Q&A With Ryan C. Green, Managing Director Customer Strategy And Development, Southwest Airlines

In the airline industry, Southwest is no stranger to customer experience accolades. In fact, it consistently earns top marks on Forrester’s Customer Experience Index compared to other carriers – offering enjoyable and easy experiences that meet customers' needs.

It will be a pleasure to hear directly from Southwest’s Managing Director of Customer Strategy and Development, Ryan Green, next month at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum West in Anaheim, CA. To get an early taste for why Southwest is known for its experience, and the strategy behind it, read on.

Q&A with Ryan Green, Managing Director Customer Strategy & Development, Southwest Airlines

Q: When did your company first begin focusing on customer experience? Why?

A: Southwest Airlines has always been focused on the Customer. Our company started with the vision to give people the freedom to fly and our differentiator has always been policies and services that lean towards the Customer. As a result, we now fly more passengers domestically, increased our airports served dramatically and Southwest Airlines’ Customer complaints are the lowest in the industry. As we’ve grown and the industry has become more competitive we’ve definitely continued uncovering what our Customers need and want from Southwest Airlines and we are focused on giving them that experience to keep them coming back time and again.

Q: What aspects of the experience that your company delivers matter most to your customers? 

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Q&A With Siqi Chen, Cofounder And CEO, Heyday

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?

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Announcing The Speakers At Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals West, 2014 — November 6-7 in Anaheim, CA

It’s with great pleasure that I announce the agenda for Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in Anaheim, CA, on November 6 & 7. We’re mixing things up this year — new formats for speakers, new hands-on, activity-based workshops in addition to track sessions, and a stellar gallery of guest speakers. And we’ve wrapped all of this up with an overarching theme: “Why Good Is Not Good Enough.”

We picked this theme because our Customer Experience Index (CXi) told us to. Seriously. Check this out: According to the latest CXi, the number of brands scoring in the “very poor” category is down to one out of 175. What’s more, only a handful of brands — 10% — are in the “poor” category. Together, these findings show that as customer experience improvement efforts gained momentum over the past year or so, the number of truly awful experiences declined, dramatically. That’s reassuring. Kudos to all the businesses out there that screw up less!

Now for the sobering news: Only 11% of brands in the CXi made it into the “excellent” category.

What that means of course is that most brands are clustering in the middle of the curve — they’re not awful in the eyes of their customers, but they’re not remarkable either. Translation: A merely good customer experience is no longer good enough if you want to deliver a differentiated experience and reap incremental sales, positive word of mouth, and better customer retention. You’re gonna have to raise your game.

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Designing Experiences That Surprise And Delight

My wife and I have finally reached the last phase of a lengthy and complex home renovation project. To make sure that the new stairwell gets installed with the least risk of personal injury (descending the stairs first thing in the morning, in the dark, before coffee, and before the banister has been completed — not a good idea), we decided to spend a couple of nights in a hotel while our contractor finishes the job.

That hotel happens to be a Courtyard by Marriott property, one of a handful of businesses to achieve a rating of excellent in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (Cxi). In the CXi, we ask consumers to measure how well each brand they’ve done business with measures up against three criteria: value, ease of use, and enjoyability. Most brands score OK to very poor. So how does Courtyard do it? 

It's skirted the requirements trap. All hotels have rooms, showers, and parking. Wi-Fi, a business center, a dining area, and fitness facilities are pretty generic too. These things are required to compete in this market. But merely having these things is not enough.

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The Magic Behind A Well Designed Mobile Experience

Recently I witnessed a bit of design magic.

I was reviewing some research with a customer experience colleague who suddenly realized that he’d left some notes on his laptop, which was tethered to his desk. Knowing that he just started using Evernote, I suggested he sign into his account on his iPhone (which never leaves his side) and get his notes there.

Voilà. 

For seasoned Evernote users there’s nothing magical about this. But for my coworker, something significant happened. Though young enough to be considered a digital native, he’s also worked long enough to associate productivity tools with desktops and laptops, client-side apps like Lotus Notes and Microsoft Office. His work life has been so deeply informed by PC-based tools that even though he knew, rationally, that he didn’t have to run back to his laptop to consult his notes, his habits told him otherwise. Only when he logged in via his iPhone and experienced what a cloud based note-taking app could do for him did his ideas about work begin to swerve a little. You could see it in his smile. That’s good design – it makes life a little better, opens up possibilities, adds a little gusto.

My colleague Tony Costa has been writing about these “post PC” experiences, and he’ll be speaking about this topic at both our Los Angeles and London CX Forums. He describes these emerging interactions as:

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