No offense meant to any of the other great speakers at Forrester’s recent Customer Experience Forum 2011, but I have to admit that I had a favorite: Kevin Peters, Office Depot’s president, North American retail.
Kevin had some stiff competition from executives like USAA’s Wayne Peacock, Jim Bush from American Express, the members of our chief customer officer panel, and others. But Kevin won me over by giving one of the best speeches I have ever seen anywhere.
As someone who A) gives speeches on a pretty regular basis, B) attends a lot of events where I see other people give speeches, and C) feels compelled to analyze everything, I’ve been thinking a lot about why Kevin was so good.
Let’s start with the fact that he rocked it old school by standing up and delivering a speech without slides or any other kind of visual aids. Yeah, that’s right — he stood up and told a story so interesting that I just sat there riveted.
How did he manage that trick? It was a combination of great content and passion about that content. Let me be clear: If you’ve ever wondered what an executive who is deeply committed to his customers looks like, just watch this.
I was recently fortunate enough to host a panel of three chief customer officers (CCOs) on the main stage of Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum 2011.
They’re all quite different. Fred Leichter from Fidelity Investments has a background in customer experience, having guided the design of Fidelity websites for many years (and as a Fidelity customer, I can say that those sites are pretty darn good). In contrast, Jim Merlino of The Cleveland Clinic is a practicing surgeon as well as CCO, and Jeff Harvey of SAP (who was recently promoted out of the CCO position) has a diversified leadership background that’s more typical of the customer experience executives we recently studied.
Interestingly, despite their differences, they all spend time as CCOs on evangelizing customer experience, building empathy for customers among their organizations’ employees, and embedding customer-centricity into projects.
Check out this video excerpt from our session and share your own thoughts about this emerging role!
Many customer experience initiatives don't meet their full potential — or worse, fail completely — because companies don’t have a complete picture of what the customer experience actually entails or the dynamics that go into creating it. In order to break from their tunnel vision, companies need to understand their customer experience ecosystem: the complex set of relationships among a company's employees, partners, and customers that determines the quality of all customer interactions.
Last week at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, I gave a keynote titled "The Customer Experience Ecosystem," which is a framework for helping companies understand the complex set of interdependencies that are ultimately responsible for shaping all customer interactions.
After the forum, I gave an encore presentation to a group of customer experience leaders at Fidelity Investments. The coolest thing about this meeting? Fidelity had engaged an artist from Collective Next to help it visualize the outputs of the session. Fred Leichter, Fidelity’s chief customer experience officer, told me that these visualizations help the team members see and think about their work in a more creative way.
So as I spoke, master scribe Marsha Dunn illustrated my presentation:
For those of you who heard my keynote, I hope this helps you keep some of my main points top of mind. You can also download my keynote slides on our event site.
For anyone who was unable to attend the forum, let me know if this piques your curiosity about customer experience ecosystems — I’m happy to fill you in on the details! Or, check out the full report.
If you’re interested in learning more about how to map your own customer experience ecosystem, please join my teleconference on Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Eastern time (18:00-19:00 UK time).
Companies are waking up to the business value of customer experience. Many have made customer experience a strategic priority and have dedicated teams to oversee customer experience efforts. Yet consumers report that their customer experiences with roughly two-thirds of US brands range from just OK to downright bad. Lackluster interactions plague every industry and every channel.
The root cause of this dilemma? Tunnel vision.
Many organizations place too much emphasis on top-of-mind channels such as the Web and social media, ignoring hundreds of touchpoints that influence customers' perceptions of the brand — such as call-center conversations, retail displays, product packaging, shipping invoices, and physical receipts. In addition, companies place too much of the responsibility for customer service on frontline employees — but in reality, behind-the-scenes employees from departments as diverse as finance, legal, and marketing can play an equal or even greater role in determining the nature of customer interactions.
Take Sprint's marketing department as an example. Because this behind-the-scenes team did not promote the benefits of Sprint's network in its ads — and competitors' marketing departments did — customers perceived the Sprint network to be lagging, regardless of the actual network performance they experienced.
Forrester recently asked US consumers to rate their satisfaction with call center agents from companies across 11 industries. As a part of that survey, we also asked consumers about their loyalty to those same companies. Then we analyzed the correlation between the quality of call center customer experiences and customer loyalty.
What we found was pretty compelling.
As customer satisfaction with the call center goes up, the willingness of a consumer to make another purchase and to recommend that brand to others increases. In addition, likelihood to switch to another provider goes down.
These correlations were particularly high for PC manufacturers, parcel shippers, Internet service providers, TV service providers, and credit card issuers.
We also asked consumers about the usefulness, ease of use, and enjoyability of their interactions with these same companies. We used that data to analyze the correlation between the quality of call center conversations and consumers’ overall perception of the customer experience delivered by the brand.
Across every industry we looked at, call center satisfaction highly correlates with consumers’ perceptions of how well the company met their needs and how easy and enjoyable it was to work with the company.
Customer experience professionals, call center execs, and marketers need to start discussing these connections and developing a plan to improve the call center customer experience. Your brand and your customers’ loyalty might just depend on it.
Back in the summer of 2007, I wrote a report called “Taking In-Person Self-Service From Blah To Brilliant.” Here’s an excerpt: “Speaking of steel-enclosed stale fruitcakes, there's been a dearth of evolution — let alone revolution — in kiosk fixture design. Forrester has attended semi-annual kiosk industry conferences since 2005, and the only thing staler than the kiosks’ designs have been the bagels.”
In addition to boring kiosk enclosures, my research from the time found kiosk software riddled with usability problems — like missing content, confusing language, bad grammar, inappropriate pacing, and weak and annoying feedback — in industries as varied as retail, financial services, and transportation.
Unfortunately, not a lot has changed since then. Until last week.
With the launch of the Apple Store 2.0, Apple ushered in a new era of in-store self-service. In my post about the news, I suggested that this might mark Apple’s entry into an in-store customer experience platform: “For years, Apple employees have had the seemingly magical ability to check customers out from anywhere in the store. Now, with the addition of relatively cheap interactive signage and employee paging, Apple is positioned to sell a more complete in-store customer experience solution to companies ranging from independent boutique owners to multinational banks.”
My research director Harley Manning has a lot of quips that we affectionately call Harleyisms. One of them goes like this: All ads promise one of three things — you’re gonna get rich, you’re gonna live forever, or you’re gonna get (um, I’ll be polite here) some nookie.
While this might have been somewhat true during the golden age of advertising, I’ve noticed a new ad trend over the past several years: More marketers are advertising the customer experiences that their companies deliver. Here are a few examples:
Apple’s iPhone and iPad ads put viewers in the perspective of holding the devices in their own hands, all while demonstrating how easy they are to use and the real-world value they provide (like finding the best price on a book or getting step-by-step cooking instructions).
JetBlue promoted its customer experience in a series of hilariousads that poke fun at the draconian policies employed by its competitors.
Virgin America’s San Francisco subway ads say, “LAND WITH AN EMPTY INBOX. SFO -> DALLAS FORT WORTH WITH WIFI.”
San Francisco bus ads for Saint Francis and Saint Mary’s hospitals promise: “ER WAIT TIME: UNDER 30 MINUTES.”
This week, Apple upgraded its in-store experience. In case you missed all of the hype, iPads placed next to every Apple product now provide interactive product, service, and support information — and the devices also give shoppers the ability to beckon a store employee to their side at any moment. In addition, the updated Apple Store app provides shoppers visibility into the number of people in line ahead of them and the wait time to talk to someone at the Genius Bar.
Customer experience leaders outside of the retail space might be tempted to file this away in their cool-but-not-quite- relevant-to-me drawers. But I see three compelling reasons why executives should take notice, regardless of what industry they’re in.
Reason No. 1: Apple continues to raise the bar on your customers’ expectations.
Brands no longer compete solely against the companies in their immediate industry. Why? Because customer experience leaders like Apple (and Zappos.com, Disney, and a handful of others) delight their customers on a daily basis. These great customer experiences, in turn, continually reset people’s expectations for the types of interactions they believe they should be able to have with the banks, insurance companies, TV service providers, and airlines they do business with. The Apple Store 2.0 has yet again upped your customers’ expectations for the type of in-person customer experiences they now expect from your brand.
Reason No. 2: Even with a heavy technology focus, human help seems even more accessible.
In Seth Godin’s recent post, "Who’s responsible for service design?" he points out several service issues with questions like, “How many people should be answering the phone at Zappos.com on a Saturday? What’s Southwest Airlines' policy regarding hotel stays and cancelled flights? Should the knobs on the shower at the hotel go side by side or one above the other?” He then goes on to say, “Too often, we blame bad service on the people who actually deliver the service. Sometimes (often) it’s not their fault.”
I’m totally with him up to that point.
But then he goes on to blame two sets of people for service delivery issues: overpaid executives and service designers. Yes, executives set the direction for customer experience. And yes, there is a growing cadre of service designers in service design firms and in-house design teams. But I’d argue that these professionals are responsible for just a tiny fraction of the service experiences that exist today. Unfortunately, most companies just aren’t aware of the field of service design or the value it brings, so they haven't hired service designers to assist with customer experience efforts.