After a gorgeous long fall weekend tramping around ponds and through pastures in search of sculpture, while oohing and aahing over the upstate New York autumnal palette of greens, yellows, oranges, and reds, I got a nice welcome back to work today. My first Forrester report is live on our client site! It’s a case study on Drop, an iPad-connected kitchen scale and recipe app, which was developed by a small team based in Ireland and is currently in pre-order.
Here’s an objection I sometimes hear when I talk to people about how improving customer experience can boost business performance: “Sure, it sounds great for glam industries like automotive or fashion. But I sell widgets.”
Okay, it’s fair to say that the business value of CX is more obvious for industries that advertise in magazines with slick, glossy paper. But the reality is that focusing on CX can also do a lot for less sexy industries.
That’s why we invited Olivier Mourrieras of E.On to speak at Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals EMEA in London on November 17 and 18, 2014. E.On is one of the world's largest investor-owned electric utility service providers. And even though utilities don’t exactly captivate their customers, E.On has made huge, measured advances in the customer experience it provides, resulting in corresponding improvements to business results.
Olivier recently responded to our questions about what E.On has been doing and how it’s evolved. He gave us such amazingly detailed insight that I’ve broken his answers into two parts, with Part 1 appearing below.
I hope you enjoy what he has to say and I look forward to seeing some of you in London!
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
Prior to 2009, customer focus had not been a crucial part of E.ON’s strategy. Customer satisfaction scores were often lower than market average scores across the group resulting in high customer churn.
Thinking you know your customers will no longer cut it when it comes to delivering a top-notch customer experience. To create the most compelling differentiated experiences, firms not only need to know their customers but also understand what their customers care about most.
Siqi Chen, Heyday cofounder and CEO, gets this. The "effortless journaling" app goes the extra mile to deliver a seamless delightful experience — particularly for first-time users "where there aren’t obvious motivations to invest," in Siqi’s words.
I had a chance to sit down with Siqi in advance of his keynote session at Forrester’s Forum For Customer Experience Professionals West to talk about how Heyday competes on experience in the competitive mobile playing field. Hear more of Heyday’s story next month in Anaheim, California, November 6th to 7th.
Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
A: We focused on the customer experience from the inception of the company. As a mobile company, the way our customers interact with their devices is intensely personal. We run on a device that is the primary computing device for most people, a device that is with our customers physically for most of their waking life and a device that our customers interact with in the most intimate way: through touch. Because of this, great products on mobile devices require a very high bar for attention to detail and emotional value, in addition to the foundations of speed and value delivered that every great product requires.
Q: What aspects of the experience that your company delivers matter most to your customers?
In 2007, I wrote a report about how to measure customer experience (CX) across an entire enterprise. At the time, I could find just three companies — three! — that were actually measuring CX this way. Everyone else I talked to said that their companies had no CX measurement or that they measured CX in a piecemeal way, touchpoint by touchpoint. They desperately wished that executives would see the value of measuring and managing CX at an enterprise level but admitted their leadership just wasn’t thinking that way yet.
Fast-forward to 2014 and things look a lot better in the world of CX. Leading companies in every country and every industry are making CX a strategic priority, investing millions to improve how customers perceive their interactions with the firm. It’s great to see, but I have to admit . . . I’m not willing to declare victory just yet.
My concern is that these improved customer experiences won’t stay good over the next five years. There remains a risk that this flurry of improvement projects will fade into memory, allowing dysfunctional CX practices and processes to revert back to their old ways.
To keep that from happening, companies need to do more than fix broken customer journeys or redesign average ones. They need to increase their level of CX maturity by creating self-sustaining systems (human and technological) in each of the six disciplines that characterize great CX companies — strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture. But are they?
In my last report, "Standardize Great Customer Experience Delivery," I look at how companies create, share, and assess customer experience (CX) standards. Done well, CX standards prevent avoidable customer experience mistakes, ensure consistent experience delivery, and set a high bar for customer experience quality.
But bad CX standards are worse than no standards at all.
Unfortunately, customer experience professionals can make current problems worse — and even cause new problems — when they create the wrong CX standards. Remember the infamous Comcast customer-service call from the summer? That was, in part, caused by a bad CX standard. Comcast created a standard for its call center reps that requires them to capture a specific reason why a customer is canceling his or her service before moving forward in their scripts. Back in July, a customer recorded his agonizing attempt to cancel without providing a reason and then posted it online — where it was listened to by millions, creating a public relations nightmare.
But don’t give up on CX standards.
To craft the right standards, CX professionals should identify which parts of the experience need standards, create effective standards that strike an appropriate balance, socialize and reinforce the standards with all employees, and measure the impact of standards on customer and business metrics to confirm that they work.
I get just as excited as the next analyst about the latest and greatest startup. But you know what? There’s something extra cool about a brand that’s been around since 1864, and yet runs neck-and-neck with Amazon in our UK customer experience rankings.
As we near the event, Andrew graciously answered some of our most pressing questions about the why and how of John Lewis’ famous service experience — which is all the more impressive given its brand promise: “Never Knowingly Undersold.” (Translation: Great customer experience doesn’t have to mean high prices.)
I hope you enjoy his responses, and I look forward to seeing some of you in London!
Q: When did John Lewis first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?
A: John Lewis has had a long-term focus on what we would previously have termed “customer service,” dating back to our founding principles from 1864. More recently, the advent of omnichannel retailing with all of its inherent demands has caused us to revisit these principles and redouble our efforts to provide a truly world-class customer experience.
It's easy to get swept up in the power of the digital age, where smart mobile devices and cloud services open the door for new and exciting ways to engage customers. We think a lot about how these technologies will create enticing customer experiences (CX), making these digital touchpoints the face of the brand. I admit, as a technology fan, I'm enamored with this idea. But I'm also someone who thinks a lot about technology and the workforce, so I was equally animated by a conversation I recently had with the head of a CX consultancy. He warned that businesses risk over rotating on technology, viewing their people as receding in importance in delivering satisfactory customer experiences. He went on to say that businesses that make this make do so at their own peril. I agree.
I recently had the pleasure of facilitating three customer journey mapping workshops for clients. For me, the most rewarding part of these workshops is when, all of a sudden, you see the light bulb go on for the participants. It can be the realization that their customer has to jump through an inordinate number of hoops to submit a simple service request or have to wait five to 10 days for repair . . . or when the workshop participants realize they have no idea what their customers are doing or thinking, but maybe they should.
Just as the light-bulb moment can be different for each person, the insights they deem most valuable can vary and include:
Ideas for designing future-state experiences. A group of participants from a retailer created a future-state journey map illustrating how customers could sign up for a credit card and rewards program while shopping in-store. They identified scenarios for how store associates could approach customers with credit card offers without seeming intrusive as well as appropriate opportunities to follow up with customers by email or mobile app if they chose not to enroll right away. These types of insights can then inform the design of the new credit card and rewards experience.
A sense of empathy for the customer. We ask workshop participants within the same organization to wear name tags because not only do we not know them but also most of the time they don’t know each other. In one workshop, the organization was siloed, as most are, and each participant owned her own small functional part of the customer journey. But no one had insight into or ownership of the entire process. When brought together to analyze the health of the end-to-end journey, participants walked away with a shared understanding that what they were each doing individually wasn’t working for the customer as a whole.
As I wrote in my previous blog post and report on "The Data-Driven Design Revolution," the digitization of customer experiences — both online and in physical environments — has greatly expanded the depth and breadth of customer data available. This abundance of data has profoundly changed how experience design teams use and manage customer data. Its impact, however, doesn’t end there. This newfound abundance of customer data also fuels new business pressures and experiences. Chief among them being:
Organizational velocity is the new competitive differentiator, driving experiences to operate in real time, all the time. The speed with which companies can convert customer data into insights and insight into action is now a critical differentiator. Companies can no longer rely on linear approaches to data analysis — spending six months to gather data on a problem, many more months to analyze it, and even longer to act on it. Doing so will cause companies to bleed customers away to more nimble competitors. As Marc Andreessen recently tweeted, “Cycle time compression may be the most underestimated force in determining winners and losers in tech.”
I love Europe. I especially love the fact that in a very real sense there is no “Europe” as such: The UK experience is not the German experience, which is not the French experience, which is not the Italian experience, and so on.
Yet all of these countries are so close together that once I’m over there, I can visit a variety of very different cultures and architectures more easily than I can travel from Boston to Denver. And in any given city, just walking between buildings from one business meeting to another can make me feel like I’m on vacation. Then there’s the food . . .
Although European variety is amazing, it can also create challenges. On a recent trip, I was in London, Rome, Milan, and Budapest within a two-week period. That often brought me into contact with people in service industries — like taxis, restaurants, and hotels — who had very different ideas of what “service” means than I do.
I began to wonder: Do the locals also find some of this service subpar, or am I just being a parochial American? As it turns out, our recent research shows that European customer experience as judged by local customers does vary wildly depending on country and industry, ranging from truly great to truly awful.
Which is one reason why I’m so excited by Forrester’s upcoming Forum For Customer Experience Professionals EMEA on November 17th and 18th in London. We recruited speakers from companies with customers who say that they’re already doing a standout job as well as speakers from companies that are in the midst of tackling tough CX challenges.