How US Cellular Socializes Its Customer Experience Ecosystem

To get a grip on your customer experience ecosystem, you need to map it, co-create it, and socialize it.

In a previous post, I talked about how Fidelity Investments co-creates its customer experience ecosystem. Through co-creation exercises and workshops, you can engage a fairly large number of internal employees, external partners, and customers in the design of your company’s customer experience. But for most large companies, this group will still only represent a small fraction of the people in your entire ecosystem.

That’s why you also need to socialize the ecosystem. You need to help every single employee and every single partner — especially those in behind-the-scenes roles — understand how their actions and decisions affect the customer experience.

US Cellular spends a lot of time doing just that. US Cellular certainly isn’t the biggest wireless service provider in the US, but it consistently receives industry recognition for providing a great customer experience.

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How Fidelity Co-Creates Its Customer Experience Ecosystem

To get a grip on your customer experience ecosystem — the complex set of relationships among your company's employees, partners, and customers that determines the quality of all customer interactions — you need to map it, co-create it, and socialize it

When I say “co-create it,” you might think of websites like My Starbucks Idea or Dell’s IdeaStorm — and those sites are great, but they’re not exactly what I’m talking about. Focus groups might also come to mind — but they’re not what I’m talking about, either.  When I talk about co-creation, I’m talking about active participation from employees, partners, and customers throughout the experience design process — from upfront research to in-person ideation sessions and concept testing.

As I mentioned in my keynote at Forrester’s recent Customer Experience Forum, this is an approach that Fidelity Investments has taken to heart. It's been working with the Stanford d.school — yup, that’s “d” as in “design” — to embed co-creation within Fidelity’s organization.

The picture below shows a workshop in which Fidelity employees have immersed themselves with pictures and notes from in-field research looking at how Gen Y consumers interact with money.

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How Southern Water Mapped Its Customer Experience Ecosystem

Companies that want to improve their customer experience need to understand the intertwined and ever-evolving relationships among their internal employees, external partners, and customers. Forrester calls this complex set of relationships the customer experience ecosystem.

As I said in a previous post, to get a grip on your own ecosystem, you need to map it, co-create it, and socialize it. And when I say “map it,” I mean that you need to systematically uncover and document the ecosystem's hidden dynamics. 

Here’s a story of a company that did just that: English utility provider Southern Water. (If you live in the southeast of England, you don’t get your water without these guys.)

For a long time, Southern Water was handling about 50 water-meter installations per week, all at its customers’ requests. But a few years ago, the company decided to roll out universal metering street by street across the region, moving toward 500 installations a week.

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Get A Grip On Your Customer Experience Ecosystem

Many customer experience initiatives don't meet their full potential — or worse, fail completely — because companies don’t have a complete picture of what the customer experience actually entails or the dynamics that go into creating it. In order to break from their tunnel vision, companies need to understand their customer experience ecosystem: the complex set of relationships among a company's employees, partners, and customers that determines the quality of all customer interactions.

Here's a clip from my keynote at Forrester's recent Customer Experience Forum that explains this complexity in more detail:

In order to deliver great customer experiences across all customer touchpoints, companies must understand and take control of their customer experience ecosystem. How?

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The Customer Experience Ecosystem — Visualized!

Last week at Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum, I gave a keynote titled "The Customer Experience Ecosystem," which is a framework for helping companies understand the complex set of interdependencies that are ultimately responsible for shaping all customer interactions.

After the forum, I gave an encore presentation to a group of customer experience leaders at Fidelity Investments. The coolest thing about this meeting? Fidelity had engaged an artist from Collective Next to help it visualize the outputs of the session. Fred Leichter, Fidelity’s chief customer experience officer, told me that these visualizations help the team members see and think about their work in a more creative way.

So as I spoke, master scribe Marsha Dunn illustrated my presentation:

For those of you who heard my keynote, I hope this helps you keep some of my main points top of mind. You can also download my keynote slides on our event site.

For anyone who was unable to attend the forum, let me know if this piques your curiosity about customer experience ecosystems — I’m happy to fill you in on the details! Or, check out the full report.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to map your own customer experience ecosystem, please join my teleconference on Wednesday, August 17, 2011, 1:00 p.m.-2:00 p.m. Eastern time (18:00-19:00 UK time).

Why CMOs Must Learn To Understand The Customer Experience Ecosystem

Companies are waking up to the business value of customer experience. Many have made customer experience a strategic priority and have dedicated teams to oversee customer experience efforts. Yet consumers report that their customer experiences with roughly two-thirds of US brands range from just OK to downright bad. Lackluster interactions plague every industry and every channel.

The root cause of this dilemma? Tunnel vision.

Many organizations place too much emphasis on top-of-mind channels such as the Web and social media, ignoring hundreds of touchpoints that influence customers' perceptions of the brand — such as call-center conversations, retail displays, product packaging, shipping invoices, and physical receipts. In addition, companies place too much of the responsibility for customer service on frontline employees — but in reality, behind-the-scenes employees from departments as diverse as finance, legal, and marketing can play an equal or even greater role in determining the nature of customer interactions.

Take Sprint's marketing department as an example. Because this behind-the-scenes team did not promote the benefits of Sprint's network in its ads — and competitors' marketing departments did — customers perceived the Sprint network to be lagging, regardless of the actual network performance they experienced.

To find out how CMOs can help their teams take an honest look at how they influence each touchpoint along the customer journey, please hop over to Advertising Age for the full post.

Call Center Satisfaction Ties To Consumer Loyalty And Overall Brand Impressions

In a previous post, I said that bad call center experiences spoil millions of daily opportunities to drive business value. Now you can figure out just how much business you're missing out on. 

Forrester recently asked US consumers to rate their satisfaction with call center agents from companies across 11 industries. As a part of that survey, we also asked consumers about their loyalty to those same companies. Then we analyzed the correlation between the quality of call center customer experiences and customer loyalty.

What we found was pretty compelling.

As customer satisfaction with the call center goes up, the willingness of a consumer to make another purchase and to recommend that brand to others increases. In addition, likelihood to switch to another provider goes down.

These correlations were particularly high for PC manufacturers, parcel shippers, Internet service providers, TV service providers, and credit card issuers.

We also asked consumers about the usefulness, ease of use, and enjoyability of their interactions with these same companies. We used that data to analyze the correlation between the quality of call center conversations and consumers’ overall perception of the customer experience delivered by the brand.

Across every industry we looked at, call center satisfaction highly correlates with consumers’ perceptions of how well the company met their needs and how easy and enjoyable it was to work with the company.

Customer experience professionals, call center execs, and marketers need to start discussing these connections and developing a plan to improve the call center customer experience. Your brand and your customers’ loyalty might just depend on it.

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Apple Store 2.0 = The End Of Kiosks As We Know Them

Back in the summer of 2007, I wrote a report called “Taking In-Person Self-Service From Blah To Brilliant.” Here’s an excerpt: “Speaking of steel-enclosed stale fruitcakes, there's been a dearth of evolution — let alone revolution — in kiosk fixture design. Forrester has attended semi-annual kiosk industry conferences since 2005, and the only thing staler than the kiosks’ designs have been the bagels.”

In addition to boring kiosk enclosures, my research from the time found kiosk software riddled with usability problems — like missing content, confusing language, bad grammar, inappropriate pacing, and weak and annoying feedback — in industries as varied as retail, financial services, and transportation.

Unfortunately, not a lot has changed since then. Until last week.

With the launch of the Apple Store 2.0, Apple ushered in a new era of in-store self-service. In my post about the news, I suggested that this might mark Apple’s entry into an in-store customer experience platform: “For years, Apple employees have had the seemingly magical ability to check customers out from anywhere in the store. Now, with the addition of relatively cheap interactive signage and employee paging, Apple is positioned to sell a more complete in-store customer experience solution to companies ranging from independent boutique owners to multinational banks.”

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Advertising The Customer Experience

My research director Harley Manning has a lot of quips that we affectionately call Harleyisms. One of them goes like this: All ads promise one of three things — you’re gonna get rich, you’re gonna live forever, or you’re gonna get (um, I’ll be polite here) some nookie.

While this might have been somewhat true during the golden age of advertising, I’ve noticed a new ad trend over the past several years: More marketers are advertising the customer experiences that their companies deliver. Here are a few examples:

  • Apple’s iPhone and iPad ads put viewers in the perspective of holding the devices in their own hands, all while demonstrating how easy they are to use and the real-world value they provide (like finding the best price on a book or getting step-by-step cooking instructions).
  • JetBlue promoted its customer experience in a series of hilarious ads that poke fun at the draconian policies employed by its competitors.
  • Virgin America’s San Francisco subway ads say, “LAND WITH AN EMPTY INBOX. SFO -> DALLAS FORT WORTH WITH WIFI.”
  • San Francisco bus ads for Saint Francis and Saint Mary’s hospitals promise: “ER WAIT TIME: UNDER 30 MINUTES.”
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Apple Store 2.0: Why Customer Experience Leaders Should Care

This week, Apple upgraded its in-store experience. In case you missed all of the hype, iPads placed next to every Apple product now provide interactive product, service, and support information — and the devices also give shoppers the ability to beckon a store employee to their side at any moment. In addition, the updated Apple Store app provides shoppers visibility into the number of people in line ahead of them and the wait time to talk to someone at the Genius Bar.

Customer experience leaders outside of the retail space might be tempted to file this away in their cool-but-not-quite- relevant-to-me drawers. But I see three compelling reasons why executives should take notice, regardless of what industry they’re in.

Reason No. 1: Apple continues to raise the bar on your customers’ expectations.

Brands no longer compete solely against the companies in their immediate industry. Why? Because customer experience leaders like Apple (and Zappos.com, Disney, and a handful of others) delight their customers on a daily basis. These great customer experiences, in turn, continually reset people’s expectations for the types of interactions they believe they should be able to have with the banks, insurance companies, TV service providers, and airlines they do business with. The Apple Store 2.0 has yet again upped your customers’ expectations for the type of in-person customer experiences they now expect from your brand.

Reason No. 2: Even with a heavy technology focus, human help seems even more accessible.

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