It’s that time of the year again . . . Most of you are well into (if not done with) your 2013 planning — and at Forrester, we’ve also got our eyes on the year ahead.
Ron Rogowski and I have been engaging our fellow analysts in lively conversations about what will happen in the field of customer experience (CX) in 2013. But before we tell you what we think, we want to get your perspective on what 2013 will bring. 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.
Specifically, we’d love to know:
What will be your biggest CX challenges next year?
What are your most important CX initiatives and priorities for the next 12 months?
What are your predictions for the field of CX in 2013?
The right customer interactions, implemented the right way, don't just happen. Instead, they must be actively designed. This requires learning — and then sticking to — the steps in a human-centered design process. But this approach is not for the faint of heart.
If you want to embrace human-centered design, you have to admit that you don’t know the answers to your problems. At its core, design is a problem-solving process. It takes into account the needs of customers, employees, and stakeholders — and it can be applied to create new (or improved) products, services, and experiences. While that all sounds good, embarking on a problem-solving project implicitly means you don’t have the answers to your current business problems. And in today’s solution-focused business environment, not having an answer can be seen as a weakness.
In fact, we’re so solution-focused that providing answers has become almost a knee-jerk reaction. Here’s a quick experiment: Ask the next colleague you see how to solve a particular problem, and she’ll likely give you an answer or two — maybe even three. It’s very unlikely that your colleague will pause for a moment, reflect on your question, and proceed to ask you more about the challenge you’re facing. But that’s exactly the approach that human-centered design takes.
Looking for the perfect gift to show your clients or employees the value of customer experience? How about a copy of Outside In signed by one of the authors? We’ll be happy to oblige, as long as you have a mailing address in the US. You’ll buy the books, and we’ll do the signing and pay to ship them back to you. Here’s how it works:
Contact Forrester’s Megan Reinhart (email@example.com) to let us know you’re participating and how many books you’d like us to sign.
Go to the Outside In page on 800CEOREAD.com. Buy enough books for your clients and employees and have them shipped to us. 800CEOREAD.com offers books at 43% off, $14.25 each, for bulk orders. Ship to either address, depending on the author you’d like to have sign the books: Harley Manning
60 Acorn Park Drive
Cambridge, MA 02140 Kerry Bodine
150 Spear Street, Suite 1100
San Francisco, CA 94105
When we receive the books, the author will sign them (Harley in Cambridge or me in San Francisco). We’ll also include a short message of your choosing, as long as it’s something we’re comfortable with.
We’ll ship them back to you at our expense.
You can distribute them to your clients or employees however you’d prefer — by mail or in person.
In the dozens of conversations I have each week with companies charting their paths to a better customer experience, the role of employees often comes up. We talk about the importance of employee empowerment and how critical it is that employees feel free to make decisions that are right for customers. We discuss tactics like hiring, socialization, and rewards that can help organizations build corporate cultures that reinforce customer-centric attitudes and behaviors.
But rarely — if ever — does anyone ask me about actually designing the employee experience.
As I’ve said before: Great customer experiences don’t happen by accident — they have to be actively designed. In other words, you need to follow a structured process to ensure that you’re meeting customers’ needs and enabling interactions that are easy and enjoyable for them. While the discipline of design hasn’t yet become mainstream in the business world, companies around the globe — E.On Energy, Fidelity Investments, Mayo Clinic, and Virgin Mobile Australia, just to name a few — have started to embrace the value of design in customer experience. They’re conducting ethnographic research to uncover customers’ hidden needs. They’re bringing customers in for co-creation sessions to develop new experience ideas. They’re iteratively prototyping and testing the proposed solutions.
This summer, I vacationed in Redwoods National Park on the northern coast of California. Each day, my husband and I enjoyed peaceful hikes among the awe-inspiring trees that towered several hundred feet above us. But one thing caught me off guard: Far more often than I had anticipated, we encountered redwoods ripped from their roots, sprawled horizontally across the forest floor. Most had taken several other trees down with them. At first, I lamented the fate of each of these fallen giants. How unfortunate, I thought, that such a magnificent redwood would grow for half of a millennium, only to be toppled over in an unforgiving windstorm or to have its base weakened by fire.
And then I realized that the fallen trees might actually be a good thing. Standing at the base of each upended root system and looking up toward the sky, I could see a hole punched in the canopy above me that allowed rays of sunlight to reach the forest floor. I’m no biologist, but the sunlight seemed to encourage lush undergrowth that was absent elsewhere. Informational signs confirmed my suspicions: “Massive logs crisscross the forest floor, holding soils in place. Dozens of species of insects, birds, and mammals use them for shelter and food over the centuries of decay. Tanoaks, hemlocks, ferns, and huckleberries sprout on the nurse logs . . . Insects and bacteria live and feed on the wood.”
Reflecting back on my hikes through the redwood forest, I can’t help but wonder: What do most companies do when they encounter the customer experience equivalent of a fallen tree?
Customer experience evangelists like to focus on how customer experience aligns beautifully with business metrics like increased revenue, brand equity, and cost savings. That’s all true. And we’ve got the data to prove it.
But the reality is that producing amazing customer experiences can require tradeoffs, like, say, delaying the launch of a key product (and its related revenue) or doubling your development staff (and your related budget) to meet that launch date. These are tough tradeoffs — and they’re ones that companies are often unprepared to make in light of greater business pressures.
Clearly Apple needed to move away from Google Maps. Relying on a competitor to provide such core mobile functionality was not a viable long-term strategy, and someone at Apple decided that the switch would happen in iOS 6. Somewhere along the line, that same someone realized that Maps wasn’t quite ready for primetime — and chose to sacrifice the short-term mapping experience to meet its launch target.
It’s a decision that I believe goes against what Steve Jobs — who always put the customer experience first — would have done if he were alive today. And, for the record, I don’t think Jobs would have delayed the launch. I think he would have cracked the whip to make sure Maps was ready in time.
That’s because Steve Jobs defined a clear customer experience strategy for Apple: providing the most incredible possible experience and commanding a premium price for it. Under Jobs’ watch, nothing left the shelves until it was pixel perfect. It’s what made Apple famous, and it’s what its legions of loyal customers across the world expect.
We received so many questions that we couldn’t answer them all during the webinars. So we split them up, and we’re answering them (in brief) in two blog posts. Harley posted Part 1 yesterday, and this is Part 2.
How can you develop a customer experience strategy before you know your customers?
You can’t. In the webinar, I described how Holiday Inn developed a customer experience strategy that led to a completely new lobby experience. (You can read more about this in one of my recent blog posts.) It’s important to note that the reason Holiday Inn’s strategy was so successful is that it was rooted in a clear and accurate understanding of who the hotel’s target customers were and what they needed when they were traveling. If you don’t know your customers, it’s nearly impossible to create a customer experience that will meet (or exceed) their needs and expectations.
How does social media affect the ability to understand the customer experience?
Henry Ford purportedly quipped that if he had asked customers what they wanted, they would have said, “a faster horse.” It’s a well-trod line, one that’s guaranteed to receive nods and chuckles in any business meeting. We can all relate. After all, nothing’s really changed since Ford’s time. Customers today still can’t tell us exactly what they want or imagine products and services that don’t currently exist. No one in 2009, for example, was screaming for a computer that was smaller than a laptop and bigger than a phone — and yet the iPad has become one of the most successful consumer devices on the planet, spawning dozens of copycats.
But here’s the problem: Ford’s quote is a cop out. It bolsters our self-serving belief that we know what’s best for our customers. We hide behind Ford’s lesson, using it to justify our decision to not ask customers what they really want or need. Perhaps this approach worked in the early 1900s. But today, in the age of the customer, the balance of power has shifted from companies to consumers — and companies can no longer afford to make business decisions based on what they think they know about their customers.
One of the most effective ways to make sure you’re delivering products, services, and experiences that meet your customers’ needs is to actually bring them into your design process. I know this can sound like a shocking suggestion, so let me say it again. You should ask your customers to work with you on developing potential solutions to their biggest pain points. Designers call this co-creation.
Digital touchpoints such as websites, mobile phones, or tablets can drive revenue, lower costs, build brands, and engender customer loyalty. This shouldn’t be new news to anyone reading this. But to achieve these potential benefits, you need to deliver digital interactions that meet your customers’ needs in easy and enjoyable ways. That isn’t as easy as it sounds. Companies struggle on a daily basis to identify what digital experience improvements they need to make — and, once that’s nailed down, how exactly to make them.
In our recent report, Ron Rogowski and I outline the top tools and processes that can help you make digital customer experience improvements that matter. Want a preview? Read on.
The first set of recommendations will help you determine what it is you need to improve:
No. 10: Flex Your Analytics And Operational Data. Quantitative data from analytics platforms and internal operations systems — like those used in your call center — separates fact from fiction. In other words, it shows you customers’ real behavior patterns. Mining this data can uncover experience improvement opportunities.
No. 9: Conduct Expert Reviews Of Web, Mobile, And Tablet Touchpoints. Expert reviews, also known as “heuristic evaluations” or “scenario reviews,” are quick and inexpensive ways to determine what’s currently broken on your sites and apps. To conduct an expert review, you need to jump into the shoes of your customers and try to complete realistic tasks, all while looking for well-known customer experience issues.