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?
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.
Behavior tracking data is the new black. It is a type of big data that can help you better understand your target consumers — everything from the amount of time they spend on each social media outlet to their most popular time of day to visit shopping websites. Compared with other data sources, it allows you to capture actions at a very detailed level with precision, eliminating measurement errors by analyzing usage of what consumers do, not what they say they do.
In our recent publication, Mobile Behavioral Data: UK, we analyzed Forrester's UK Consumer Technographics® Behavioral Study, November 2013 to March 2014, and found that:
WhatsAppkeeps UK smartphone owners engaged the longest. Forty-one percent of UK adults use the app for just over 8 hours per month (or about 2 hours per week). That is longer user engagement than for any of the other top 10 most popular apps that UK consumers use on their smartphone; this includes Facebook, the most popular app, which keeps smartphone users engaged for a little over 90 minutes per week.
Young UK smartphone owners are most likely to use finance/banking apps. More than half of 18- to 24-year-old UK smartphone owners use finance/banking apps, like the Lloyds Bank app and the NatWest app. These youngsters show the highest adoption of finance/banking apps in the UK, and rates decline with age; about 40% of 25- to 44-year-olds and 34% of 45- to 54-year-olds use finance/banking apps.
Will the iPhone 6, to be announced on September 9, have NFC and a Sapphire Crystal display?
What about the new Samsung Galaxy Note 4, to be announced at Unpacked on September 3? And will the new Nokia Lumia 730 (a.k.a Superman), to be announced on September 4, have a 5-Megapixel rear-facing camera?
As my colleague Frank Gillett puts it, “Samsung's challenge is to establish an enduring relationship with customers, rather than being an interchangeable Android device maker – and it will take more than a new Galaxy Note to do that.”
Language is evolving; the written word is giving way to visual vocabulary.
Interpersonal communications are shifting from being text-based to image-based, and you don't have to look far for the evidence: We spell using the Emoji alphabet; we comment with photographs; we engage through pictures.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that consumer adoption of visual social networks is growing and that social chatter is becoming increasingly pictorial. Forrester's Consumer Technographics® data shows that US online consumers across generations are interacting with content on Instagram and Pinterest more than before:
As consumers become increasingly versed in the language of visual content, curated images become a powerful means of expressing opinions, conveying emotion, and recounting experiences. As a result, pure text analytics no longer suffice to interpret social chatter; instead, insights professionals have an opportunity to mine the wealth of media-rich data that increasingly pervades social networking sites.
[UPDATE 4 Sept: I have updated this post to the original draft, which includes specific and strong recommendations to publishers and marketers. They had been redacted, but a colleague asked "What would you DO about this?" so I saw fit to reinclude them. These are my answers; there are no easy solutions, but these are a step towards guidelines. Updates at the end of the piece, in bold.]
Publishers Are Engaged In Self-Harm, With Marketers As An Accessory
You remember when the email spam problem maxed out almost a decade ago? Or when content farms threatened to turn Google search results into useless piles of keyword-slurry? Or peak belly fat?
There should be a word for the moments when the mechanisms that aim to keep our electronic information corridors running well fail.
It’s shaping up to be one of those moments for the content distribution space (and particularly its subdiscipline native advertising, or sponsored content).
You can pity the reader who arrives at an article on many publishers’ websites today; I’m talking about you, Guardian and Forbes, but also you, New York Times and Washington Post. How is the reader to know if the article they’ve come to read is the product of a straightforward pay-to-publish play, an informal “link exchange” relationship, an “influencer” play, an independent opinion piece, or a piece of pure editorial? They can’t.
For the record: The “clear labeling” commandment is a fig leaf. By the time a reader has gotten so far through the article that they’re wondering why it keeps promoting a particular mindset, product, or opinion and started searching for cruft around the article, the trust in the information, the source, and the medium is lost.
Last week, Aetna decided to decommission CarePass, its consumer data aggregation platform. It was initially much heralded; however, this development highlights some of the fundamental problems with the health plan’s early forays into this space. I have outlined these issues in my new report, “The Unfulfilled Promise of Plan-Owned Digital Health and Wellness Platforms.” The report went to publication before the CarePass development was announced, but this decision is not at all surprising and validates many of the fundamental challenges with early platforms identified in the report.
The decision to unplug CarePass underscores the fact that there are lots of hurdles for enterprises when it comes to growing digital health as a business. What’s interesting about CarePass is it actually cycled through several different business models during the course of its evolution – ultimately repositioning the business model late last year to go directly after employers. With this pivot, CarePass essentially became a “bring your own” wellness tool servicing the traditional book of health plan business. This may have been the best approach for CarePass, but it came late in the game. Insurance, as a whole, is going to change dramatically over the next three years — with exchanges, defined contribution, etc. Given the competing priorities and the struggles to gain adoption, CarePass may have been doomed before the final pivot back to the employer. However, CarePass did a lot of things right and the CarePass team should be congratulated for their forward approach to the market.