Building a customer-centric culture is occupying the minds and activities of a lot of companies that I’m talking with lately. This is great, because culture is the difference between going through the motions of a script and internalizing a set of values that dictate actions beyond the script.
Let me give an example: I recently was on the phone with an incredibly chipper call center rep at a telecommunications company. He didn’t answer either of the two questions that I had, yet remained friendly throughout the call. As the call ended, he said: “We aim not just to meet your expectations, but exceed them. Have I done that for you today?” Not only was the question a setup that will skew results, but the asking of the question made it clear that the company hadn’t succeeded in infusing customer-centric DNA into at least this person. A more customer-centric response is what you typically get from Vanguard or Fidelity: “I’m sorry that I can’t answer your questions. Let me find someone who can. Would you like to hold or can I call you back?”
Don’t get me wrong: Company intentions are important. Before I get into the culture part, I always step back with clients and ask "what kind of culture?"Don Norman's story about Southwest Airlines, in which the company refused to give customers reserved seats, food, and baggage transfers is a great example. The company's primary value proposition to customers is low prices (along with on-time service that's fun). That sets the stage for the kind of culture the company sets out to create. It's not customer-centric at all costs. It's focused on what’s valuable to customers.
I recently read about a California ruling that prohibits most offline merchants from collecting ZIP codes for credit card transactions. According to the LA Times:
“The high court determined that ZIP Codes were "personal identification information" that merchants can't demand from customers under a state consumer privacy law.”
One justice was more specific about the ruling, saying that the privacy law in question was intended to prohibit retailers from collecting and storing consumer information that wasn't necessary to the transaction.
The attorney who brought the law suit took the implications further saying that, “the decision would help protect consumers from credit card fraud and identity theft.”
So there are actually 2 issues here:
1) The collection of non-essential data
2) Security problems that facilitate the use of the data for illegal purposes
The marketing and privacy discussion is full of complex issues being conflated in similar ways. Even terms like “consumer data” and “privacy” are so loaded that there are conversations between parties using the same words, but not talking about the same thing.
Most marketers are interested in data that gives them a better understanding of their audiences overall. Generally, we’re not talking about marketers collecting the kind of personal information on your credit report — complete address, bank accounts, etc. Most of you reading this post are well acquainted with this distinction, but are consumers? I suspect most aren’t.
The democratization of technology has arrived. New IT servicing models like cloud combined with improved user experiences make it easier for non-technical employees to download and install technology services. This phenomenon will only accelerate as these workers bring high expectations into the workplace from their experience with cloud-based services like Facebook and universal providers that allow access from any device.
Forrester's Forrsights Workforce Employee Survey, Q3 2010 shows that the consumerization of the enterprise is not always driven by a lack of collaboration of the IT department, only 8% of business technology users feel that their IT department is either clueless or a hinder. But the majority take things into their own control because they feel that IT is either too busy or they are restricted by corporate policies:
Cloud-based personal and professional services will liberate the individual from device and place, and set the bar higher for workplace IT. Today already 47% of business technology users at North American and European companies report using one or more website(s) to do parts of their jobs that are not sanctioned by their IT department. We expect this number to grow to close to 60% in 2011 as frustrated workers work around IT to self-provision technology.
"Where to get help for interactive design projects in Europe?" That's the question I want to answer for customer experience professionals in my next research. To do that, I'm inviting all interactive design agencies in Europe to help me. Would you like to be included in a report that will help Forrester clients with their interactive agency selection process? If the answer is yes, please complete this 15-minute survey at:
The survey is designed to gather data from European firms that have significant experience in designing and developing digital experiences (web, mobile, etc.). Survey questions cover interactive agency size, practice areas, industry expertise, locations, and a range of costs for typical engagements. If you know any agencies that should be included in my report, please forward the survey link to them or show them this blog post.
If you have questions, please send me an email: jbrowne at forrester dot com.
[16/Feb/2011]: Some people asked to see the questions before going through the survey online. That's a fair request, so I've uploaded a PDF of the survey to this page:
Yes, Apple is amazing. In no uncertain terms, the company has had a seismic impact on our society. Apple has changed everything from what we buy to how we work and awakened both corporate executives and the general public to the value of good design. Apple has raised our awareness of the value of simplicity (and the rejection of feature overload); the importance of paying attention to every little detail (down to the layout and typography on product manuals); and the seemingly unbelievable business domination that comes from examining not just isolated customer touchpoints but the entire customer experience ecosystem.
Not surprisingly, customer experience professionals at other companies want to follow Apple’s lead. And it’s only natural for one company to be influenced by another.
But in the case of Apple, I’ve been completely stunned over the years to see the degree of blatant copying that’s taken place. This has come, of course, from Apple’s direct competitors. Take, for example, the roughly 40 tablets that were announced at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show; the various Android-based phones, which look more like iPhone clones than not; and the app stores that have popped up to support every major mobile platform.
The most important finding was that for almost two-thirds of the brands in our study, their customer experience ranges from just “OK” to “very poor”. In fact, 35% of scores fell into the undifferentiated “OK” range — our most heavily populated bracket and not a good place to be if you want your brand to stand out from competitors. Only 6% of firms ended up in the “excellent” category, down from 10% of the brands in last year’s report.
What this tells us is that mediocre-to-bad customer experience is the norm, and great customer experience is really hard to find. But why does this matter? Because the old adage “A customer who gets good service will tell one person, yet a customer who gets bad service will tell 10 people” is very true. Another Forrester study shows that about one in three financial customers with a bad experience tells her friends, about one in five recommends that her friends avoid that given company, and one in 10 reduces their value of her accounts.
In mid-February, Augie Ray will be leaving Forrester to lead the social media efforts at a Fortune 500 company. I’m going to miss working directly with Augie. But at the same time, I understand why he’s taking this new role. The analyst job boils down to two amazing responsibilities: 1) Do courageous research; and 2) Apply your research to help a client. Every so often, while doing the latter, an analyst decides it’s time to move back to the practitioner world. I wish Augie the very best (i.e., thousands of positive customer reviews) as he creates and implements the social strategy for his new company.
For the past few years I have watched enviously as the Finovate online financial technology show has gone from strength to strength in San Francisco and New York. So I was thrilled to hear that Finovate was coming to Europe and today I was lucky enough to go along to the show in London.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Finovate, it’s a fast-paced format with seven-minute live demos and pitches from 35 financial technology vendors. It’s produced by Online Financial Innovations, the people behind the excellent NetBanker blog.
Today The New York Times is reporting that Apple is changing its policy for allowing apps to deliver content that was paid for somewhere other than in the app where Apple would get a cut. This came to light when Sony was forced to explain why its iPhone and iPad apps were not being released as promised. This is important to illustrate clearly because this is not just about Sony. In fact, it is expected that Apple will apply this same policy to existing apps over the coming months. The most obvious target is Amazon.com's Kindle store, but we have no reason to believe it will stop with eBook retailers; instead, this policy should also affect magazines, newspapers, even videos and games.
This represents a shift for Apple. Going back to the iPod days, Apple only sold music because it helped sell iPods. When Apple added the iPhone app store, it allowed Amazon to add a Kindle app because it would only make iPhones more valuable to potential buyers. The same held true for the iPad. But now that the company has built such a powerful ecosystem of devices, content, and consumers, it appears Apple is eager to ensure it can collect any and all tolls along its proprietary highways. I note this with some irony because it was just three weeks ago that I praised Apple's surprising openness in a report explaining the iPad's rapid growth: