The Best Airline Experience You Haven’t Heard Of Yet

There’s a personal story behind why we invited one of our speakers to be on the main stage at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, 2011.

A few months back, I had to take a trip from Boston to Toronto. My colleague Jeff Thurston said, “You’ve got to fly Porter.” I asked why, and he just said “trust me.” Well, I do trust Jeff so I went ahead and booked a flight on Porter Airlines.

When I got back to Boston I concluded two things. First, the only way I was going to fly to Toronto from now on was via Porter. Second, I needed to get someone from Porter on stage to talk about the butt-kicking customer experience I’d just had.

What’s so great about Porter? Let me give you my take. It starts with flying into Billy Bishop airport, which is basically in the city of Toronto — as opposed to Toronto Pearson International airport, which is a long cab ride outside of Toronto. So when you get off the plane at Billy Bishop, you just saved yourself about 15 miles worth of traffic.

That’s the convenient part. Now for the cool part. The flight experience is retro 1960s (maybe earlier, I wasn’t flying in the 60s). The seats are wide and comfortable. The crew treats you like they want your business. You get snacks that are basically meals plus wine or beer — and it’s complimentary! I almost fell out of my leather seat when  the flight attendant told me that.

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Call Center Customer Experience Transformation At American Express — And THAT'S The Way It’s Done

Last year we published not just one but two reports that featured the outstanding customer experience transformation process that took place in the American Express call centers. The first report described the winning entry submitted by American Express for a 2010 Voice Of The Customer Award — the data from that VoC program drove many of their call center improvements.  The second report was a profile of the transformation itself based on a talk by Reena Panikar, vice president and business leader of American Express' Customer Service Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

We were so impressed by this story that we invited Jim Bush, executive vice president of world service at American Express to speak at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum 2011.

Jim is responsible for leading the company’s global customer servicing operation — which includes 25 proprietary locations across the globe and a team of tens of thousands of customer care professionals who provide service to more than 63 million customers. He was the driving force behind the American Express call center transformation.

Listen in as Jim describes how it all went down.

The Chief Customer Officer For The Financial Services Company With The Best Customer Experience

One of the challenges in putting together Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum is that we have a very limited number of main-stage speaker slots. And that’s frustrating because as the content champion for the event, I wanted to put the top bank, the top credit card provider, and the top insurance provider on stage.

Lucky for me our Customer Experience Index data tells us that’s all the same company: USAA.

And that’s why we were so happy to have Wayne Peacock as a speaker.

Wayne is executive vice president of member experience at USAA, where he oversees its marketing, channel management, sales, and service functions. We profiled him earlier this year as part of our series “Conversations With Chief Customer Officers.”

As always, the USAA story is inspiring. As Wayne put it, it accomplishes its mission by focusing on three things that are deceptively simple but very hard to execute well:

  • Know your customer.
  • Organize your business around your customer’s need.
  • Make it about a bigger mission.

To which I will only add: If you do those things, you might also have a year-over-year customer retention rate of 97% to 98% like USAA.

But don’t take my word — listen to Wayne yourself. Enjoy!

The Real “Undercover Boss” — Office Depot’s Kevin Peters

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.

The Rise Of The Chief Customer Officer . . . Panel!

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!

Want To Win A Voice Of The Customer Award? Prove Business Impact

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been part of a group that picked the winners of Forrester’s Voice Of The Customer Awards for 2011. I can’t yet tell you the names of the three winners — those companies will be announced on June 21 at our Customer Experience Forum in New York, along with the other seven entrants that made up our top 10. But I can share some insight into what separated the winners from the contenders.

At one end of the spectrum, the clarity with which entrants described their programs didn’t create much differentiation. With very few exceptions, descriptions ranged from very clear to extremely clear and “please stop with the detail already, my eyes are starting to bleed” clear.

At the other end of the spectrum, the business benefits that companies derived from their voice of the customer (VoC) programs provided diamond-hard clarity as to which companies were great and which were just good.  

To understand why that is, consider the question in the awards submission form that asks about business benefits. It was worded exactly like this:

“How has this activity improved your organization's business results? Please be as specific as possible about business benefits like increased revenue, decreased cost, increased customer satisfaction, or decreased customer complaints. Please specify how you measure those benefits.”

The judges were looking for a response along the lines of:

  1. We heard these specific things from customers through our VoC program.
  2. As a result of what we heard, we made these specific changes.
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How The “Most Improved” Companies Raised Their Customer Experience Game Last Year

Every year in January, Forrester publishes its Customer Experience Index (CxPi), which reports how customers rate their interactions with major companies. We learn a lot from studying leaders in various industries — like USAA, which was the top credit card provider, top bank, and top insurance provider this year.

Last week, we published a follow-up report, which examined companies that raised their CxPi scores by at least five points year over year. Among others, these brands included Aetna (up six points), Citi’s credit card business (up 12 points), Charter Communications (up 20 points as an ISP and up seven points as a TV service provider), and Office Depot (up nine points). Our goal was to discover what, if anything, these firms did to earn their improvements.  

And as it turned out, their big gains came as a result of major efforts.

Our research uncovered customer experience initiatives that fell into two buckets. The first bucket was business process re-engineering. Efforts here included creating or enhancing voice of the customer programs, measuring customer experience consistently across the enterprise, and changing incentive programs to reward customer-centric behavior by employees.  

But perhaps the biggest impact came from upgrading the customer experience governance process at the enterprise level. For example, Aetna transformed its decentralized part-time customer experience task force into a full-time enterprise customer experience team. Cox Communications made an even more drastic change, consolidating any function with material customer interactions into one group led by a new senior vice president of customer operations.

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Customer Experience Outlook For 2011: Lopsided Battle For Differentiation

We recently published the results of our annual survey of the members of our customer experience professionals peer research group. The group is interesting in that they’re pros: They all work to improve the customer experience delivered by their organizations.

This year, their responses are encouraging — but also very sobering.

Here are some of the encouraging data points. A whopping 86% said that customer experience is a top strategic priority at their company. More than half work at companies that already have a single set of customer experience metrics in place across the entire company, and another 20% said that their firms are considering this move. What’s more, almost as many respondents said that their companies have a voice of the customer program in place, and another 29% said that their firms are actively considering a voice of the customer (VoC) program.

At this point I’m thinking, “Fantastic! Their companies care about customer experience, and they are implementing mission-critical programs that will help them succeed!”

Plus they’re coming from a good place. When we asked our panelists how they’d describe their executive team’s goal for customer experience, 63% of respondents said that their senior executives want to be the best in their industry, while another 13% said that their execs shoot higher and want to be seen as a customer experience leader across all industries.

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Hot Off The Press: Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, 2011

How should you measure customer experience? Is it even possible to measure something that feels as squishy as customer experience?

As it turns out, you can measure it, you should measure it, and you even have some decent options for measuring it. Your alternatives range from monitoring the real-world interactions your customers have with your firm (like clicks on a site or the length of a call) to asking your customers for their perceptions of those interactions (the real customer experience) to tracking what your customers do as a result of the experience (like making another purchase or recommending you).

At Forrester, we have our own direct measure of customer experience that we’ve been using since 2007: the Customer Experience Index (CxPi). Today we published the results for 2011, which are based on research conducted at the end of 2010.

To help understand those results, let me explain how the CxPi works. We ask more than 7,000 consumers to identify companies they do business with in 13 different industries. We then ask respondents to tell us how well each firm met their needs, how easy the firm was to work with, and how enjoyable it was to work with (questions that correspond to the three levels of the classic customer experience pyramid). Then for all three questions, we calculate each firm’s CxPi score by subtracting the percentage of its customers who reported a bad experience from the percentage who reported a good experience. The overall CxPi is an average of those three results.

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Customer Experience Improvements Can Be Worth Billions — Yeah, “Billions” With A “B”

Forrester just published Megan Burns’ new report that models the business impact of an improved customer experience. I’m proud of this report because it:

  • 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.
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