Data Is Beautiful (Or At Least, It Can Be)

Allegra Burnette

The Eyeo Festival took place in Minneapolis last week. I missed it. I missed it for a very good reason, which is that I just started a new job as a Principal Analyst at Forrester Research. But I still followed from afar, wishing I could hear firsthand about some of the fantastic projects and ideas that get presented there (and I’ll certainly check out the videos as they get posted).

What is the Eyeo Festival, you might be wondering? It’s a small annual conference that “brings together creative coders, data designers, and creators working at the intersection of data, art, and technology for inspiring talks, workshops, labs, and events.” I’ve been to two out of the four conferences and have come away both times incredibly inspired and impressed. This is not just big data. This is big, beautiful, informative data. The coders, designers, and creators both at Eyeo and elsewhere provide living proof that big (and small) data doesn’t have to be ugly, messy, or impossible to understand.

It can have an emotional impact and make a point like this project by Kim Rees and Periscopic, which uses mortality data from the World Health Organization to estimate the number of years lost to gun deaths in 2013 alone.

U.S. Gun Deaths in 2013

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Customer Experience Q&A With Stephen Cannon, President And CEO, Mercedes-Benz USA

Harley Manning

When I was 10 years old, I heard my father and my Uncle Bob talking about the car they’d most like to own. Noticing me, Uncle Bob asked, “How about you, Harley? What car do you want to drive when you grow up?”

I immediately answered, “A Mercedes!”

My father’s eyes widened as Uncle Bob replied, “You have excellent taste.”

Forty years later, Mercedes-Benz still symbolizes “excellent taste” for me and millions of other people around the globe. It’s not just about high quality: The Mercedes brand sets a standard of comparison; it’s shorthand for “great experience” and “luxury.”

And that’s why we’re so excited that Stephen Cannon, the president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz USA, is our lead-off industry speaker at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East next week in New York. Cannon is just perfect as the keynote address for an event with the theme “Good Is Not Good Enough” — because for Mercedes-Benz, just being “good” would be a serious disappointment.

As we approach the event, Stephen was nice enough to answer some of our questions about the Mercedes-Benz customer experience. Check out what he has to say — and I hope we both see you out in the audience next week at the New York Hilton.

Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why? 

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Customer Experience Rooms: What Are They? Should Your Company Create One?

Sam Stern

In the age of the customer, companies must transform their cultures from product-centric to customer-centric. But that is easier said than done. Customer centricity requires all employees to understand who their customers are, how customers perceive their interactions with the company, and the roles employees play in delivering the overall experience. Customer experience (CX) rooms — immersive, interactive spaces that help employees better understand customers — have emerged as a powerful new tool for bringing customers and their journeys to life for workforces. Done well, CX rooms inspire empathy and understanding among employees and help build customer-centric cultures.

In my recent report, "Executive Q&A: Customer Experience Rooms," I answered some of the common questions related to creating a CX room to help companies decide if they should build their own CX room.

Why do companies create CX rooms?

Firms create CX rooms to help employees understand the current customer experience their company delivers and to better understand the intended experience the company wants to deliver. The CX room that Ingrid Lindberg, chief customer experience officer at Prime Therapeutics, created at a previous employer demonstrated how complicated it was for customers to know which of the company's many phone numbers they should call or which of the firm's many websites they should visit.

How do CX rooms help improve customer centricity?

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Customer Experience Q&A With John Maeda, Design Demigod

Harley Manning

Okay, maybe “demigod” is a little over the top. But maybe not.

John Maeda is both design partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and chair of the eBay Design Advisory Board, where he collaborates with design leaders across eBay to disseminate design thinking. But that’s just what he’s doing now. He previously served as the president of Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and before that, he was a professor and head of research at the MIT Media Lab.

Now where I come from (Cambridge, Massachusetts, these days), RISD and the Media Lab are synonymous with innovative thinking. But eBay already changed the way about 145 million people shop — most people would say that’s already pretty innovative. So how do you improve innovation by disseminating design thinking at eBay?

We wanted to hear John’s thoughts on that topic — and others — so we invited him to speak at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East, 2014. Attendees can hear him talk on Wednesday, June 25th, at the Hilton New York.

In advance of John’s talk, he was kind enough to answer some of our questions about what he’s been doing and why. I hope you enjoy John’s responses, and I look forward to seeing many of you in New York on June 24th and 25th!

Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

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You Assumed Wrong: Data Remakes Customer Experiences

Tony Costa

As Marshall McLuhan once said, “Most of our assumptions have outlived their uselessness.” This has never been truer than now, and we have customer data to thank for it.

While data has always played a role in experience design, the digitization of customer experiences — both online and in physical environments — has greatly expanded the depth and breadth of customer data available. As a result, the way CX pros use data is undergoing a significant change. Rather than be passive recipients of data reports, CX pros are becoming active data miners and explorers.

The effect of this exploration is that CX pros, empowered with data that they now have direct access to, are challenging long-held orthodoxy, assumptions, and conventions. Consider the following:

  • CNN tunes its coverage to consumers' tastes . . . to the displeasure of critics. While critics may heap scorn on CNN for its extended coverage of Malaysia Airline Flight 370, the numbers tell a different story. After crunching the data, CNN concluded that viewers were not tiring of MH370 coverage. In fact, the analysis indicated that viewers wanted more of it. This led CNN to extend the coverage well beyond what CNN producers (and other network producers) intuitively assign to such an event. The call paid off as consumers continued to tune in, helping CNN boost its viewership.
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Customer Experience Q&A With Steve Quirk, SVP, Trader Group, TD Ameritrade

Harley Manning

Do you like those thinkorswim commercials from TD Ameritrade as much as I do? Because I love them. Although that’s not the reason we recruited Steve Quirk, a senior vice president (SVP) at TD Ameritrade, to speak at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East in New York this June.  

Sure, Steve was responsible for the development of new trading tools and technology enhancements for the thinkorswim trading platform. And he does an incredible job of connecting customer experience improvements to technology innovation (as you’ll see if you read on).

No, we recruited Steve because TD Ameritrade shot up seven points in our Customer Experience Index this year, edging ahead of last year’s leader in the investment category, the formidable Vanguard. How it did that and why it did that is a story we want customer experience aficionados to hear.

In the run-up to the event, Steve answered a series of our questions about some of things he’ll talk about. His answers appear below.

I hope you enjoy his insights, and I look forward to seeing many of you in New York on June 24th and 25th!

Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

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Is Improving The Customer Experience A Moral Imperative?

Rick Parrish

When I ask government employees why improving customer experience (CX) is so important, I often hear a version of the same answer: "It's the right thing to do." But I'm not about to take an easy answer like that at face value, so I dig deeper.

I try getting them to admit that they're really motivated by the CX mandates in Executive Order 13571, the digital government strategy, and agency mission statements. Time and again, I'm politely told I have it backward. These documents were inspired by the core moral imperative to improve government CX, and they exist only as practical guidance for agencies in pursuit of this obligation. The maxim is the motive; the documents just articulate it. I next try arguing that government employees are motivated by the political quest for public acclaim — that they pursue customer experience improvement simply because it will make them or their agencies popular, winning them promotion or reelection. Again, they tell me I'm all turned around. Doing the right thing for the customer is the real motive, and luckily the American people reward it.

Maybe their answers aren't surprising, given that many government employees chose public sector careers due to their dedication to public service. But what about customer experience professionals in the private sector? Are they motivated by a moral imperative, too? In recent interviews with companies at the top and bottom of Forrester's Customer Experience Index (CXi), I found some surprising answers.

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The State Of VoC Programs, 2014

Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian

Voice of the customer (VoC) programs play a critical role in improving customer experience. They gather data for customer experience (CX) measurement efforts and uncover insights that help improve customer understanding.

To assess the state of VoC programs, we asked companies how long their VoC program has been in place, how valuable the program is to drive CX improvements and deliver financial results, how the program governance works, and if it is supported by VoC consulting and technology vendors. And we asked participants to rate their program’s capabilities on the four key tasks of VoC programs — listen, interpret, react, and monitor.

Here are some highlights of what we found:

  • Most VoC programs have been around for three or more years, are run or coordinated by a central team, and consist of fewer than five full-time employees. Many also turn to outside vendors for help.
  • But VoC programs are still not taken as seriously as other programs in an organization: They improve customer experience but struggle to deliver financial results. And they aren’t embedded enough in the organization. The good news is that many have some executive support, but they lack the resources they need and aren’t fully embraced by employees.
  • For VoC capabilities, we found that VoC programs are still better at listening than at acting on the insights they find.
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Sneak Preview: The Latest On The Customer Experience Ecosystem

Rick Parrish

When Forrester first introduced the customer experience (CX) ecosystem concept three years ago, we found that companies’ attempts to innovate their CX were limited by tunnel vision. They couldn’t see beyond the surface layer of individual touchpoints to understand the intricate web of behind-the-scenes dynamics that really create the customer experience.

To update our research on the CX ecosystem, I’ve spent the past few months conducting dozens of interviews with senior executives from a range of industries. I’ll reveal my complete findings at our Forum For Customer Experience Professionals East next month, but I’d like to start the conversation here by sharing one piece of good news: Companies are starting to get it — at least theoretically. Most companies now understand that interactions deep within their own organizations and outside their borders determine the quality of all customer interactions.

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Make the Business Case: Better Customer Experience Can Deliver More Than $1 Billion In Revenue Growth

Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian

In the age of the customer, you need to be obsessed with your customers. And that obsession can pay off big time — as we have shown over and over again: Years of Forrester data confirm the strong relationship between the quality of a firm's customer experience (CX) and customer loyalty.

And this means revenue growth! Find out how exactly we calculate the revenue upside in the report "The Business Impact Of Customer Experience, 2014." But here are the cliff notes: We built a model that shows how improving customer experience scores from below to above average affects loyalty, which in turn affects revenue in three categories:

  • Repurchase: incremental purchases from existing customers in the same year.
  • Switching: revenue saved by lower churn.
  • Recommendation: new sales driven by word of mouth.

When we looked at the data, this year, we found new and important developments that affect the revenue upside:

  1. “Ok” is the new “poor.” Converging Customer Experience Index (CXi) scores mean that companies cannot rely on average customer experience to prevent churn and get people to buy more.
  2. People talk. Consumers recommend companies more if they had a good experience, and they talk to more people about it — a multiplier in the effect of CX on word of mouth.
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