Consumers keep raising the bar for experiences, while companies remain largely lagging in their efforts to keep up.
Indeed, as mobile and social media become standard communications channels for the public, marketers are struggling to satisfy demanding and fickle consumers who keep raising the bar for experiences, said speakers at Forrester CXNYC 2017.
“There’s an existential challenge to all of us in this room,” said Forrester CEO George Colony (right). Companies are going through “an extraordinary change in the economy,” adopting new technologies to keep up with digitally empowered consumers. That is going to put a lot of stress on CX operations, he said.
“Amazon has become the Standard Oil of customer experience,” Colony said. Even in business-to-business, CX is being forced to move as fast as the B2C experience, said Steve Bernstein, VP of business solutions at Epsilon.
“Our customers’ customers are pushing them very quickly [to improve],” he said. “It’s not a one-and-done.”
Forrester has been tracking customer experiences for the past three years and correlating it to the customer’s emotion and willingness to recommend. The results show most companies fall in one of four categories: Languishers (brands whose CX improved, then plateaued), Lapsers (brands that improved and now are backsliding), Locksteppers (improving or dropping along with rivals), and Laggards.
“We’re not seeing leaders,” said Roxana Strohmenger, VP of Forrester’s CX Index.
A survey by KPMG found companies making “massive” CX investments, but customer satisfaction remains flat, said Julio Hernandez, head of KPMG’s Global Customer Center of Excellence. The survey identified one possible reason: Barely half the CEOs said they have aligned middle- and back-office procedures to a more customer-centric framework of their customer-facing front ends.
“People are spending too much time putting lipstick on the front end,” Hernandez said. “The front needs to be connected to the middle and needs to be connected to the back”
The experts explained the creation of next-generation consumer experiences faces two main challenges: a need to learn to establish practices to measure return on investment for experience, and a fight for buy-in, both from management to approve the investment and from the staff who will have to disrupt operations to execute new strategies.
John Wompey, VP of customer experience and connectivity at Foot Locker, likened staff buy-in to a story about “Bloody-Monkey Syndrome”—how when one monkey wants to do something that its troop opposes, the others will beat him down.
“You’re the bloody monkey” when looking for buy-in from staff, he said. “If you feel you’re on an island ... I can tell you, you’re on the right path.”
But CX professionals need to learn how to be savvy and bring others along because it is a matter of survival for many businesses, he added. Todd Walthall, SVP of customer experience at Blue Shield of California, noted he was lucky to have the backing of the CFO when leading the digital transformation at the health insurer.
“You have to keep plugging away,” Wompey said. “If you want to survive in this industry, the experience is the most important thing”
Companies need a top-down CX culture, said John Padgett, chief experience and innovation officer at Carnival Cruise Lines. Once management sees a vision, it can’t be unseen.
“You need a CEO who gets it. It may be a reach for some of you, but you have to teach your CEO,” Colony said.
“If your CEO doesn’t get it, you haven’t found the right hook ... you’re talking at him,” added Maxie Schmidt, principal analyst at Forrester. You need to think like your CEO, and that requires understanding the company’s business model and what stage of the corporate life cycle it is in, as well as the CEO’s passion points, she said.
Schmidt asked for a show of hands of who had read their company’s P&L statement. Few hands went up. That should be step one, she said; then, find out the CEO’s concerns and pain points: “If you have those three—business model, corporate life cycle, and the CEO’s passions—you can create your customer experience story,” she said.
Buy-in is a multistage process that depends on a great deal of data analysis.
User experience professionals need to borrow a page from marketers and learn to segment audiences, speakers said. They will need to leverage technologies to map the customer journey accurately, prioritize audiences, and deliver personalized experiences.
“I can guarantee you are sitting on a ton of data from your customers. Why not use it?” asked David Truog, VP, research director at Forrester (right). Use customer lifetime value (CLV) to guide customer journeys for different segments, he said. CLV should not exist in a vacuum; it can help identify the channels that yield best results and model churn to identify which customers to focus on and, combined with natural language processing, understand how to serve them at a given time, Truog explained.
Some CX pros balk at measuring customers for lifetime value, thinking all experiences should be as important, but “all customers are not created equal,” said Forrester analyst Brandon Purcell.
“You as CX pros should invest in experiences for customers who give a hoot,” he said.
Jeff Parkinson, VP of customer operations at Dow Jones Co., explained the publisher’s customer experience architectures group has mapped some 300 customer journeys in both print and digital media to prioritize technology innovations and improvements in customer service procedures to apply.
“The digital subscribers coming in have more of a demand for a customer experience. It’s a different world for them,” Parkinson said. “We’re responding to what we’re hearing about that, qualitatively.”
“The notion of disrupting for disruption’s sake is getting old,” added Carnival’s Padgett. Industry is moving to a stage of “enterprise innovation” in CX, he said.
The emergence of new tools, such as natural language processing and predictive modeling, has not completely automated the CX process, but they are increasingly helping. The rise of artificial intelligence tools, such as machine learning, is both complicating the CX professional’s job and enabling it, speakers said.
AI is at the core of CX transformation, said Edwin van Bommel, chief cognitive officer of Ipsoft. AI can replace a fragmented customer journey with a single interface among clients, vendors, and employees to create a frictionless journey that satisfies all segments, he explained.
“Consumer experience will be truly transformed by AI,” he said. “But you have to be there at the start. This is a Darwinistic play.”