Corporate Customer Experiences Need Startup Mojo

Kerry Bodine

I’m a Dropbox customer. I originally signed up for the basic plan — 2 GB for free — but ran out of space quickly and decided to upgrade to 50 GB of storage. So I forked over my $99 and got the following confirmation page:

A gold star! A hand-drawn cartoon! Now I know this page wasn’t designed specifically for yours truly, but when I saw it, I felt special. Like the people at Dropbox actually gave a damn that I had just given them $99 of my hard-earned money. 

Compare that with the $700 I spent recently for several nights at a large hotel. My final bill was printed on a plain white sheet of paper and was so devoid of any brand messaging that I feared it would raise eyebrows with our finance department! Consider the $1,600 I just plunked down for a multi-leg transcontinental flight. The airline’s confirmation email didn’t waste any time trying to sell me on a rental car, hotel room, and credit card — but didn’t even wish me a pleasant trip. Or take my credit card company — which processes tens of thousands of dollars of business expenses for me each year. When I look at my bill, the things that pop out are how much I owe them, by when, and a late payment warning — key pieces of information, yes, but reading that bill leaves me feeling like I need a shower.

These small touchpoints — a receipt, a confirmation email, a bill — play a functional role in customer interactions. But they also represent prime opportunities for companies to reinforce their brands and (perhaps even more importantly) make customers feel good about where they spend their time and money.

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Yahoo's Potential Suitors Are A Motley Crew

Fatemeh Khatibloo

My Customer Intelligence colleagues and I, like many others, can't help but wonder how Carol Bartz's departure from Yahoo! is going to play out for the digital behemoth. Shar VanBoskirk's post last week summarizes Yahoo!'s current state, and I agree with her assessment that the company's assets are worth far more piecemeal than as a whole. As she points out, Yahoo!'s advertising capabilities are one of its greatest assets.

But from a CI perspective, so is its OpenID-based Yahoo! ID, which enables single sign-on (SSO) functionality for its more than 273mm global email-service users. Now, while a relative minority of those users actually take advantage of Yahoo! ID across the web today, the demand for SSO and federated identity is growing such that Yahoo!'s broad user base and consumer trust is already tremendously valuable. 

So, who are the "unusual suspects" that have the most interesting opportunity for acquiring Yahoo!'s personal services/communications/identity management business? 

  • Wal-Mart. Yep, you read it right. Wal-Mart, despite being the world's largest retailer, continues to lose digital market share to Amazon, and it clearly wants to change that. Last month, it restructured its online organization to better align with its brick-and-mortar presence and just this week announced plans to to buy "key assets" of mobile ad targeter OneRiot. Yahoo! ID would give Wal-Mart the single sign-on capability that it doesn't have today, with some nice benefits over Amazon's closed-ecosystem identity service. And Yahoo!'s user base is, demographically speaking, a slightly better fit for Wal-Mart than other major big-box retailers.
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The Global Mainstreaming Of Smartphones

Thomas Husson

Thanks to the phenomenal popularity of Apple’s iPhone and Android’s growing traction — more than 550,000 Android devices are activated each day — many product strategists tend to assume that smartphones are a mass-market phenomenon.

The reality is that in a global population with more than 5 billion subscriptions, smartphones are still niche. However, in the US and some European countries, smartphone penetration is racing past 25%; smartphones are going mainstream, albeit at a varying pace across the globe.

Consumer product strategists should anticipate the consequences of moving from a smartphone target audience of early adopters to one that is more mainstream.

When targeting the second wave of smartphone users, we believe strategists should: 

  • Design specific mobile products by better understanding new smartphone owners. New segments of smartphone owners will emerge, with a much more diverse profile than the first wave of smartphone early adopters. One way to obtain more detailed information about these consumers is to use the basic connectivity of the smartphone to establish the beginnings of a digital customer relationship. The promise of ongoing product upgrades is one incentive that may convince these new customers to share their information, but free content such as an application is more likely to win their confidence.
  • Carefully monitor new smartphone owners’ usage. There is always a huge gap between the features available on a smartphone and the actual use of these features. It is critical to constantly analyze how smartphone users are using their devices; this will allow strategists to optimize the road maps not only for new devices but also for those products and services to be delivered to the second wave of smartphone users. 
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CMO Best Practices For Hiring And Retaining Digital Talent

Shar VanBoskirk

I’m currently working on a report around how to hire and retain good digital talent. So the CMO panel featuring Brian Lauber of OneAmerica, Jared Blank of Tommy Hilfiger, and Chris Krohn of that addressed hiring and staffing was music to my ears.  A few takeaways on how to nurture your digital employees:

 *Create an emotional connection between employees and your brand. This helps to brand your company externally. OneAmerica CMO Brian Lauber finds that “Your employees are your best branding.  He tells every single employee that they are the brand. “I tell them to look like it, act like it, talk like it.” Every day. In everything they do.

 *Don’t rely on HR to do everything alone. Creating a strong digital organization isn’t just about having good recruiters. It’s about creating a culture that employees feel part of and proud of. And this lands on managers to create. Chris Krohn of says his role has two primary components: 1) Make sure the marketing strategy is clear; 2) Make sure we have the right people doing the right things. 

*Create benefits beyond financial compensation. Tommy Hilfiger employees get discounts off of clothes. And buyers of media and of clothes get 10% of their regular budgets to play with. “We want people who are passionate about clothes.  And about our clothes. So we give them a reason to buy our things for themselves.  And we make them accountable for 90% of their budget.  The other 10% they can spend on whatever they think is cool.”

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Best Buy CTO Shares How Marketing And IT Should Collaborate

Shar VanBoskirk

I’m co-presenting next week at Forrester’s first-ever CIO/CMO Forum with my colleague Craig Symons, a VP and Principal Analyst from Forrester’s IT client group.  We’re hosting a discussion around how to budget for marketing technology purchases. So it was perfect to hear Robert Stephens, the CTO of Best Buy, talk at the Exact Target Connections Conference about the role he plays in Best Buy’s marketing innovations. Stephens is the technology mastermind behind all of Best Buy’s industry-leading efforts like Twelpforce — its Twitter-based customer service organization.  Here are a few sound bites from Stephens’ presentation: 

“My job is to transform trends into reality for us.”  Stephens talked about his close relationship with Barry Judge, Best Buy’s CMO.  They meet regularly to swap ideas and co-support innovations. And Stephens doesn’t view any imbalance in the “power” either of them has over Best Buy decisions.  He’s actually come up with his own share of “marketing” ideas; for example, he came up with the Geek Squad in his lean college years. In his words, “When you don’t have any money, everything is marketing.”  I think this perspective makes sense even when firms *do* have money. What if every employee — including IT ones — thought about all of their moves as marketing ones?  That is ways to create a product, culture, and experience that promotes your firm above all others. 

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Making Connections Through Exact Target

Shar VanBoskirk

I just spent the first part of the week at the Exact Target Connections Event. What a top-notch conference. 

  • 3,000 attendees
  • Assiduous attention to detail
  • Inspiring and fun speakers including a presentation from Aron Ralston whose survival story was retold in the movie 127 Hours
  • And terrific industry content – I’ll post the lessons I learned at the event in my next few posts. 
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Smartphone To Call Center Agent: Seize The Cross-Channel Opportunity

Adele Sage

In the US alone, Forrester is forecasting nearly 100 million smartphones by the end of 2011. And digital customer experience professionals are meeting the new mobile demand by creating or redesigning mobile experiences: 34 of the 48 customer experience professionals we surveyed at the end of last year said that they’re planning major mobile design projects in 2011.

In the rush to create great mobile experiences, most end up focused only on what occurs within the browser/app experience. But we know that consumers often call the call center when they can’t accomplish their goal on the Web. And that transition isn’t always seamless.

Let’s say we have a customer using a mobile banking app to look up the balance on his mortgage. Once he sees how much is left, he wonders what his options are to refinance at a better interest rate. He can get some basic refi rates in the app, but he wants to know whether, as a longtime customer, he can get a better rate. He goes to the "Contact Us" screen in the app and clicks on the phone number.

What happens next? He starts at the top of the IVR. He has to identify himself all over again and route to an appropriate agent. Talk about a frustrating experience for the customer and a waste of time for the agent to recapture what he was doing!

Remember: A smartphone is also a phone.

If the browser or app experiences are built for seamless transitions to phone agents, they should:

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“State Of Retailing Online 2011” Part Two Launched On Today

Sucharita  Mulpuru

Forrester recently published the “State Of Retailing Online 2011: Merchandising, Headcount, And Global Strategies” report in conjunction with our friends at It is available on (with a subscription) now.

Some of the reports highlights include:

  • Online retail continues to steal market share from other channels. “The State Of Retailing Online, 2011” survey shows an average growth rate of 28% for online retailers over the past year — this has been driven by improvements in retail execution including higher conversion rates, higher average order values, and strong repeat shopper revenue.
  • Investment in site merchandising drives conversion increase. While some tactics such as “ratings and reviews” are perennial merchandising investment favorites, more retailers now also are investing in merchandising through new channels, such as mobile. This report categorizes each of the 80 tactics reviewed as an industry standard, area of opportunity, investment area, or unproven tactic.
  • Headcount growth lags as overall eCommerce growth charges forward. Retailers maintain conservative growth plans — less than 10% — that largely don’t match up with the year-over-year growth of web retail overall. Focus currently is on mobile, marketing, merchandising, IT, and analytics.
  • Global expansion will be an investment focus, but not top priority. While 37% of retailers cited international commerce as very important, most global businesses still haven’t fully committed to that lofty title — remote management of global services, accepting returns shipped only to their home country, and English-only sites and customer service are still common practices for these “global” online retailers.
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A Great Customer Experience Depends On Customer Understanding

Harley Manning

My colleague Andrew McInnes recently wrote a post about the tunnel vision that results when companies rely solely on analytics for understanding customers. By neglecting qualitative research methods like ethnography and related tools like personas and customer journey maps, firms run the risk of thinking they know what customers want and need but in reality not having a clue. And that’s the root cause of some of the worst customer experience problems — issues that can drag down a business.

Take the case of Kevin Peters, Office Depot’s president, North America. Kevin recently spoke at our Customer Experience Forum where he described the biggest puzzle that confronted him when he got his job. Even as sales declined, store mystery-shopping scores compiled by a third-party research firm were going through the roof. How could this be? How could customers be having a great in-store experience but not actually buying?  

As it turned out, the mystery shoppers had been asking the wrong questions. They were accurately reporting that the floors and bathrooms of Office Depot stores were clean and that the shelves were stocked with merchandise. But as Peters put it: “Who cares?” When he personally visited 70 stores incognito, walked the aisles, and talked to customers, he discovered his real problems. For example, the combination of very large stores, weak signage, and employees who weren’t all that helpful made it hard to find products. That resulted in customers who walked in determined to buy and walked out without a purchase.

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The Data Digest: Profiling Digital Dads

Reineke Reitsma

One of the responsibilities of my role includes analyzing data in complex ways to help our clients understand how their target groups behave and if there are more relevant ways to segment them based on the results. However, sometimes it just makes sense to take a step back and look at some basic demographic profiles as a starting point for further analysis. We developed a new deliverable that we call Demographic Overview, and we kicked off the series with digital dads, followed by digital moms, and these will soon be complemented with digital natives and digital Seniors.

So why is it important for companies to look at dads? Forrester’s Technographics® data shows that s lightly more than one-third of US online men ages 18 to 50 are parents of a child younger than 18 living with them. Companies need to understand how the digital profile of dads differs from non-dads, as their behaviors influence the tech behaviors of their kids.

Some of our findings include that in general, dads are more likely to use the Internet as a resource, while non-dads are more active in entertainment-focused activities such as social networking. But dads know how to use social media to get their point across: 72% of dads who regularly engage in social activities have posted a review of a product or service on Twitter in the past 12 months, as compared with only 57% of non-dads.

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