Can Marketers And IT Work Together To Master The Flow Of Your Customer Data?

David Truog

Marketers, how are you getting along with IT these days? It matters more than it used to. The job your company expects you to do is more and more entwined with technology. And so are the people in your target market.

Our research at Forrester shows almost half of US adults say technology is important to them.  And the ecosystem of suppliers of marketing-centric technologies and services is ballooning.  So whatever your aim as a marketer — whether it’s listening to the market, engaging with potential customers, or measuring the results of those efforts — you can’t do your job without these many technologies of new channels, new services, and new products.

This technology entwinement is especially tight when your company tackles the challenge of mastering the flow of customer data throughout the organization, from inputs across customer touchpoints, to the many ways you subsequently engage those customers. The struggle is not only in how to do this but also in how to do it sustainably: How to remember what data’s been collected, how it’s been used, what the outcomes have been, and on and on.

Where it gets messy is that marketers and IT often sing from different hymnals when it comes to making the most of all the relevant technologies. You’re eager to get to market with exciting new tools for engaging with potential customers, and you’re willing to experiment. But your IT colleagues often seem to be focused above all on cutting costs and avoiding risk — goals that rarely mesh well with what you’re trying to get done as a marketer. Not surprisingly, one marketing exec that Forrester interviewed recently called IT the “Department of No.”

Whereas in the past it may have been possible (even expected!) for marketing and IT to work at arm’s length, it’s not an option anymore.

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Netflix Offers Lessons For Digital Disruption In Any Industry

James McQuivey

All through the past decade, observers in industry and on Wall Street have offered reasons to discount Netflix’s efforts. Supposed obstacles ranged from Blockbuster to scant streaming options to recent rate hikes on DVD renters. When will these people ever learn? We understand why people cheer against disruptive players like Netflix — it would be nice if we could pretend all these digital disruptions will go away. But they won’t, and neither will Netflix. We’ve written about this in our latest report that people who keep an eye on content strategy will find valuable (see our newest report on Netflix).

But it’s not really written for them – it’s written for people who take an even bigger view, as do we. These people – today’s product strategists – know that Netflix is a powerful example of disruptive digital product strategy and are eager to learn how to act like Netflix in their own context and industry. In our report, we extract three specific lessons from Netflix:

  • Control the product experience. The company that controls the user’s total product experience will win, whether retailer, producer, distributor, or platform. That company will have ultimate control over what options people have, what prices they pay, and what value they believe they are getting. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s one that people charged with product strategy must be willing to accept. Makers of products as wide-ranging as sleeping pills, running shoes, and auto insurance should all follow Netflix’s lead and control the total product experience they deliver.
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Connecting Frontline Staff To Customer Experience: Two Conundrums

Kerry Bodine

I started an unusual research project recently. As a follow-up to my report on the customer experience ecosystem, I wanted to dig into the highly visible role of frontline employees like call center agents, in-home service technicians, and retail staff. Specifically, I wanted to know how customer experience professionals could help these folks understand how they personally affect customers’ interactions and perceptions of the brand.

The topic was – I thought – pretty straightforward, and it essentially boiled down to two main questions: What’s the best way to share customer feedback with frontline employees? And should you compensate frontline employees based on their individual feedback?

But what made this research effort so unusual, and so unlike most of my other projects, is that as I conducted more and more interviews, the opinions and “best practices” began to diverge wildly. I found a variety of incompatible tactics. But more than that, I uncovered major differences in management philosophies and deep passions underlying those beliefs.

What’s the best way to share customer feedback with frontline employees?  

A bevy of enterprise feedback management solutions can help managers collect and analyze feedback from customers – and not just about their overall impressions of a company, but about interactions with individual frontline staff members. Firms can collect survey-based quant data and/or verbatims. But what to share? The answers I’ve encountered include:

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I’m Happy To Say We’re In Good Company

Reineke Reitsma

When you follow the market insights industry as closely as I do, it’s easy to get submerged in the doom and gloom of our role. Of course, there are great presentations and case studies at conferences on emerging methodologies, and we have the awards ceremonies — like Esomar’s Young Researcher of the Year or the AMA 4 under 40 — that highlight the talent in our industry. But in many cases it feels a bit like an in-crowd to me — like we’re the last of the Mohicans.

But I’ve come to realize that market research is still a very interesting profession for many (young) people, who see it as a great career and put their heart and soul into it. I’ve been hiring market insights professionals for my team for close to a year now: first a senior analyst, then a junior position, and finally two consumer insights analysts (one of which is still open). And it has been a great experience!

I’ve met a lot of smart people and I’ve been impressed not only by the candidates’ passion for data and how to link it to business issues, but also with the type of projects they have been working on at their organizations and their interest in new ways of doing research. Most of these projects never get presented as case studies at conferences, and not many people are sharing this knowledge via social media (yet), but the hiring process has left me with a good feeling about the state of our industry. There are plenty of smart young people out there that love doing market research and are very good at it!

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When A Customer Experience Ecosystem Fails

Adele Sage

Oh, look what came in the mail yesterday: The order I tried desperately to cancel last week. But, no, UPS dropped it off, and the packing slip said nicely, “Thank you for your order! We are committed to ensure [sic] your experience exceeds your expectations.” Well, you failed.

Let me start from the beginning.

You see, I’m working on reviews for the latest “Best And Worst Of Website User Experience” report (check out last year’s report if you’re curious), and this year we’re evaluating the user experience at the top four tablet manufacturers’ sites. Instead of actually ordering brand new tablets, we are substituting an inexpensive accessory, completing the checkout process, and then immediately canceling the order so that nothing ships and no cards get charged. All went fine in canceling three of the orders, but the fourth, from a company that shall remain nameless, proved more difficult.

Here are all the steps I took to try to cancel the order:

  • I tried chat. I went to the “Help” page on the site and found listed in the contact info section a link to chat and a phone number. I initiated the chat and reached an agent, but the conversation was very slow (about 20 lines of communication in 15 minutes), the rep was hard to understand, and she couldn’t help me. She told me to call 1-800-[company].
  • I tried the website itself. I could check order status very easily on the site, but the info just told me the status (“In process”) and provided no contact information in context for order questions.
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Give 10 Minutes, Get Free Customer Experience Data!

Kerry Bodine

Are you a customer experience professional? Do you have 10 minutes to spare? Would you like some free data about the current state of customer experience?

If you answered “yes” to these three questions, please be a lamb and fill out Forrester’s Q3 2011 Customer Experience Survey.  (We’ve designed this to be super speedy for you to fill out 10 minutes at the maximum. We promise!) We’ll ask you a few questions about:

  • How people throughout your organization get involved with customer experience efforts.
  • The intersection of marketing and customer experience at your company.
  • The interaction of social media and customer experience at your company.

The info you provide will help shape several reports that we’ll be publishing over the next few months. 

The survey closes Wednesday, September 14th. After that date, we’ll analyze the data and send you the aggregate responses to each question — even if you’re not a Forrester client.

So give some, and get some! And thanks in advance for helping fuel our research.

(By the way, this survey is for customer experience professionals who are working to improve customer interactions with their own companies. Agency folks, tech vendors, and consultants: We’ll hit you up another time.)

What Signal Does The Google-Motorola Marriage Send To Product Strategists?

Carlton Doty

It’s a couple of days after Google announced its intentions to jump headfirst into the hardware business. By now everyone — including my colleagues Charles Golvin and John McCarthy — have expressed their thoughts about what this means for Apple, Microsoft, RIM, and all of the Android-based smartphone manufacturers. This is not another one of those blog posts.

What I really want to highlight is something more profound, and more relevant to all of you out there who might classify your day job as “product strategy.” To you, the Google/Moto deal is just one signal — however faint — coming through the static noise of today’s M&As, IPOs, and new product launches. But if you tune in and listen carefully, two things become crystal clear:

  • The lines between entire industries are blurring. Google — and some of the other firms I mentioned above — are just high profile examples of companies that are diversifying their product portfolio, and the very industries in which they play. There are several instances of this over the past "digital decade." What's different now is the increased frequency of the occurrences.
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Executive Q&A: Customer Experience Ecosystem Mapping

Kerry Bodine

I’ve just published a new report in response to all the great questions I’ve been getting about the customer experience ecosystem and the process of ecosystem mapping. Here are a couple of the questions (and answers!) from the report.

What is ecosystem mapping?

Ecosystem mapping is a collaborative process that helps companies identify the set of complex interdependencies that shape all of their interactions with customers. Typically conducted in a workshop setting, teams identify and document the people, processes, policies, and technologies that create the customer experience. This includes those parts of the ecosystem that are in plain view of customers as well as those parts that influence the customer experience from behind the scenes.

What benefits should companies expect to get out of ecosystem mapping?

Companies that undertake ecosystem mapping exercises can expect multiple benefits, including:

  • Detailed knowledge of customers’ journeys. When customers and frontline staff join ecosystem mapping workshops, teams can construct a detailed picture of what customers go through when they interact with their company. More often than not, teams identify interactions that frustrate customers as well as opportunities where companies could interact with customers, but don’t.
  • Greater understanding of the interdependencies within the ecosystem. Ecosystem mapping helps teams identify previously hidden people, processes, policies, and technologies — and the customer interactions they influence.
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The Data Digest: Smartphone Owners’ Smart Travel Management

Reineke Reitsma

Do you remember the last trip that you took? In this season, chances are that it was only last week or last month. As much as we love to travel, ideally for leisure, we are often overwhelmed by all the planning and coordination that are involved in the process — flights, car rentals, lodging, just to begin with. And if you are truly a planner, you want to add the places to dine, events to attend, and attractions to stop by to the itinerary.

Luckily, we are in the technology-centric era. We have websites, software, and devices that help us make life easier. Two companies that I recently came across, TripIt and Traxo, are designed to take care of travelers’ concerns. Much like TripIt, Traxo aims to simplifying travelers' lives by aggregating all of their travel information in one place, but it does so in a more elegant auto-pull manner versus an email push one. Traxo users just need to link their travel accounts to Traxo via a one-time, upfront process, and then Traxo automatically detects all of their trips, miles, and points and intelligently combines them into a single travel dashboard. It also allows members to share experiences with friends and possibly discover where they might have an overlapping trip with another.

But what makes this really interesting is that these services are available for smartphones. In his recent Forrester report “Why Smartphones Will Become One Of Travel’s Two Most Important Touchpoints”, my colleague Henry Harteveldt points out that “travelers are up to three times more likely than all US adults to have a smartphone.” 

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We're Hiring! Analyst Serving eBusiness and Channel Strategy, Amsterdam

Benjamin Ensor

After six years at Forrester, Alexander Hesse has decided to leave Forrester to take on a new challenge in a different field. It's always a sad day when you lose a respected colleague and I wish Alex the very best.

We're looking for a new senior analyst to join our eBusiness and channel strategy team, preferably based in Amsterdam. We're looking for someone with strong views on eBusiness and channel strategy, an analytical mind, and experience of the complexities of retail financial services and of different European markets to help our clients make the right business decisions and shape their firms' strategies. 

If this sounds like you, or like someone you know, please contact me at bensor@forrester.com or you can apply directly from the job description.