Help Forrester Make Its 2012 Customer Experience Predictions!

It’s that time of the year again . . . Most of you are well into your 2012 planning, and at Forrester, we’ve also got our eyes on the year ahead. 

But first, we’re taking a look back. Ron Rogowski and I recently revisited our 2011 customer experience predictions report and chatted about what’s happened over the past 10 months.

In some cases, our predictions were accurate (if we do say so ourselves). For example, we said that tech vendors would engage in an “all-out war to own the customer experience management space” and that it would create a “confusing marketplace that will not shake out in 2011.” We also said that “customer service will gain popularity as a key opportunity for engagement.” Given our ongoing research and client conversations, we think these predictions were spot on.

And on a few points, we missed the mark. When we wrote our last doc, people had just started hacking the Kinect for Xbox 360 to create fun demos like real-time light sabers and digital shadow puppets. We wrote, “In 2011, we'll see companies start to leverage this technology, too, with healthcare (think guided physical therapy exercises) and marketing (a la interactive product demos) diving in first.” Well, we haven’t exactly seen a tsunami of activity in this area. But were we way off? Or did we just jump the gun? Only time will tell!

In either case, the fun continues.

Ron and I are collaborating again on our 2012 CX predictions report — and we want to know what you think. So here’s your chance for fame and fortune — or at least the opportunity to be mentioned in a Forrester report! If your ideas or comments contribute to our final analysis, we’ll add you as a contributor to the research.

So please share your thoughts for 2012 below, or join the conversation over in our customer experience community. We can’t wait to hear from you!

P.S. This report will be out in January, and we’ll share our predictions in a teleconference on January 11, 2012, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time (18:00 UK time), so mark your calendars now.


Some predictions for the next years

1 - IVR gets reinvented in what could be a winner takes it all shift: Apple's Siri re-shifts client expectations of how to interact with a voice system, suddenly making billions of dollars spent on IVR technology -the kind that forces customers to waste a lot of time listening to options and then forcing them to go through spoken menus that nobody wants to hear- obsolete and unacceptable to customers. First Siri-like IVRs are launched (a Cloud-based IVRs - 2012), and paves the way for Siri-to-Siri interactions (where you can ask your AI-assistant to do deal with the IVR at the other side for some common tasks). IVRs get a personality, too.

2 - Tablet become the dominant point of sales for most industries, with the launch for the Kindle Fire, Nook Color 2 and several other tables at the $150 price points. From an "Experience Matters" perspective, this means:
- The web is not the business
- The store is not the business
- The computer is not the business
What it really means is that the tablet/smart phone interface IS the business. The application in the tablet that makes it easier, cooler and more practical to buy or consume the content, is your business. And this can be somebody else's application.

3 - Customer Experience gets ever more emotional, and beyond traditional boundaries. Looking at Netflix PR nightmares, or reactions to BofA's triggered "Bank Transfer Day", it's clear that customer experience is by no means a 1-1 relationship with a brand based on objective interactions, but a collective experience that is shaped by public opinion very quickly. This blurs the line that separates Customer Experience and PR, and creates a need for incorporating viral effects and customer perceptions into marketing and PR efforts. This leads to bold, public Customer Experience "Promises" as a way to capitalize this emotional reactions en masse (but in a positive way).

Customer Service will take charge of customer experience initiat

My prediction is that Customer Service will finally take charge of Customer Experience Initiative.

As listening programs are developed, or social media teams are formed as part of the overall 'customer experience' initiatives, I believe companies will reconsider which department should be leading the charge. Who do you want advocating for customers based on voice-of-the-customer and Customer Experience insights or engaging on social media? Marketing—the automatic fallback—is not the best option.

Customer Service, on the other hand, is the right choice. Why? Because customer service has the actual connection to the customer, a departmental incentive, and the operational structure to effectively listen to the voice-of-the-customer, engage via social media and take the insights all the way from big picture talk to implementation and measurable results.

Listening is in the DNA of Customer service
Customer service is in the business of listening—it’s in their DNA. That’s what they do—day in and day out. The customer experience that your business is trying to capture through its listening program is actually unfolding when customers call in to the contact center or chat with agents. Service reps linking what customers are saying or requesting directly with what the business has to offer. It’s voice-of-the-customer theory in practice.

Bottom line, it makes sense to extend the social listening programs to Customer service as well since they can relate to your customers—pretty important when it comes to customer advocacy.

To Listen and Act has a direct impact on Customer Service metrics
Customer Service people care. To find gratification in solving other people’s problems all day long, you’d have to. But to be fair, it’s their job to care—customer satisfaction is a key metric for service managers. If customers are requesting better online self-service options, it’s in the service department’s interest to listen and ensure organizational follow-through.

And that’s precisely why the service department is the natural launching point for listening and customer experience initiatives—Customer Service has a vested interest in keeping customers happy and solving issues.

Customer Service also has a compelling budgetary incentive on its own behalf to act on listening insights—like communicating actionable product features to R&D or shipping bottlenecks to the appropriate department. The service manager knows that a better product and better processes will mean fewer calls to the contact center and fewer departmental resources tapped.

Customer service has the right operational structure
Unlike Marketing, Customer Service has all the operational service processes and metrics in place needed to scale and cost-effectively engage in social media. A bug in a product release, for instance, or change in the buying process, may impact customer service with a ten-fold increase in the number of online mentions and calls to the contact center. With hundreds of thousands, or millions of customers, this increase matters. Customer Service, not Marketing, has the right operational structure to rise to the occasion – to deal with volumes, scale effectively, keep costs down and follow governance/compliance rules.

Is your Marketing department tweeting about lost baggage?
Customer Experience, engaging on social media or listening may have had a faulty landing in your Marketing department. However, it’s time to view social engagement with customers about their problems for what it is: an extension of customer service. Teams monitoring Twitter and Facebook for customer issues are dealing with the same problems agents in the contact center face. The overall company philosophy and policies that guide agents handling complaints via phone, email or chat should be no different from those social media teams employ.

In the Marketing department, social listening tends to be limited to reputation management—monitoring the social conversation for negative fallout, and responding in kind. We’ve all seen the PR crises unfold as disgruntled customers tweet their way to better service, getting some of the biggest brands out there to dance—if fleetingly—to their tune. Crisis management has its place, of course, but that just begs the question: Whom do you really want handling upset or angry customers? More importantly, why wait for a crisis to motivate change or finally fix problems with the services you provide?

There’s a bigger picture yet
The bigger picture—and better practice—is to incorporate social listening and engagement or customer experience programs into your overall customer service operations and service strategy. By incorporating feedback from all your customer communication and hence listening channels into Customer Service business processes, you’re no longer just providing a reactive service response. You’re in the proactive position of building a better business aligned with customer needs and wants.
Customer Service is the obvious favorite for dealing with customers, but it’s also a natural hub for process and organizational improvement driven by customer listening and customer experience insights. KANA’s social listening technology provides big picture insights into what customers care about—the emerging trends, as well as the immediate and pressing concerns. Agents can take appropriate action and provide timely response—and service managers can translate customer problems into improved service and better business.

With Customer Service now less reactive because of all this listening it means that they can have a true place at the Executive table. Customer service can measure the impact of changes to the customer experience, to help the budget better around product and business change. No longer just a cost centre they can in fact become the hub of the business and, if aligned with the rest of the departments, can be instrumental in driving change.

Prediction: Business as Usual

Customer Care and Marketing should rise to meet the demand that B2B and B2C and B2W (Business to Whomever) and think with their customers and in some cases for them via innovation or better ways to listen to what they have to say and act upon those findings. 2012 we won't see much in the way of real enterprise change - there's much to do to facilitate foundational requirements to actually deliver on the true promise of excellent Customer Experience. The kind exhibited by, Virgin, USAA, and others.

While the top brands in the Meaningful Brand Index may not be in your top 20 the relationship of what customers want to what brands deliver in terms of experience coincides with the notion of creating a relationship with a customer: “It’s clear from our analysis that we need to take a new look at the relationship between brands and consumers. Nowadays we want so much more from brands than just promises or stories. Brands that manage to create better relationships dominate the marketplace," Hernan Sanchez Neira, CEO Havas Media Intelligence.

In my opinion we're still in the era of selling the sexy story around Customer Experience (and Social CRM and so on.) Mostly, companies have yet to take a hard look across the matrix or down into the stovepipes and mandate customer experience as a company-wide focus. Bygone are the days of lip service and a new, weird figure head with no real power and no real strategic imperative. In 2012 shifting out of the single, black-clad hipster who shows up to meetings to pay homage to the fact that a company is committed to experience to actually doing something more than creating a better IVR or an iPhone app that simply raises awareness or provides a store locator doesn't keep a customer happy. (Admittedly, I wear a lot of black and used to prostheletize about customer experience…)

No one owns the customer experience as such, and quite often, CxP (and I predict we'll not settle on an acronym either) commingles with User Experience - imagine a venn diagram where there's about 1/5th of each circle overlapping. This intersection provides insights into the overall meeting of customer care, marketing, operations, and the other sub-groups within a firm (big or small). Which, as time goes on ideally brings about the real subtext of the challenge of our discussions...

...the rise of Customer Care and Marketing out of the perceptions and shadows as the ugly, must have cost centers and shine in the spotlight of profit center and rise to the occasion as harbingers of the customer experience and set the standards in the next year for the rest of their organizations. Having lived in both camps, both historically whined about budget and demanded recognition for their valiant efforts. Okay, here's a medal. You win - now go become the harbingers of change but start in your organizations and work your way outwards. However, do eat your own dog food before you start barking at the rest of your company. For example, Customer Care's KPIs are out of sync with web self services and mobility. Also, Marketing now has the luxury of the fly A/B testing of campaigns via Social channels but don't quite take the customer's immediate feedback (did they buy, click, abandon carts, use only a small part of the app, where did they drop out of the application) but are still in the days of measuring SEO as a means to justify the existence of web marketing.

So, get the basics right (Knowledge Base and Management, CRM systems, and all the other hard stuff) in 2012 and plan to have a bright future in 2013.

The patient experience

Attention to improving the patient experience will, thank goodness, continue to grow during 2012. This will address systemic issues haunting the healthcare experience, not just more things along the lines of the "guided physical exercises" you reference above or related body data tracking apps/devices (the value of which have begun to be challenged -- see Such systemic issues include an unacceptable (i.e., huge) number of misdiagnoses, an unwillingness or inability of doctors to listen to or even touch patients anymore, the tendency for doctors to disregard limits to their knowledge and experience, a system of referrals and approvals that prevent direct and ready access to doctors with needed expertise, ... -- i.e., the many reasons speaker after speaker at the Medicine 2.0'11 conference held recently at the Stanford Medical Center declared the (U.S.) healthcare system to be "broken."

The increasing focus on improving the patient experience is reflected in the rapidly growing "epatient" movement, with peer-to-peer healthcare increasingly seen as an essential part of a fully functional healthcare system in which social media play vital roles. A Society for Participatory Medicine has been formed as part of this movement “in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health, and in which providers encourage and value them as full partners.” I'm even seeing suggestions of a need for an "Occupy Healthcare" movement. Meanwhile, medical rebels such as Jay Parkinson are showing how a patient-centered healthcare practice can work in spite of active resistance from the medical community, and programs are being designed to, in some cases, train medical students how to listen and talk to patients, and in other cases, to screen out applicants to medical school who demonstrate a lack of these essential soft skills.

Much more is to come along these lines in 2012. Again, thank goodness (i.e., it is about time). However, user/customer experience professionals need to play a larger role.


Customer Experience Becomes a Team Sport in 2012

1. Customer experience becomes a team sport. In 2012, firms will begin to see the value of customer experience initiatives from all functional leaders in the organization – not just from the usual suspects of customer service, marketing, and sales. This process will result in a better understanding of the total cost to serve; the full financial impact of up and downstream functions on one another. Customer experience failures occur at all levels of the organization. Costs of the call center, stores, web, sales force, dealers, field technicians and so on, are all driven up by the failure (and sometimes inability or unwillingness) to resolve at first point of contact. For successful companies, technology, finance, marketing, sales, distribution, product development, vendor management teams (including outsourced partners), will start to work collaboratively to ensure functional investments deliver returns for the end customers. The early adopters will see the green shoots of success in cost, quality and satisfaction results.

2. Companies will realize the “tuition value” of social care. Customer service via social media will continue to grow over time as more customers move to the web to interact with companies, and likewise, more brands embrace the opportunity to provide customer support using dedicated social media channels. Wise organizations will cash in on the “tuition value” of the “voice of the social care customer” – listening and responding in accordance to customer needs, preferences, and privacy guidelines. Research shows that big brands tend to get high marks from customers when it comes to overall social media brand sentiment, however, sentiment scores for customer support (isolated) in social conversations are consistently lower. In short, big brands think they are doing well socially, but isolated customer service posts show otherwise. As firms realize that social care is a net negative for the brand as whole, there will be a focus on a well-executed social care strategy to boost (even lead) the overall brand perception of a company. Social care presents a clear opportunity to boost your brand in 2012.

Ron and I have just published

Ron and I have just published our report, and we'd like to thank everyone who left a comment. We'll be sending you each a copy of the report.

Here's to a fantastic 2012!

I think 2012 is going to all

I think 2012 is going to all about the “wow factor” for businesses. Everyone is looking to Wow their customers, right? The pressure for companies to compete and differentiate themselves in the marketplace has been building for years. The difference in 2012 will be the way that companies look to strategically and quantitatively determine what their own unique wow factor is or could be, and build an organization-wide strategy for delivering an experience that will knock the socks off their customers. Touchpoint analysis and customer journey mapping will play a huge role in a company’s ability to do this. I think more and more companies will use touchpoint analysis and mapping to support their overall strategic customer experience plans, and use these tools to uncover and reveal some major Wow Factor in 2012.

You haven't missed the mark

You haven't missed the mark on Kinect apps. I expect to see many useful Kinect apps roll out in 2012. The smartest thing MSFT did last year was to open Kinect to the developer community. While this may look like a fun ride, just think about the implications in equipment for handicapped...