I love Europe. I especially love the fact that in a very real sense there is no “Europe” as such: The UK experience is not the German experience, which is not the French experience, which is not the Italian experience, and so on.
Yet all of these countries are so close together that once I’m over there, I can visit a variety of very different cultures and architectures more easily than I can travel from Boston to Denver. And in any given city, just walking between buildings from one business meeting to another can make me feel like I’m on vacation. Then there’s the food . . .
Although European variety is amazing, it can also create challenges. On a recent trip, I was in London, Rome, Milan, and Budapest within a two-week period. That often brought me into contact with people in service industries — like taxis, restaurants, and hotels — who had very different ideas of what “service” means than I do.
I began to wonder: Do the locals also find some of this service subpar, or am I just being a parochial American? As it turns out, our recent research shows that European customer experience as judged by local customers does vary wildly depending on country and industry, ranging from truly great to truly awful.
Which is one reason why I’m so excited by Forrester’s upcoming Forum For Customer Experience Professionals EMEA on November 17th and 18th in London. We recruited speakers from companies with customers who say that they’re already doing a standout job as well as speakers from companies that are in the midst of tackling tough CX challenges.
It’s a boardroom topic, it’s changing the way that firms do business, and it’s unleashing innovation at an unprecedented pace. No, it’s not the new watch from Apple, it’s digital business, and getting it right is crucial to the survival of nearly every business. Mapping Your Path To Digital Mastery is also the theme of our annual eBusiness Forum, which will take place in Chicago on October 28th and 29th. Come join us!
At the event this year we’ll be tackling this fundamental tension: According to our survey with partner Russell Reynolds, 73% of firms think that they have a digital strategy but just 34% of executives that think their digital strategy is correct, and only 16% believe they can deliver their strategy.
Danger Will Robinson! Firms are in trouble: Digital innovation isn’t slowing down and customer expectations are rising. And when you think it couldn't get any more difficult to pull off a digital business transformation, digital business success requires a new, even thornier element: the creation of ecosystems of value.
This means re-envisioning your business not as a standalone entity but as part of an ecosystem of suppliers that customers assemble according to their needs and an ecosystem of collaborating businesses sharing data and services.
Do ecosystems sound complicated? Don’t panic, we’re focusing the majority of our event content on how to create internal and external ecosystems. On the main stage, Forrester keynoters Bill Doyle, Martin Gill, Julie Ask and David Johnson will outline what it takes to become a digital business leader and to create partner ecosystems. Speakers from Walgreens, 3M, Bank of America and others will share their firms’ digital business journey and transformation stories.
One of the most common questions I get from CX professionals is this: “How do I get my executives to support the work I’m trying to do?” In 2009, when the CX space was just starting to gain traction at the C-level, I wrote a report on that topic. I pulled that report up earlier this week to share with a colleague and realized that its key takeaways are as true today as they were five years ago.
Taking a page from the Facebook culture, I decided to make this Throwback Thursday and bring the report back into the CX conversation. You can read the full report here, but the key things that stand out to me after all this time are:
You don’t need buy-in; you need action. I think of CX as the “eat healthy and exercise” of the business world. Everyone “buys in” to the idea of treating customers well, at least in public. What they don’t do is change their behavior or encourage change in the people who work for them. CX professionals need to stop asking for buy-in and start asking specific executives to do specific things.
Paying influencers, which Forrester defines as independent bloggers, industry analysts, and mainstream journalists, is a bad idea.
Public and analyst relations professionals have been managing influencer programs since long before the first utterance of the words "social media." They know how to strike the right balance of keeping influencers informed while gently motivating them to engage with their brand through 1:1 relationship building. Unfortunately, social media has ignited a population of "influencers" who are in it for the financial rewards more than for developing their personal brands. This has led to many brands jumping on the "pay for play" influencer program bandwagon, which, for some, has led to terrible results. For example, Microsoft learned the hard way back in June when its agency blasted out a paid blogging campaign invite to a large audience of influencers. And other brands that have been caught paying bloggers and influencers to write positive product reviews have also paid the price.
Paid influencer programs diminish the authenticity of the message you are trying to amplify, have legal implications (if not carefully implemented), and can really irritate influencers who detest pay-for play-programs. Yet over 35% of marketers still use financial incentives. My simple advice: Don't do it!
Companies that were founded on customer obsession — like Southwest Airlines, Vanguard, and USAA — derive significant financial benefits as a result. That’s because a customer-obsessed culture helps customer experience professionals deliver high-quality, on-brand, consistent experiences that drive loyalty. Fortunately, even companies that weren’t founded on customer obsession can transform their cultures and see big returns on their efforts. For example:
Tom Feeney, Safelite Autoglass’s chief executive officer (CEO), launched the company’s customer experience transformation in 2008. Since then, the firm has seen NPS, employee engagement, revenue, and profit metrics improve substantially.
Cleveland Clinic embarked on its patient experience transformation in 2009. Since then, it’s seen significant improvements in patient experience ratings, employee engagement scores, and business and operations metrics like number of patients admitted and average wait time to see a doctor.
In response to recent tragedies, many commentators have suggested requiring every police officer to wear a video camera and microphone at all times. Some activists even suggest that these videos be publicly live-streamed for maximum accountability. That’s not necessarily a bad idea, despite some technical, budgetary, and legal hurdles.
Other commentators have pointed out that videos aren’t as objective as people think. They are open to interpretation, and risk inflaming opinions on both sides without solving anything. But that’s not the biggest problem with videos. Their biggest weakness is this:
Videos can’t provide the systematic, standardized, quantifiable feedback that we need to understand people’s own perspectives on their everyday experiences with the police.
That’s why police departments should start acting more like the best companies, and measure their customers’ experiences. There are several key tools for doing this, and one of the most important is a customer experience survey. We all get these surveys – they ask about how well the company met our needs, how easy it was to work with, how we felt during the process, how likely we are to say positive things about it, etc.
Retailers use these surveys, as do investment firms, hotels, nonprofits, and every other organization that wants to understand what its customers think and feel, and uncover the drivers of great experiences. If we can easily rate the people who deliver food, sell cars, and hook up TVs, why can’t we do the same for the people who carry guns, write tickets, and make arrests?
The frenzy over Apple’s formal launch into the digital wallet space has reached a fever pitch. There is no shortage of speculation around the widely anticipated “iWallet” – and for good reason. Apple has a slew of compelling assets to leverage for its wallet, like an existing consumer base with roughly 800M cards on file, Passbook, iTouch, iBeacon, and more. It also has a unique track-record of entering existing categories with elegantly designed solutions that redefine, then dominate -at least for a time. However, we can’t ignore the fact that the mobile wallet graveyard is littered with elegantly designed solutions that failed to take off. Case in point: Square Wallet..
When it comes to digital wallets “…build it and they will come…” simply does not hold true. The challenges of Google Wallet and Visa’s V.me are two more familiar examples. To be clear - I do expect that over time Apple’s mobile wallet will have greater success than Square Wallet, Google Wallet, or V.me. But an elegant user experience won’t be enough to do it. Merchants will determine whether Apple’s mobile wallet lives or dies.
Digital Wallets Require Scale, And Merchants Control The Levers At Checkout
What lies ahead for the retail store? Yesterday, Forrester published a report that predicts the answers to key questions about the future of the retail store: Which digital technologies currently on the periphery of the store environment will make the leap to the sales floor? How will retailers know which technologies have potential and which will remain gimmicks?
In the report, we outline the utility and predicted chronology of several technologies, including:
Proximity technologies. Retailers will know when and where an associate is needed, by whom, and for what purpose.
Wearable technologies. Associates will access the relevant data to provide optimum customer service with minimum intrusion.
Facial scanning technologies. Retailers will know their in-store customers’ histories, preferences, intentions, and needs and will cater the store experience to them.
Smart countertops. Retailers will embrace consumers’ propensity to do product research while shopping in-store and enhance the utility and experience at the same time.
3D printing. Retailers will make the inventory they need on-site or once it’s been purchased.
For more on Forrester’s take on the usefulness of these and other technologies, and to see our predictions of when we’ll see them enter the retail store, see the report (client access required).
Which technologies do you think will realistically make it into retail stores of the future?
Following Alibaba’s announcement that it will list on the New York Stock Exchange, global eBusiness professionals are paying closer attention to the Chinese Internet giant, wondering what impact it will have on their business. For those who need to get up to speed on the company, here is a preview of Forrester’s upcoming report on Alibaba, which summarizes its development history, revenue streams, business expansion, and the impact it will have on digital services business value chain:
Alibaba draws its revenue streams from the ecosystem around its eCommerce platform. According to Alibaba Group’s F-1 filling, the main businesses for the Alibaba Group include B2B (168.com and alibaba.com), C2C (Taobao.com), B2C (Tmall.com, Juhuasuan.com and AliExpress.com), and digital services. Alibaba's revised filing from August 2014 indicates that it handled more than RMB 1.8 trillion (about $296 billion) of transactions for 279 million active users across its three Chinese online marketplaces in 2013. Over the past 15 years, Alibaba has built an ecosystem of buyers, sellers, third-party service providers, and strategic alliance partners around its platform. By leveraging buyer and seller data from this ecosystem, Alibaba has created a data analytics product that gives a complete view of a customer at any phase of their purchase journey, resulting in a very successful marketing and commerce business that generates significant revenues.
Earlier this year, The New Yorker published an article entitled "Twilight of the Brands," which posited that due to the abundance of information now available to consumers, brands are irrelevant. For all the die-hard brand marketers out there — myself included — it felt like a blow to the chest. But the analysis is flawed and the conclusion is erroneous because the abundance of information now available to consumers makes brands more — not less — relevant. Brands have always been a shortcut to decision-making, and in a world where consumers are increasingly overwhelmed with information, that role becomes even more important. But what has changed is the art and science of brand building. In the age of the customer, we see that:
Brand communications have shifted from controlled to chaotic. In the pre-digital world, marketers had the luxury of being able to control most of their customers’ interactions with their brands — through ads, packaging, POS, and carefully solicited PR editorial. But in today’s post-digital era, most of consumers’ information about a brand originates from sources outside of the brand’s control, such as user-generated content, ratings and reviews, or social chatter.