way of making the case for player-based technologies like Flash and Silverlight vs. AJAX and dynamic HTML. While the former powered experiences that were more akin to software than sites (generally speaking), the latter enabled more dynamic, yet still page-based, experiences (again, generally speaking). But the lines are about to blur even further as we look at experiences that are increasingly fragmented across interaction points.

What does the future look like? Forrester believes that four attributes will characterize the online experience of the future. As my colleague Moira Dorsey points out in her report, "The Future Of Online Customer Experience," experiences will be: customized by the end user, aggregated at the point of use, relevant to the moment, and social as a rule, not an exception. 

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