Naysayers love to complain that real customer experience (CX) improvement is only for the private sector because government is subject to unique and insurmountable pressures. Don’t believe these cynics. Many major corporations must overcome the same hurdles, and some federal agencies are finding ways to break out, too. Use this list of comebacks to subdue government CX skeptics the next time they start raving about:
Entrenched organizations. Even the most stagnant agency can change. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is taking a wrecking ball to its ossified structure with a major CX pivot that includes an overhauled organization; revised policies and procedures; and personnel changes that include the appointment of a chief customer officer. Private sector companies in perennially paralyzed industries like airlines are also breaking free. Delta Air Lines has soared in our CX Index™ thanks to major innovations to its policies, procedures, technical capabilities, and training.
Complex regulations. Healthcare companies groan under the weight of federal and state regulations, yet some companies in this industry find new ways to provide outstanding CX while working within the system. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan shot up more than 20 points in our CX Index last year by simplifying technical terminology and making interactions clearer for customers. Despite being hamstrung by outmoded regulations and congressional meddling, the US Postal Service just tied for first among the 18 federal agencies on our CX Index.
"An alphabet soup of acronyms have been adopted as shorthand for user experience. Which one you use depends largely on what term your organization or local professional community has adopted to talk about user experience. Though they vary quite a bit, all tend to be variations on the theme of “experience.” Among them: UX (user experience), XD (experience design), UE (user experience, again), CX (customer experience), and CE (customer experience, again). Though the acronyms differ, they all pretty much refer to the same thing."
I then sent my manuscript to a handful of colleagues who had kindly volunteered to proof it. One keen reviewer spotted my footnote and immediately called me out on it. He wrote:
"I think it’s an oversimplification to say that UX and CX ‘pretty much refer to the same thing.’ Particularly in the current environment where UX is growing up and the worlds of UX and CX are starting to collide. Anyone who knows the difference between the two may find the statement a bit too much of a ‘dumbing down’ of an important distinction and set a wrong tone. I think it’s worth just making clearer that there is a distinction, although they are both essentially centered around the users and their experiences."
One week ago today, we Bostonians enjoyed a picture-perfect opening day at Fenway Park. The sun was shining, temps finally warmed up after an abysmal winter, opening ceremonies paid tribute to local heroes like the Richard and Frates families,* and our beloved Red Sox beat the Washington Nationals 9 to 4.
What I love about opening day at Fenway is the optimism, the sense that anything is possible. A new season means a clean slate; the less-than-stellar 2014 baseball season is all but a distant memory.
The biggest change in our new approach is the way we judge CX excellence. To hit a home run, the 299 brands we studied had to do more than make customers happy. They had to design and deliver a CX that actually helps the business by creating and sustaining customer loyalty.
Mandates for better federal customer experience (CX) have been piling up for more than 20 years. The trend began way back in 1993, when Executive Order No. 12862 required federal agencies to create basic CX standards. The strongest and most recent mandate is last year’s “customer service” cross-agency priority goal, which requires federal agencies to provide the public with experiences “comparable to [those] they receive from leading private sector organizations.”
That’s a tall order, especially since federal CX is so bad. Despite these two decades of mandates, federal agencies earned an average rank of “very poor” on Forrester’s CX Index™ — the lowest ranking of all of the industries we rated. Even the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the highest-rated federal agency, was still among the very-lowest-ranked organizations in any industry.
But why does that matter? After all, government agencies usually have no competitors, so there’s no pressure to get and keep customers. The basic market motivation just isn’t there.
My research has revealed a host of reasons why federal agencies must improve their CX, despite not having to worry about market factors. Here are the top four reasons I’ve uncovered:
Forrester published a new report with highlights of changes among customer feedback management (CFM) vendors to give you the crucial insights you need to understand your CFM options. Why? Since the 2014 reports on the VoC vendor landscape and VoC vendor go-to-market strategies, we saw some big changes in the CFM market. Many changes are good news for CX pros who are looking to support their enterprisewide VoC and CX measurement efforts. But they don't make navigating this market any easier.
Key changes in the CFM market include:
Consolidation of established CFM vendors. CFM vendor Mindshare acquired Empathica in September 2013 and then relaunched the newly combined company in June 2014 under the name InMoment. Maritz Holdings acquired Allegiance and merged it with Maritz Research to launch MaritzCX in January 2015.
Entry of new CFM vendors. Clarabridge, formerly a specialist vendor that focused on text analytics, moved into the CFM category by adding significant capabilities to support all stages of the VoC cycle through a combination of an acquisition and native development. Qualtrics, formerly a survey platform specialist, entered the CFM category by adding capabilities to interpret unstructured feedback and act on VoC.
On a recent podcast with my colleagues Deanna Laufer and Sam Stern, I was asked about the difference between business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) customer experience (CX). My answer is what I believe is the problem that vexes CX professionals trying to establish CX programs in B2B firms: In a given account there isn't one "customer"; there are many stakeholders whose interactions with the firm must help them be successful in their work. This puts stress on the B2BCX organization -- how do you coordinate these many experiences to ensure each of these stakeholders gets the value they seek from the firm?
What’s the top imperative at your company? If it’s not a transformation to make the company more customer-focused, you’re making a mistake. Technology and economic forces have changed the world so much that an obsession with winning, serving, and retaining customers is the only possible response.
We’re in an era of persistent economic imbalances defined by erratic economic growth, deflationary fears, an oversupply of labor, and surplus capital hunting returns in a sea of record-low interest rates. This abundance of capital and labor means that the path from good idea to customer-ready product has never been easier, and seamless access to all of the off-the-shelf components needed for a startup fuels the rise of weightless companies, which further intensify competition.
Chastened by a weak economy, presented with copious options, and empowered with technology, consumers have more market muscle than ever before. The information advantage tips to consumers with ratings and review sites. They claim pricing power by showrooming. And the only location that matters is the mobile phone in their hand from which they can buy anything from anyone and have it delivered anywhere.
This customer-driven change is remaking every industry. Cable and satellite operators lost almost 400,000 video subscribers in 2013 and 2014 as customers dropped them for the likes of Netflix. Lending Club, an alternative to commercial banks, has facilitated more than $6 billion in peer-to-peer loans. Now that most B2B buyers would rather buy from a website than a salesperson, we estimate that 1 million B2B sales jobs will disappear in the coming years.
A few years ago, The Mayo Clinic wanted to design separate consultation and exam rooms to reflect the reality that most appointments consist mainly of conversations between doctors and patients, with less examination time. But there wasn't enough floor space to accommodate the number of separate rooms that it envisioned. Then, inspiration struck from the least likely of places . . . The Brady Bunch. On the show, viewers may recall that the boys and girls of the blended family shared a bathroom with two doors connecting it to adjoining bedrooms (i.e., a Jack and Jill bathroom). Mayo borrowed the concept and now has two consultation rooms that share one inner exam room.
Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian and I are collaborating on a new report on how B2B companies can make the business case for customer experience (CX). And we'd love your input.
How will clients benefit from this report?
With longer sales cycles, fewer customer accounts, and an abundance of client roles and influencers, B2B companies are challenged in making the link between improving CX and financial results. But without this link, B2B companies will struggle to get adequate funding to sustain their CX programs over the long term. To help CX professionals at B2B companies overcome challenges to justifying their CX programs, this report will explore:
What do customer and business data CX pros need to collect to support their business cases?