My coauthor, Harley Manning, and I are thrilled to announce that our new book, Outside In: The Power Of Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business, is released today! We encourage you to read this book if:
You want to figure out what the heck customer experience really is.
You need to make the business case for customer experience.
Your company understands the power of customer experience, but you’re not sure where to start.
You’ve got some customer experience initiatives underway, and you’re ready to take your efforts to the next level.
You want rigorous, battle-tested customer experience tools that have been implemented by companies around the world.
If you’d like to know more about the ideas in Outside In or would like to engage directly with Harley and me, please:
Bring your questions to our #OutsideIn tweet chat next Wednesday, September 5, from noon – 1PM Eastern time.
Join us for one of two free Webinars on Wednesday, September 19. If you miss us at 9AM Eastern, you can catch an encore presentation at 2PM Eastern.
No matter how solid your strategy is or how carefully you design your customer experience, it’s simply impossible to plan for every single customer interaction at every last touchpoint. At some point, you need to put your trust in your company’s most valuable resource, its employees, to do the right thing for customers. Similarly, sharing customer insights, measuring the results of your work, and introducing customer experience governance programs will only get you so far if your company’s workforce — from your top execs down to entry-level staff members — isn’t ready to embrace new ways of working.
That’s why building a customer-centric culture is critical to customer experience success.
In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of a customer-centric culture through a case study about John Deere Financial, one of the largest providers of financial services to agricultural and construction customers in the US. Like many companies, it had a product and process focus for decades. Then, as part of a recent call to action to become more customer-focused, the company developed a new set of customer promises:
Despite the fact that measurement is deeply embedded in business functions like finance and IT, companies still struggle with measurement when it comes to customer experience. In fact, I was chatting to a seasoned executive next to me on a plane a few weeks back, and he said, “This customer experience stuff is so important. But you can’t really measure it, right?” Wrong! Customer experience can be measured — you just have to know how.
In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of measurement through a case study about JetBlue. The JetBlue customer experience was designed to “bring humanity back to travel” with features like more legroom, seatback TVs, and snacks that people actually want to eat. But for many years, the young airline didn’t measure how well it delivered on all that — and as a result, JetBlue employees really had no way to assess how well they performed their jobs every day.
To remedy the situation, JetBlue implemented a comprehensive set of measurement tools. The workhorse of the program is an email survey that asks passengers to grade each part of their end-to-end travel experience, starting with making a reservation and continuing on through the end of a flight. When the survey responses come back, an internal system attaches operational data like what channel the customer used to book her flight and whether that customer experienced any problems on board, like a broken TV. In addition, JetBlue looks at what customers say they’re going to do as a result of their experience, like fly JetBlue again or recommend the airline to a friend.
These are the three building blocks of a solid customer experience measurement framework:
The discipline of design remains largely misunderstood in the business world. Let me dispel a couple of myths for you: Design isn't simply about picking the right shade of blue for the company logo. And it’s not solely the domain of black-turtleneck-wearing creative types.
Design is a straightforward and repeatable problem-solving process that incorporates the needs of customers, employees, and business stakeholders. It’s also a way of working that focuses on making and refining tangible solutions. Everyone in an organization can learn and leverage design to meet or exceed their customers’ needs and desires. That’s key, because great customer experiences don’t magically spring into existence — they need to be actively designed.
In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of design through a case study about Mayo Clinic. The physical layout of Mayo’s outpatient rooms has basically remained static over the past six decades. The equipment for physical examinations — the reclining table, dressing area, sink, and tools like scopes and blood-pressure cuffs — still dominates each room, but these days, the bulk of each appointment is simply a conversation between the doctor and patient.
A team working to improve the outpatient experience came up with the idea of creating separate consultation and exam rooms. But that solution wasn’t going to work. There simply wasn’t enough floor space in the Clinic’s facilities to accommodate the number of separate rooms required to serve patients.
Right now, companies around the world are barreling down a perilous path — one that isn’t illuminated by customer insights. These companies might think they know what their customers want, but Forrester’s research shows that most companies today have an incomplete — or worse, downright wrong — understanding of who their customers are, how they perceive the current interactions, and what they want and need in the future.
In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of customer understanding through a case study about Virgin Mobile Australia. The company recently earned the No. 1 spot in customer satisfaction in its market. But in their hearts, Virgin Mobile’s execs knew that the customer experience they provided was pretty much indistinguishable from those of their competitors. And for a company operating under the Virgin brand name, that was a big problem.
Matt Anderson, the former COO of Virgin Mobile, told me, “We weren’t interested in being up to par with industry standards. We wanted to create a differentiated customer experience: one that was uniquely Virgin.” To do that, the company had to take an outside-in view and examine what the Virgin brand meant from the customer perspective.
So Virgin asked some of its customers to create online diaries, and every day for a week asked them questions about Virgin’s brand values: simplicity, fairness, and control. (Words we all naturally associate with our wireless carriers, right?)
Great customer experiences are the result of countless deliberate decisions made by every single person in your organization on a daily basis. To align those decisions, employees and partners need a shared vision: a customer experience strategy.
When most people talk about strategy, they’ve often got a road map or some sort of plan in mind. But your customer experience strategy is actually a description of the experience that you want to deliver. Without that beacon, employees are forced to set out on a random walk, and their decisions and actions will inevitably be at odds with each other, despite all best intentions.
In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I illustrate the importance of a customer experience strategy through a case study about the Holiday Inn. In the majority of its 750 properties with on-site restaurants, the iconic hotel chain was losing dinner customers to casual restaurants like Outback Steakhouse and Chili’s. Even worse, it was losing breakfast customers to nearby gas stations — and you better believe that Holiday Inn got worried when gas stations started to provide better breakfast options than it did.
So what did Holiday Inn do?
Well, I’ll tell you what it didn’t do. It didn’t start randomly making one-off changes to the menu or the pricing. Instead, Holiday Inn stepped back to define a customer experience strategy.
Today at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum in NYC, I’ll be running a workshop to introduce our clients to design thinking. What is design thinking? It’s an approach and a process that you can use to improve and innovate customer interactions across all of your digital and physical touchpoints.
To understand what that really means, it would probably help to know a little about what we’ll be doing in the workshop. Teams of two will start out by interviewing each other about a recent gift giving experience. Through questions like, “How did you come up with the idea for the gift?” and “What was difficult about finding and giving this gift?” they’ll try to uncover each other’s motivations, needs, and emotional drivers. Immediately after, they’ll synthesize their individual learnings and focus on a particular challenge that they want to take on — a gift-giving problem that they want to solve for the other person.
Then they’ll sketch out at least five different ways that they could address that problem and get feedback from their partner (and target customer) about those ideas. After they refine their solution, they’ll prototype it using large sheets of paper, sticky notes, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, colored markers, and other craft supplies. This may sound like playtime — and it will be fun — but it’s also a serious and highly effective way to make their ideas tangible and testable. And testing is exactly what will come next. The partners will share their solutions with each other and get feedback about what worked well and, perhaps more importantly, what could be improved.
Customer experience is, quite simply, how your customers perceive their interactions with your company. In Forrester’s soon-to-publish book, Outside In, Harley Manning and I show that customer experience is a fundamental business driver and — in an age when customers have access to vast amounts of data about your company and its competitors — it’s also the only sustainable source of competitive advantage.
In most industries, customer experience is the greatest untapped source of decreased costs. Fidelity Investments recently spent a modest $20,000 to fix a problem that made it difficult for customers to log into their accounts through the company’s automated phone system. This single fix saves Fidelity $4 million a year by averting calls to customer service. And it’s just one of more than 160 projects that came through Fidelity’s experience improvement system in 2011. Together those projects account for more than $24 million in annual savings.
Customer experience also drives increased revenue. Several years ago, B2B technology reseller and service provider CDW added a question to the customer survey it fields: “What additional things would you like to talk to your sales team about?” The company funneled the answers to this new question to the appropriate account managers. The account managers, in turn, closed the loop by getting back to the customers with a simple message: You told us that you have a need, we’d like to offer you something that could meet that need. And guess what? Customers took the CDW sales reps up on it. This seemingly simple innovation drove more than $200 million in incremental revenue in just one year.
Think about your favorite action movie. Raiders Of The Lost Ark. The Matrix. Any James Bond flick. What do they have in common? A storyline that goes something like this: In the first few minutes, you’re drawn into a short chase or adventure — something that immediately gets your heart pounding. It builds up quickly and then resolves with a big boom! You’re hooked. And at that point, the main narrative begins. Over the course of the next 90 minutes or so, the storyline twists and turns as the main characters fight off bands of aliens, spies, mummies, and the like. The action crescendos with a series of increasingly exciting events that make you say, “Wow . . . wow. . . WOW!” as you scoot to the edge of your seat. Finally the action-packed finale delivers one last thrilling and explosive BOOM!! As a movie-goer, you’re left breathless.
You’ve no doubt experienced this type of storytelling countless times. And if you paid attention in literature or drama class, you might recognize this narrative structure as a classic dramatic arc dating back to Aristotle. But I bet you haven’t thought about it in the context of your company’s customer experience. Or, at least I hadn’t — not until I attended the Service Design Network conference last fall and attended a workshop led by Adam Lawrence of Work•Play•Experience, a design firm that helps companies design customer experiences using theatrical methods.
If you’re reading this post, there’s probably at least one person in your company (you) who’s already working to improve your customer experience in some way. That means your company’s CX efforts fall somewhere on the curve below.
Improve: This is where most companies start their customer experience initiatives. Typically, a small group implements a voice of the customer program, prioritizes customer feedback, and routes it to different parts of the organization so that they can make changes. Some employees might adopt new customer-focused work practices, but these efforts remain ad-hoc or siloed. The net result is incremental customer experience improvements.
Transform: At a certain point, some companies decide that they want to leverage customer experience in order to create a jump in customer loyalty, accelerate growth, and differentiate themselves from competitors. When that happens, incremental customer experience improvements are no longer sufficient. The company begins to change just about every part of the business — including processes, policies, technologies, and incentives — to focus on the needs of customers.
Sustain: For companies that decide to take the path towards transformation, this is the end goal. Once a company puts customers at the center of all business operations, employees need to figure out how to sustain the new ways of working so that they can continue to deliver a great customer experience indefinitely.