by November 12th, 2014on
Last week, I ventured to Anaheim, CA, for Forrester Research’s Why Good Is Not Good Enough conference. I wanted to find out how, in a world of same-day e-commerce, self-driving cars and ubiquitous Wi-Fi, the stewards of the world’s top brands were managing to keep their customers happy.
Across the two days, mic’ed-up presenters and tweeting colleagues agreed that customer experience (CX) couldn’t be left to chance. Like any business asset, it must be monitored, measured and optimized in accordance with shifting market demands. And now that we’re a few years into the optimizing, we sense that “good” just won’t cut it anymore.
But despite the agreement, two distinct camps emerged; one asserting that as customer demands grow, brands must keep pace by exerting maximum control over experiences, even extending their influence beyond traditional boundaries and into external ecosystems. The other held that doing too much planning and seeking too much control was impractical and unwise. Organizations should instead pursue a more enlightened path of responsiveness, flexibility and empowerment.
So who’s right? Here are my six takeaways from the conference…
#1. Mastering CX is not easy. Forrester VP John Dalton opened with a story of Walt Disney, pioneer of experiences for the pint-sized customer. Despite years of planning and a drive to control every detail, Disneyland’s opening was a near-disaster. On that sweltering day in 1955, throngs of parents and children endured hours-long wait times for rides. Newly paved asphalt melted under the July sun, devouring ladies’ heels. A plumber’s strike deprived the park of drinking water and a gas leak required much of it to be closed. Negative press followed. But Disney stayed true to his vision and eventually things turned around. With this tale, Mr. Dalton seemed to suggest: if Walt Disney had trouble with this customer experience thing, maybe the rest of us should lighten up a bit. As in most situations, progress is better than perfection.
“If Walt Disney had trouble with this customer experience thing, maybe the rest of us should lighten up a bit.” (tweet this)
#2. Firms are getting better at CX delivery. Forrester’s Megan Burns took the stage to talk about CX maturity. She reported that the concept of customer experience, which Forrester has tracked since 2007 with its annual Customer Experience Index, has now reached its gangly adolescence years. While great experiences are still rare (hence the title of the conference) truly awful ones are on the decline. Until recently, few organizations knew that measuring their CX maturity was something they should, or even could, do. Now with eight years of data as evidence, she offered three “universal drivers” for CX maturity and loyalty:
- Make customers feel valued.
- Resolve customer issues and problems quickly.
- Talk to customers in plain language.
#3. We’re all competing with the best. Katy Keim of Lithium Social Web spoke about the social media revolution and its impact on customer experience. Noting that “CX = delivery – expectation,” Ms. Keim neatly distilled the challenge to its essence. As customer expectations have become more and more “extreme,” firms find it harder to stay ahead of their customers’ needs. And when it comes to expectations, companies no longer compete only with others in their industries. Instead they go head-to-head with the Netflixes, Ubers and Amazons of the world. These brands have redefined what customers should want, and in doing so, have recalibrated the CX benchmark for every category. Increasingly, firms that fail to live up to these extreme expectations will been seen as “unresponsive.”