I stopped by my local Whole Foods the day before Thanksgiving to pick up some appetizers. And as I deliberated at the cheese counter, I couldn’t help but overhear what one cheese monger said loudly to the other: “This lady came up to me complaining about the store. This store’s too small, you don’t carry the things I need. I told her she’d have to talk to customer service. I mean really, I just work here.”
I just work here??! Did I honestly hear someone say that? In Whole Foods? Not only did this guy undermine the Whole Foods brand with his interaction with the original customer, but he made a bad personal decision to relay his story in front of other customers!
As Steve Portigal mentioned in a comment on one of my previous posts, employee authenticity is key to great customer experiences. (To see just how bad an inauthentic customer experience can be, check out my last post, "Worst Online Chat Ever!") But employee authenticity is really only effective if it aligns with a company’s brand attributes. Being an authentic jerk isn’t going to cut it in customer experience land!
A lot of employee behavior comes down to corporate culture — and in his "How To Build A Customer-Centric Culture" report, Paul Hagen mentions two things in particular that I think directly influence employee authenticity. Companies need to:
In October, Ron Rogowski provided a couple of excerpts from one of our colleague's online chat with her cable and Internet provider. But this chat session was so bad that I couldn't resist the urge to share it in its entirity. (Read to the end for a fantastic Yoda moment.) By the way, I made no edits to the transcript other than to change the names and obscure identifying information.
* * *
User Elizabeth has entered room.
Elizabeth (Sat Oct 2 11:36:45 EDT 2010) > I don't know my [company] ID or my password, so I can't log in to my account. I tried to set up a new account, but the site says my account already has an online account. Can you please reset my information (so I can create a new account) or help me log in?
Analyst Carol has entered room.
Carol (Sat Oct 2 11:36:50 EDT 2010)> Hello Elizabeth, Thank you for contacting [company] Chat Support. My name is Carol. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Carol (Sat Oct 2 11:37:05 EDT 2010)> My pleasure to have you on this chat, Elizabeth! Remaining committed and focused on my goal which is to provide quality customer service at my fullest effort will always be at the pinnacle. It is with utmost sincerity that I want to extend apologies for any trouble, inconvenience and frustration the log in issue has brought along your way. I simply hope you are doing fine.
Carol (Sat Oct 2 11:37:26 EDT 2010)> No worries. As your [company] service representative, I want you to know that issue resolution and your satisfaction are my top priorities for today. Together, we can work this out, Elizabeth.
“How customers perceive their interactions with your company.”
The key word I want to focus on here is “perceive.” While business success is viewed by metrics like conversions or average order size, for customers, their level of satisfaction is tied to the sum total of all interactions they have with a company from the first time they click on a link from an online ad all the way to opening and experiencing a product. That satisfaction is based on some rational justifications such as price, but it’s also largely based on the overall feeling customers have about those interactions. It’s that emotional component that can be the X factor in how consumers report whether or not they are satisfied with a brand — and more importantly determine whether they’ll do business with you again.
Think about it, emotions drive needs, wants, and desires and are the triggers that are the basis for most interactions consumers have with a company. Think about something as seemingly mundane as cleaning products. Why do people care about cleaning products? Because maybe they want to have a clean house that smells nice because they’re going to entertain soon and, secretly, they want to leave their guests not with an image of their home, but of how they keep their home. Or, maybe there’s a concern over the ingredients that are in the cleaning supplies that people use because they have young children and want to keep them safe from harmful chemicals. The bottom line is that people bring all sorts of baggage to every experience and that baggage is emotional — even the things that cannot be explicitly stated.
Our team is pretty floored by everything that’s happening in the customer experience space right now. We’re seeing massive changes in technology, which are enabling personal and social experiences unlike any we’ve ever seen. In addition, customer experience is gaining unprecedented importance across the enterprise. We think the combination of these influences is going to make for a pretty spectacular 2011.
Ron Rogowski and I are collaborating on a report that will outline Forrester’s thoughts on what 2011 has in store for customer experience professionals. Among our predictions:
Customer experience will (finally) connect with marketing. If you read my last blog post, it’ll be no surprise that I think there’s a pretty strong connection between customer experience and marketing. For CCOs and CMOs, 2011 will come in like a lion (with tension between their two groups) and go out like a lamb (with true collaboration).
Brands will (wrongfully) rush to abandon their Web sites. With the skyrocketing market for mobile phones and tablets, firms will look to engage users through differentiated experiences on these devices. But in the process, many will neglect a critical touchpoint — the Web — in favor of apps that have less reach.
Quantifies the correlation between a rise in a company’s Customer Experience Index score and the corresponding increase in three loyalty metrics that every company cares about: purchase intent, likelihood to switch business to a competitor, and likelihood to recommend.
Makes conservative but realistic assumptions about the business fundamentals of companies in 13 different industries.
Produces eyepopping projections of increased annual revenue as a result of realistically attainable improvements in customer experience — by industry.
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.”
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.
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.
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’sDelivering 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:
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.