Unfortunately, few CX programs pay as much attention to emotional experience as they do to functional experience. That’s partly because few people understand emotions very well. Conventional wisdom says that emotions are too unpredictable to manage. We disagree. True, we can’t control customer emotions (nor should we). But we can understand and influence them in a way that makes everyone happy.
Last week, I stayed in two different hotels in the greater Atlanta area. One was a Ritz-Carlton, and the other a Marriott.* Hearing those two brand names, you might be tempted to assume that the guest experience at the Ritz was far better than the one at the Marriott. But it wasn’t — at least not for me.
Don’t get me wrong, the Ritz was beautiful. But one aspect of the experience there drove me nuts. Every time that I stepped off the elevator into the lobby I was swarmed by no fewer than three extremely friendly, extremely eager employees. They bombarded me with questions about whether I wanted coffee (which I don’t drink), a donut, help with my luggage, or anything else my heart desired. Now in theory, I love that the staff was so attentive. But they missed a pretty important need of mine — the need for personal space. When I travel for work, I want to be greeted by friendly people. And I want to know that I can easily find an employee if and when I need help. But otherwise, I prefer to be left to my own devices. That’s exactly what I got at the Marriott.
One week ago today, we Bostonians enjoyed a picture-perfect opening day at Fenway Park. The sun was shining, temps finally warmed up after an abysmal winter, opening ceremonies paid tribute to local heroes like the Richard and Frates families,* and our beloved Red Sox beat the Washington Nationals 9 to 4.
What I love about opening day at Fenway is the optimism, the sense that anything is possible. A new season means a clean slate; the less-than-stellar 2014 baseball season is all but a distant memory.
The biggest change in our new approach is the way we judge CX excellence. To hit a home run, the 299 brands we studied had to do more than make customers happy. They had to design and deliver a CX that actually helps the business by creating and sustaining customer loyalty.
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?
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.
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.)
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.
"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.
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.