Don’t Let Volatile Markets Scare You Away From Customer Experience Investments

Harley Manning

If you like horror shows, forget The Walking Dead and check out global markets: In 2016, US stocks got off to their worst start ever. Oil prices are in the toilet — taking oil company stocks with them — and neither looks to fully recover any time soon. Of course, both of these Nightmares on Wall Street might pale in comparison to what a Brexit could do to volatility in foreign exchange rates (and therefore your profit and loss).

In the past, you might have expected China to ride to the rescue. But that won’t happen: The Chinese economy just grew at its slowest rate in 25 years

Companies that obsess over these developments might be tempted to panic and cut spending on customer experience improvement programs, despite the fact that many firms are sitting on piles of cash. But cutting CX budgets is a terrible idea because CX is the greatest potential source of competitive advantage — especially in times of high market volatility. For example:

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The Public Is Still Skeptical Of Federal Digital Customer Experience

Rick Parrish

The White House has been trying to improve the federal digital customer experience (CX) since 2011. But when I published my first report and blog on the topic in 2015, the situation was still dire. A Forrester survey had just shown that, for instance:

  • Only two-fifths of the public agreed that the federal government should focus on offering more digital services.
  • Fewer than a third of Americans wanted federal mobile apps that tailor safety alerts and other government information to the user’s location.
  • Just two-fifths of people were interested in a single-sign-on credential for federal websites.
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Customer Obsession Is An Employee Engagement Strategy, Too

Sam Stern

CX pros: What's better than delivering experiences that delight customers? Doing so, while helping your colleagues feel more engaged with their work. That's a nice thought, and few would dispute the importance of engaging employees to deliver better experiences. In fact, most execs have internalized the ideas laid out more than 20 years ago in the service-profit chain theory, which is that employee satisfaction leads to customer loyalty that in turn leads to profits. So why then, according to Gallup, do employee engagement rates remain stubbornly unchanged year after year? 

Maybe it's because companies haven't offered employees what they want most: purpose in their work, the chance to master new skills, and the autonomy to figure out the best way to work. Those three characteristics show up again and again in academic research studying what makes people engaged or satisfied in their work.

The good news for CX pros is that asking their colleagues to contribute to great CX gives them that sense of purpose, asks them to master new skills, and requires autonomy for employees to respond to customer needs and requests appropriately in the moment. In my recent report, "Customer Obsession Is An Employee Engagement Strategy, Too," I make the case for focusing on improving customer experience delivery as a way to drive greater employee engagement  and all its benefits like higher retention and productivity rates. To do that effectively, though, CX pros must:

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Co-creating Customer Experiences? Match Objectives To Desired Outcomes

Ron Rogowski

One of the most enjoyable and fulfilling things about helping Forrester clients become customer-obsessed is leading an experience co-creation workshop.  Forrester defines co-creation as the active participation of employees, customers, and stakeholders working together to design new experiences. It’s a technique that helps companies define the right experience for their customers and provides critical information that supports human-centered design.

A typical co-creation session puts Forrester consultants, our clients, and our clients’ customers in a room for a whole day. Together we work through a set of creative exercises designed to expose customer needs, perceptions, and expectations for an ideal experience. Sometimes these sessions are targeted at getting high-level, sentiment-based feedback, such as: What do our customers want from this experience? What does our current state experience look like compared to the ideal? Other times, our clients want more concrete solutions or recommendations such as:  What new experience should we offer? What features should go into our new mobile app? To see it in action, check out this video summary, produced by Western Union, showcasing a workshop we hosted together last year to co-create a new mobile experience.

While co-creation can provide direction on customer expectations and feedback on specific designs, we’ve learned that teams run into trouble when they try to do both of these things in the same session. Why? Because exploratory research and prototyping are two different activities that happen at distinct stages of a user-centered design process. Let’s examine the user-centered design process illustrated below:


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Why Your Organization Is Approaching Personalization Wrong

Fiona Adler

A few weeks ago, I learned that my credit card number was part of a large data breach and that I needed to cancel it immediately. My first thought? Panic and trepidation  what if someone already charged on my card? What about the companies that I have recurring payments with  will they reject them and charge me fees? How do I remember all of the companies with which I even have recurring payments?

As all of these questions entered my mind and I started questioning my loyalty to Capital One, I received the following email (pictured) explaining what I needed to do as a customer and the companies that I needed to contact:

Capital One not only provided immediate relief but also demonstrated awareness of my individual profile and what could make or break my specific customer experience. It implemented personalization at a critical "moment of truth."

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Best Practices For Managing CX Via B2B Partner Networks

Ryan Hart

While much of the glitz and glam around customer experience has orbited around B2C organizations, Forrester believes that the imperative shift toward customer experience and subsequently, customer centricity, is creeping into the B2B space – sooner than we might expect.

Recognizably, there are inherent challenges in distributing through channel partners, not the least of which is a lack of direct contact with end customers and the complexity of trying to manage experiences that cannot ultimately be controlled. All of which pose sizable obstacles to CX professionals in such organizations. My most recent report describes six principles and examples that companies selling via channel partners should consider to better manage their prescribed end user experiences so as to align with the company’s CX strategy.

Here are several of the key collaborative principles that can help B2B companies foster better partner alignment:

·         Apply B2C tools to understand your partners.  More and more firms are creating B2B personas from stakeholder maps, co-creating customer journey and empathy maps with their channel partners, and implementing voice of the partner (VoP) programs to capture CX sentiment from their intermediaries.

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2016: CX Leaders Will Adopt Agile, Insight-Led Innovation To Fuel Customer Obsession

Deanna Laufer

In 2015, customer experience (CX) rose to the No. 1 priority for business and technology leaders. In 2016, it will be among the top 10 critical success factors determining who will win and who will fail in the age of the customer. And for good reason: Better customer experience correlates with stronger revenue growth. But this is only true when competitors provide meaningful differences in the experiences they offer and unsatisfied customers have the freedom to jump ship when treated poorly. So in order to reap the benefits that better CX can provide, in 2016, companies will need to get down to the real business of not only providing good experiences but also breaking away from the pack with meaningful internal operational changes.

This won’t be easy, because success in the age of the customer requires shifting to a customer-obsessed operating model that puts customers at the center of all strategic decision-making. In 2016, leaders will tackle the challenge of making this shift; laggards will underestimate the magnitude and speed of change required and will instead push forward with uncoordinated digital efforts and flawed business priorities.

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Communication Is Key For Any Relationship

Tom McCann

This is a guest post by Erna Esa, a Research Associate on the Customer Experience team based in Sydney.

In the movie Love Actually, the chemistry between an Englishman (played by the very dashing Colin Firth) and a Portuguese housekeeper (Lúcia Moniz) was evident — but not having the tools to communicate in each other’s language left the pair feeling frustrated and annoyed.

Employees experience a similar type of frustration when they are not offered the opportunity to contribute to the conversations companies have about their customers. How do we know this? Well, we have found that 70% of information workers say that their job requires them to engage with or understand their customers but fewer than 40% of organizations in Australia and New Zealand systematically capture input from their employees about those interactions. That leaves a lot of employees who interact with customers and have knowledge of their company’s customer experience ecosystem without a structured, systematic way of telling their organization what they are seeing and hearing — and that’s frustrating.

Successful voice of the employee (VoE) programs have the potential to transform your organization into one in which talented, dedicated individuals strive to build a career. In many cases, these programs are inexpensive to set up and maintain, yet deliver considerable benefits when implemented across the entire organization. Forrester clients can read about these benefits in our latest report, Engage Employees To Nail The Customer Experience.

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Differentiate Your Customer Experience with "Signature Moments"

Ryan Hart

Every March, children run around, eagerly filling baskets with Easter eggs. The eggs come in all sorts of colors and sizes, some hard to find, some more easily discovered.  The ritual continues every year with the Easter Bunny (or parents in rarer cases) hiding eggs to impart joy and wonder in innocent children.

One can analogize that smart companies have taken over the role of the Easter bunny, trying to bring joy and delight to customers, not children.

While the holistic brand experience, or Easter egg hunt, looks at the sum of these interactions – each interaction can be broken down further into a series of microinteractions.  These small-scale opportunities, when carefully tied back to the brand, give birth to what Forrester calls ‘Signature Moments’ - which we define as: 

Memorably crafted and branded microinteractions that deliver delight and value to customers in an often subtle yet, recognizable way.

In my report, Differentiate your Customer Experiences with Signature Moments, I describe the ‘what, how, and where’ of Signature Moments, provide examples, and look at how they can be carefully designed and infused into broader customer journeys to delight, differentiate and ultimately resonate with local customers.

During ideation of these moments, take stock of the following:

■   Is it sufficiently differentiating?Assess whether the proposed microinteraction is like a literal signature, unique only to your company and not easily replicated by others in the market.

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Is Your Business Social Enough To Create Great Customer Experiences?

TJ Keitt

Your customer experience (CX) is the product of the interactions between your employees, partners, and customers within your operating environment. Forrester has labeled this as a customer experience ecosystem. It's important to understand CX ecosystems' two components — the people and the operating environment — for two reasons: 

  1. People participate in the ecosystem if they get value from it. Each actor in the CX ecosystem is asking, "What's in it for me?" Employees want things like professional development, recognition, and advancement. Business partners want access to customers, sales support, and strong revenue growth. And the customers expect quality products and services that meet their needs.
  2. The operating environment affects people's definition of value. Every ripple in the operating environment changes what employees, partners, and customers value and how they expect that value to be delivered. The economic downturn, for example, meant that many workers valued stable work over things like personal fulfillment — which is reflected in Gallup's report that just 32% of US workers are engaged. Many software companies transitioning from delivering server-deployed software to cloud services has changed how those vendors' traditional channel partners are compensated, going from large payouts on perpetual licenses to annuities from subscriptions. And disruptive sharing-economy upstarts, like Uber, have reset consumers' expectations of how they find and use services as diverse as car services, hotels, and office rentals.
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