Help Us Benchmark The State Of CX Maturity In 2014 (And Get A Free Copy Of The Results)

In 2007, I wrote a report about how to measure customer experience (CX) across an entire enterprise. At the time, I could find just three companies — three! — that were actually measuring CX this way. Everyone else I talked to said that their companies had no CX measurement or that they measured CX in a piecemeal way, touchpoint by touchpoint. They desperately wished that executives would see the value of measuring and managing CX at an enterprise level but admitted their leadership just wasn’t thinking that way yet.

Fast-forward to 2014 and things look a lot better in the world of CX. Leading companies in every country and every industry are making CX a strategic priority, investing millions to improve how customers perceive their interactions with the firm. It’s great to see, but I have to admit . . . I’m not willing to declare victory just yet.

My concern is that these improved customer experiences won’t stay good over the next five years. There remains a risk that this flurry of improvement projects will fade into memory, allowing dysfunctional CX practices and processes to revert back to their old ways.

To keep that from happening, companies need to do more than fix broken customer journeys or redesign average ones. They need to increase their level of CX maturity by creating self-sustaining systems (human and technological) in each of the six disciplines that characterize great CX companies — strategy, customer understanding, design, measurement, governance, and culture. But are they?

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Throwback Thursday: Getting Executives Engaged In The CX Transformation

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.
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Introducing Forrester's Customer Experience Index, 2014

It’s January again, which means it’s time to reveal the results of our seventh annual Forrester Customer Experience Index (CXi). This year’s report benchmarks the quality of the customer experience (CX) at 175 US firms in 14 industries as rated by the only people whose opinion really matters — their customers.

The top spot this year went to Amazon.com, but not for its score in the retail category. Amazon earned an Index-leading score of 91 for its debut in the consumer electronics manufacturer category (for the Kindle). I guess that’s what happens when one of your company’s core principles is to obsess about customers. (It’s also worth noting that our study happened to coincide with the launch of the Kindle’s innovative Mayday feature and corresponding ad campaign.)

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Want Better Customer Experiences? Adopt The Six Disciplines Of CX Maturity

This morning we released the latest version of an annual client favorite: “How Companies Improved Their CXi Scores, 2013.”

As we do each year, we compiled a list of brands whose scores went up five or more points in our Customer Experience Index over the past year (in this case, between 2012 and 2013). We asked CX leaders from those brands if they’d be willing to tell us what they did to drive those improvements. Finally, we synthesized their answers into a list of best practices that others can learn from.

As you’d expect, we heard about a host of projects designed to boost the three aspects of customer experience quality. Here’s just a sampling of what we uncovered:

  • Meets needs. Marriott used one of my favorite qualitative research techniques — diary studies — to understand exactly when its guests would need a mobile device during their travels. The firm identified roughly 300 user needs that a mobile device could fill, prioritized them, and is using the resulting hierarchy as a road map for future investment.
  • Easy. Vanguard and Progressive were just two of the brands that said they upgraded website designs to make it easier for customers to get the information they need online.
  • Enjoyable. Days Inns trained more than 20,000 employees on how to make hotel guests feel welcomed.
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How Marshalls, Courtyard By Marriott, And Lowe’s Meet Customer Needs

Earlier this week, someone asked me which firms in the CXi do the best job at meeting customer needs. The three top scorers on that criterion were:

  • Marshalls (93%)
  • Courtyard by Marriott (92%)
  • Lowe's (92%)
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Q&A From Last Week's Customer Experience Index Webinar

Last week, I did a webinar on Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, 2013. We didn’t have time to answer everyone’s questions, so I thought I’d post answers to those we didn't get to.  

"Can consumers respond to having an experience with multiple companies?"

In some cases, yes, and in some cases, no. In the bank, credit card provider, insurance, consumer electronics manufacturer, airline, hotel, and rental car categories, they can pick up to two brands they’ve done business with most in the past 90 days. For retailers, they can pick up to four. For the other six industries, they are limited to one.

"What is the threshold to determine if the person is a customer? Interactions one time, over time? A recent experience?"

We don’t strictly require the person to be a customer. The person could be a prospect or a former customer. All we ask is that this person has done business with the company in the past 90 days.

"Why don't you track high tech?"

We do, actually. Two years ago, we added the consumer electronics manufacturer industry, which covers most of the latest high-tech gadgetry. We don’t include software in part because there are just so many types of software and so many brands. It would be hard to narrow them down to something manageable.

"How does CXi map to NPS?"

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New For 2013 — The Forrester Customer Experience Index Award Of Excellence

Last week, we released our sixth annual Forrester Customer Experience Index. This week, we’re introducing something new to go along with the benchmark — an award.

From now on, any brand that scores an 85 or above in our Customer Experience Index (CXi) will receive both a physical award and a badge for its website naming it a “Forrester Customer Experience Index Award Of Excellence” winner for that year. Here’s a sneak peak at what winners will get:

 

Mockup of the Forrester Customer Experience Index Award Of Excellence

Without further ado, please join me in congratulating the winners of the first annual CXi Award Of Excellence, 2013: Marshalls, USAA (bank), Amazon.com, Kohl’s, Target, Courtyard by Marriott, Sam’s Club, Rite Aid, Costco, Lowe’s, TJ Maxx, JCPenney, and Marriott Hotels & Resorts!

Special congratulations to four of these brands — USAA (bank), Amazon, Kohl’s, and Costco. They were on the list of “excellent” brands in our 2012 CXi, too. It’s not easy keeping up with changing customer demands, so kudos to them for maintaining their leadership positions.

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The Customer Experience Index, 2013

Just moments ago we released the sixth annual Forrester Customer Experience Index (CXi), our yearly benchmark of customer experience quality as judged by the only people whose opinion matters — customers.

The 2013 CXi is based on research we did in Q4 2012. It reflects how consumers perceived their experiences with 154 brands across 14 industries. If you’re not familiar with the methodology, or just want a refresher, check out “Executive Q&A: Forrester’s Customer Experience Index, 2013.” We put all the nitty-gritty details in there.  

But what about the big picture? Of course, there are winners and losers (we name them in the report.) There is a tale of two banks — one whose score jumped up by 11 points versus last year, and another whose score plummeted by 24 points.

Through it all, though, one common theme leapt out: 

In 2013, it’s all about value.

Many of the top brands this year, including high-scorer Marshalls, deliver solid customer experience at a manageable price. We saw this dynamic in the hotel space, where Marriott’s Courtyard brand beat out all other hotel brands. And we saw it in the airline industry, where perennial favorites Southwest Airlines and JetBlue Airways once again swept the competition with their combination of great experience at a great price.

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It's Time To Exercise Your Customer Experience Muscles

I was talking to a client the other day who was very frustrated. She told me that her executives talk about customer experience all the time; they seem “bought in” to the idea that it matters. But when push comes to shove, none of them have done anything to drive real improvement.

She asked me . . . how can that be? If they get it, why don’t they do something?

I struggled with this question for a long time but finally came up with an analogy that made everything clear. It’s this: Customer experience is the “eat healthy and exercise” of the business world.

Think about it. We could say the following about both topics:

  • Everyone knows it’s important, and why.
  • When talking to others, we probably pretend we do it better than we actually do.
  • Deep down, we aren’t quite sure what we should do — it’s complicated and confusing.
  • The things we know we should do just aren’t that fun or exciting, so we often avoid them.
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Introducing The Experience-Driven Organization Playbook

If you are trolling around our website, you may have seen that we’ve introduced a new way to organize our research, something that we call playbooks.

We made this change because for years we’ve been producing reports that connect to each other in many ways. The connections are obvious to those of us who create the research, but until now, they may not have been as obvious to our many readers.

Playbooks make it easier for you to find the research we have about every one of your customer experience challenges. What’s more, playbooks suggest related research on topics that you might not have even thought to look for. For example, if you’re looking for best practices for how to improve your Customer Experience Index Score, you’ll also see advice on how to sustain continuous improvement once you take the first step.

The first playbook for customer experience professionals is called The Experience-Driven Organization Playbook. It lays out our vision for what it takes to deliver a consistently good customer experience. You can get an overview of all of the research in the playbook by reading “Transform To An Experience-Driven Organization” by my colleague, Harley Manning. Or dive right in with my report that sets the vision for what it takes to build a mature customer experience practice, “Customer Experience Maturity Defined.”  

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