Unexpected Musical Fun: "Outside In" The Song Rocks Day Two Of Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum

I’m still digging out from all the things that I put off until after last week’s Customer Experience Forum in New York. Even so, I didn’t want to let too much time pass before sharing some unexpected fun we had on Wednesday morning.

It actually started on Tuesday afternoon when I received an email from the co-author of our upcoming book, Kerry Bodine, which said:

“Have you seen this??? Amazing!

http://blog.neolane.com/events-2012/forresters-book-eve-6-treatment-song/

Lyrics below the video.”

The short note included a link to a blog post with a song. The blogger, Ed Hadley, a senior marketing manager at Neolane, had written new lyrics to the Eve 6 song “Inside Out,” turning it into “Outside In.” I was skeptical, but I trust Kerry’s judgment, so I played the song and loved it.

After some quick back-and-forth between our event producer (Katie Petroff), Neolane’s vice president of marketing (Kristin Hambelton), and one of our backstage producers (the unflappably cool Dave), we had the song ready to play as part of my Wednesday morning opening remarks. As it played, Dave scrolled the lyrics karaoke-style. The audience clearly thought it was fun — lots of laughter and a big round of applause at the end.

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Q&A With Phil Bienert, SVP Consumer Digital Experience, AT&T

It’s amazing to me how many times the telecommunications industry came up as we did the research for our new book, Outside In. From wireless service providers to cable companies, whether in the US, Germany, or Australia, it became clear that customer experience is the battleground of the immediate future for the companies that bring us our voice, data, and entertainment content.

That’s why I’m so excited to bring Phil Bienert to the stage of our Customer Experience Forum 2012 East next week. Phil is a longtime customer experience advocate and expert, whom we first met when he worked at Volvo. He’s always been a clear thinker and visionary when it comes to digital experiences, and he’s now bringing that thinking and vision to AT&T.

In advance of his speech, we put some questions to Phil about what AT&T is trying to do and how it’s planning to do it. Some of his answers will surprise you. Enjoy! Phil Bienert

How would you describe the experience that you want AT&T customers to have?

Effortless. Customers interact with AT&T across many touchpoints — online, mobile apps, our call centers, and more than 2,300 retail stores — and it’s essential that we make all of these interactions seamless, within touchpoints and across touchpoints, each and every time. We want to make it easy for customers to do business with us, however they prefer to contact us, and to get their question taken care of the first time.

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Q&A With Kevin Peters, President, North America, Office Depot

Yesterday I wrote a post inspired by insight from Kevin Peters of Office Depot. Today we’re going to hear from the man himself!

My co-author (Kerry Bodine) and I were so impressed by what Kevin’s been doing to reinvent customer experience at his company that we open our upcoming book with a case study about him. We’re also fortunate to have him to speak at our Customer Experience Forum 2012 East in New York just a week from today (June 26th).

Whether you’re going to get a chance to hear Kevin speak next week or not, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the insight he provides in his answers to some questions we sent him. My favorite nugget: Depot Time!

So without further ado . . . heeeeeere’s Kevin!

1.  How would you describe the experience that you want Office Depot customers to have?

We care about providing solutions, not just selling products. At the end of the day, we need our customers more than they need us. That philosophy must guide everything that we do. Our customers must feel that their business is valuable to us. To that end:

  • They are greeted at the front door and feel welcomed and appreciated.
  • Their success is our success.
  • Their problems are our challenges to be solved.
  • They are recognized and remembered when they return.
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You Need Your Customer More Than Your Customers Need You

Customers today have more choices than ever. Not only that, they have more information about those choices than ever. And they can get that information anytime, anywhere, and on whatever device they happen to be using at the moment. These changes have collectively put customers in the driver’s seat.

If you’re a fan of strategy guru Michael Porter, you can think of this as a shift in one of his five forces of competition: buyer power. But even without a sophisticated analytical framework, you can feel this change in your daily life. That’s because you’re a customer, too, by virtue of the fact that you buy goods and services, day in and day out.

Try comparing the power you used to have as a customer with the power you have today. I recently tried this exercise by comparing the way I picked my bank in 1998 — when I  moved to the Boston area for a job — with the options I have for picking a bank today.

In June of ’98, I wanted to switch to a local-area bank but didn’t know where to begin. I dreaded doing the research on top of moving my home and starting a new job. The woman who recruited me suggested that I sign up with Bank Boston because it had the most ATMs in our area. With a sense of relief, I did just that and went on with my life.

Over the intervening years, Bank Boston was acquired by Fleet Bank, which was later acquired by Bank of America. Today that makes me a Bank of America customer, even though I never decided to do business with it. Fortunately, the relationship has worked out okay. But what if it stopped being okay and I wanted to switch? How hard would it be to pick a new bank and switch in 2012?

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Why Customer Experience Is Critically Important To Marketing At FedEx: The SVP Of Marketing Weighs In!

One of the great pleasures of working on our upcoming book, Outside In, was interviewing customer experience leaders at great brands like FedEx. I was fortunate enough to be able to talk with Laurie Tucker, SVP of corporate marketing at FedEx, to get her story. I was so impressed by the work that's going on in her group that I invited her to speak at our Customer Experience Forum in New York on June 26th to 27th (she's on the morning of June 27th).

As a prequel to some of what we'll hear from Laurie at our event, we sent her questions about the FedEx customer experience and why she sees it as a competitive advantage. Her answers appear below.

Enjoy!

Q: How would you describe the experience that you want FedEx customers to have?

A: Relationships oftentimes start with a simple handshake. For example, when you meet someone for the first time and extend your hand in greeting, you’re offering to build a relationship. In the same way, we want to offer a hand to our customers to establish a personal and meaningful connection. After all, FedEx is more than just delivering packages. We’re an innovative company that thrives on delivering solutions and programs that meet our customers’ needs and expectations.

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The Business Impact Of An Outside-In Perspective At Sprint

Sometimes a CEO takes the reins at a company that’s in such great shape, I can’t help thinking, “Wow, it must be great to be that guy!”

And then there’s Dan Hesse, CEO at Sprint. Given the shape that Sprint was in when he got the top job in 2008, I was thinking more along the lines of, “Wow, he must be working off a karmic burden!” That’s because back then, the company had the lowest customer satisfaction ratings of any of the major wireless carriers. As a result, it was bleeding cash from high customer care costs and lost subscribers.

Faced with this mess, Dan decided to focus on systematically improving the quality of Sprint’s customer experience as a way of improving Sprint’s bottom line. We were so impressed by his efforts that we included a case study about Dan in Chapter 2 of our upcoming book, Outside In: The Power Of Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business.

The book won’t be out until August 28th, but you don’t have to wait until then to get a sense of how effective Dan’s efforts have been. That’s because on May 15th, Hesse gave an address at Sprint’s shareholder meeting, and he had this news:

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Rx: Four Days Of Inspiration At The Cleveland Clinic Patient Experience Summit

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of speaking at the Patient Experience Empathy And Innovation Summit. The event was sponsored by the Cleveland Clinic Office of Patient Experience, which is led by Dr. Jim Merlino, the chief experience officer at the Clinic.

To be candid, I originally agreed to give the speech as a favor to Jim, whose inspirational story kicks off the chapter on chief customer officers in our upcoming book. I didn’t know what to expect of the event and somehow imagined that when I joined hundreds of doctors, nurses, and other caregivers in a big auditorium, I’d get trapped inside an episode of House — and I’d be the only one who didn’t know what the other cast members were talking about.

Was I ever wrong. The event was an extraordinary experience from beginning to end, and the content was accessible to anyone who works to improve customer experience, regardless of industry. As someone who helps put on Forrester's Customer Experience Forum, I even got a little envious.

A few things leapt out at me from the sessions I attended:

  • Executive-level commitment to customer experience as a business strategy. Dr. Delos “Toby” Cosgrove, CEO of Cleveland Clinic, and Dr. Kurt Newman, CEO of Children’s National Medical Center, appeared together on a panel. It was clear from their answers to moderator and audience questions that both of them connect the dots between high-quality patient experience and the bottom line.
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Announcing Outside In, The Latest Book From Forrester And The Topic Of Our Upcoming Forum In New York

Since October, I've been heads down on a big project. We're all delighted that the project is now at a point where we can talk about it publicly.

It's Forrester's next book, titled Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business. You'll be hearing a lot about it in the coming weeks, both from me and from my co-author Kerry Bodine. And if you want to see what the cover looks like, it's already online here and here.

Although the book won't be available to the general public until August 28th, attendees of our Customer Experience Forum at the end of June will get digital copies of the manuscript.  They'll also hear keynote speeches from some of the people who appear in the book, like Kevin Peters, the president of Office Depot North America; Laura Evans, chief experience officer at The Washington Post; and Laurie Tucker, senior vice president of corporate marketing at FedEx.

If you'd like to get a preview of some of the concepts in the book, check out the video below — and then stay tuned for more announcements!

 

The Greatest Thing To Come Out Of The Mind Of The Late, Great Steve Jobs: His Perspective

Those of us who work in the field of customer experience are especially hard hit by the passing of Steve Jobs. He symbolized the power of experience — how much a great experience can transform a product, a business, an industry, and even our daily lives.

Do you remember personal computers before the mouse, how you bought and listened to music before iTunes and the iPod, or how many animated films you watched in theaters — with or without the kids — before Pixar?

Steve Jobs even changed the way many of us think. If you own an iPhone or an iPad, you’ve probably found, as I have, that you don’t bother to memorize very much anymore. Why should you when you can dig up facts anytime, anywhere with just a few taps on a touchscreen?

Now please don’t get me wrong: I don’t idealize the man. For one thing, many people contributed to the success of everything I just mentioned. And not all Apple experiences are perfect, and Jobs didn’t succeed at everything he did (remember the NeXT Computer?).

But to go cynical is to miss the point, or more specifically, the point of view — the one that makes Jobs an icon for customer experience professionals. He put it out there when he famously said, “You've got to start with the customer experience and work back to the technology — not the other way around.”

Frankly, “the other way around” is how most companies still operate. Not just technology companies but firms in every industry. Someone has an idea (maybe great, maybe not), and that turns into a product or service in the marketplace. The customer experience that results is whatever it turns out to be.

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A Great Customer Experience Depends On Customer Understanding

My colleague Andrew McInnes recently wrote a post about the tunnel vision that results when companies rely solely on analytics for understanding customers. By neglecting qualitative research methods like ethnography and related tools like personas and customer journey maps, firms run the risk of thinking they know what customers want and need but in reality not having a clue. And that’s the root cause of some of the worst customer experience problems — issues that can drag down a business.

Take the case of Kevin Peters, Office Depot’s president, North America. Kevin recently spoke at our Customer Experience Forum where he described the biggest puzzle that confronted him when he got his job. Even as sales declined, store mystery-shopping scores compiled by a third-party research firm were going through the roof. How could this be? How could customers be having a great in-store experience but not actually buying?  

As it turned out, the mystery shoppers had been asking the wrong questions. They were accurately reporting that the floors and bathrooms of Office Depot stores were clean and that the shelves were stocked with merchandise. But as Peters put it: “Who cares?” When he personally visited 70 stores incognito, walked the aisles, and talked to customers, he discovered his real problems. For example, the combination of very large stores, weak signage, and employees who weren’t all that helpful made it hard to find products. That resulted in customers who walked in determined to buy and walked out without a purchase.

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