Winning The Customer Experience Game

We all hear and read stories of terrible customer experiences; like me, you probably have had your own share of bad experiences. And social media has made it possible for these bad experiences to be shared instantly with millions of people. But in our journey through life, we also experience service that exceeds our expectations. And as we read reviews online, we're more likely to see a mixture of both good and bad experiences. For example, I recently posted a glowing review for a B&B in Bethel, ME, even though a few things about my stay would have typically caused me to deduct points. My five-star review was extremely positive because the proprietor had blown away my expectations on service, delivering an experience way beyond any I've had in a five-star hotel.

But excelling at the personal touch in a small-town B&B is far easier than doing it at scale in a multibillion-dollar business. Yet there are companies that consistently deliver great customer experiences. (My colleagues even wrote a book on them). They aren't perfect all the time, but, on average, they are better than their competitors. At Forrester, we identify these companies through our annual Customer Experience Index (CXi) research. Toward the top of the 2013 index, we find companies like Marshalls, Courtyard by Marriott, USAA, TD Bank, Southwest Airlines, Vanguard, Home Depot, Kohl's, Fidelity Investments, and FedEx.

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Can Twitter be used for community discussion? Nestivity believes it can.

For many, Twitter is a great way to find out what’s happening in the world but not the first place they would turn to drive a meaningful discussion with a group of colleagues or customers. Nestivity hopes to change this by creating a tool which allows Twitter users (and that includes companies) to drive meaningful discussions through Twitter.

The site officially launched today, and it’s free for Twitter users to sign up. The company offers a freemium pay model by charging customers for adding multiple community moderators — provided you only have one moderator, it remains free (for now).

Naturally I’m trying it out and you can help figure out how it works by joining in on the conversation I’ve just set up in my very own “nest”:

What’s the role of IT in creating great customer experiences? Check out the discussion and add your POV and help drive the discussion and you could see your POV included in the new research to be published at the upcoming CIO Forum in May.

And “Chief Digital Officer: real or imagined?” — add your POV to this discussion to contribute toward the research I’m doing on this to be published at our CMO/CIO Forum in the fall.

Can Twitter support vibrant discussions? Does Nestivity add to the ability to make Twitter a useful engagement environment? Share your thoughts on this post here.

Four Steps Toward Reducing IT Complexity And Improving Strategy

Four stepsMany CIOs are caught in the middle — stuck between competing demands from the CFO to reduce costs and from the CEO to increase innovation. In fact this is a topic which often comes up in our strategic planning workshops with clients.

The challenge is to find a means to achieve both goals simultaneously. Here are four steps you can take to achieve just that.

1. Get agreement on your business capabilities.

Business capability maps are a great way to gain clarity on what's important to your business. A good business capability map for strategy work is one which is organizationally agnostic; i.e., when you look at the boxes on the map, you don't see department names. The reason this is important is that you don't want to put anyone in the position of having to defend "their box" on the capability map. By the way, this is much harder to achieve than you might think! Once you have a draft map, you can share it with business leaders to get their input. This is an important step, as the capability map must be owned by all business leaders — the process of refining the map encourages leaders to take ownership.

  • Tip: Remember, not all your capabilities are inside your organization. Many firms leverage business partners to deliver key capabilities. For example, some firms will use FedEx or UPS to provide their distribution capabilities.
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The Gamification Of Business

GamificationThe most engaging, most entertaining, and most stimulating presentation of IBM Connect 2013 came on the third day at the end of the opening session. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't know Jane McGonigal when she came on stage. But after a minute I was fully engaged and tweeting insights and pearls of wisdom from her presentation. 
 
I had missed the title of her presentation, but Jane was already throwing out fascinating data points on game playing. Now you have to understand, game playing to me is that thing my son does to avoid doing his homework. I haven't thought deeply about games since I built two animated game simulations on an Apple II to teach people business in my final year of university back in '84 (now I'm dating myself).
 
"We've invested 400,000 years playing Angry Birds" - Jane is on a roll now. I'm thinking "oh my, I too had contributed a few of those hours." Before giving it up as a colossal waste of time of course. I didn't know it, but apparently I was suffering from what Clive Thompson calls "gamers regret".
 
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Capability-As-A-Service And What It Means For Technology Vendor Strategy

In my last post, I wrote about the evolving need for big business to source generic capabilities from business partners/vendors. This shift provides an enormous opportunity as well as a threat for technology vendors and CIOs.

I’m not talking about the wholesale outsourcing of IT. Rather, the selective sourcing of business capabilities and business process through software-as-a-service (SaaS), most likely deployed through cloud-based platforms (capability-as-a-service, or CaaS). Software and hardware vendors need to rethink their business from the customer’s perspective. They must figure out how to transform their products into services that deliver business capabilities and business outcomes.

If you’re a tech vendor, this means that you need to analyze each target industry and determine which business capabilities are likely to be strategic, and which are most likely to be generic. In retailing, for example, strategic capabilities might center on mastering customer data to create unique and valuable customer experiences as well as price optimization. Whereas capabilities around merchandising and assortment planning may be generic across many retailers (even though most merchandisers I know would never admit to this), these generic capabilities are likely to be delivered as SaaS in the future.

If you have existing solutions that target an industry’s generic capabilities, they are prime candidates for delivering the capability to the market as a service. Where your solutions target strategic capabilities, you will need to provide highly customized services through strategic partnership arrangements.

Sourcing Capabilities: What Big Business Can Learn From Startups

It's been clear for years now that small business startups don't build massive IT departments and big operations teams. Instead they focus on the capabilities which truly differentiate them in the marketplace - their strategic capabilities. They hire experts in these capabilities as employees and continue to improve their differentiation. At the same time, they look to source their more generic business capabilities from business partners and technology service providers.

We are going to see a seismic shift in big business in the coming years: there will be an increasing appetite to source generic capabilities from vendors and business partners; at the same time CEOs will focus increasingly scarce human capital resources on improving their strategic capabilities - the capabilities which give them a competitive edge.

While digital technology will remain at the heart of these strategic capabilities - leveraging cloud, big data analytics, mobile and social - the majority of technology services will be sourced from partners and vendors. The company's own technology resources will become more and more intensely focused on developing unique systems of engagement around strategic capabilities.

Chasing KPIs That Matter

Is there a fundamental problem in today’s IT? I believe there is, and it’s this: IT decision-makers are too often focused on the wrong things.

In a recent study, Forrester examined the top priorities, topics, and terms from a variety of data sources for both business decision-makers and technology decision-makers. What we found was a very clear — and to my mind, troubling — distinction between these two groups.

Business decision-makers focus on topics like growing revenue, improving customer satisfaction, and hiring, developing, and retaining the best talent. By contrast, IT decision-makers focus on topics like improving project delivery performance, improving budget performance, and cutting IT costs.

The fact that IT decision-makers have so little focus on business outcomes is one of the main reasons IT is seen as disconnected from the rest of the business.

The only way for CEOs and CIOs to fix this is to begin to measure IT professionals more in terms of business-outcomes and less on project delivery and system uptime. In other words, we need to measure IT professionals using the same KPIs we use to measure leaders across the rest of the business. This means we must begin measuring IT’s impact on things like the change in customer satisfaction (that’s the company’s customer satisfaction and not IT’s internal “customers” as some groups like to refer to other employees in the company), or the increase in sales, or the ability to attract and retain top talent.

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2013: The Year Of Digital Business

While Social Business continued to evolve in 2012, 2013 will see the emergence of digital business as a new strategic theme for many firms. What's driving this shift and what does it mean for CIOs, CEOs, and chief digital officers?
 
The Communications Evolution
 
Communications continue to evolve. Consider how humans have transformed communications over the centuries: signal fires; semaphore; Morse code; the telegraph; the telephone; telex; fax; email; SMS; Facebook; and Twitter. I have no doubt that this evolution will continue in 2013 and beyond. Perhaps beyond 2013 we will eventually achieve the ability to communicate our thoughts directly — whether we’ll want to is a different question. As people the world over learn to use new social networking tools, they drop older tools that are no longer useful to them. Regardless of where you are in your personal communications evolution, the undeniable truth is that over the past decade we have significantly changed how people communicate; we are no longer dependent upon email. But social tools and 24/7 mobile access have not removed the complexity or decreased the volume of information we must process. Time remains our most precious resource and we’ll always seek ways to use it more effectively — but social tools are not necessarily the silver bullet we might think. In 2013 we need to rethink business processes to take this new communications paradigm into account.
 
The Social Business Evolution
 
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Which Social Metrics Have Value?

For social media evangelists, the question on everyone's mind is this: "How do we effectively measure the business value of social initiatives?" 
 
Even when we get close, there's always that pesky issue of causation vs. correlation — can we really prove causation even for examples with high correlation between social initiatives and business outcomes? (Read Freakonomics, or watch the documentary, for insights into the challenges of causation vs. correlation.) 

Every day there is a plethora of "social media experts" offering advice on how to win using social media (and nearly all of it is posted on social media). In just a single edition of SocialBizBuzz on Dec 5 21012, you could read: Alistair Rennie from IBM writing in The Huffington Post on the differences between social media and social business; Francis Gouillart writing in the HBR Blog Network on the value of co-creating through social; and Mashable's Todd Wasserman opining on how most social media marketing is a waste of time

The wonderful parody of social media expertise produced by The Onion (see video) hits the nail on the head ... without real metrics how can anyone claim social initiatives deliver value?
  
 
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Seeking The Elusive Zone Of Disruption

As I analyzed examples of digital disruption I’ll be highlighting at the upcoming CIO Forum — “Leading Digital Disruption” — I was struck by the way in which every example could be tied to a shift in customer experience along two dimensions: pleasure and time.

Along the pleasure dimension, disruptive technologies significantly increase the pleasure (or reduce the frustration) derived from the customer experience. For example the iPad significantly increased my pleasure in browsing the web and engaging with brands I like through tailored apps.

And on the time dimension, disruptive technologies save customers significant amounts of time; time being the most precious commodity in the world. My iPad allows me to do many things much faster than I could before because it is easy-to-use and contains many apps which connect my lifestyle together.

So I began to explore how CIOs might use this understanding to help shape the analysis of prospective disruptive strategies. What I came up with is the customer experience zone of disruption (or CxZOD for short — see illustration).

In the zone of disruption, the impact on pleasure and/or time is so great as to cause a disruptive force in the marketplace. When coupled with an assessment of potential market impact, this becomes an easy-to-understand visual model for comparing potential disruptive initiatives.

In my session at the forum, I’ll be exploring this model and showing how to use it to better understand existing technologies, such as mobile apps, and their potential to become disruptive.

What disruptive digital technologies would you place in the CxZOD? Post your comments below or Tweet #CXZOD