What Research Was Hot In Q2 2008?

The beginning of July marks the end of Q2 2008. Before I fully look ahead to Q3, I want to take some time and look back at the last 3 months. As I mentioned in the post about my 2008 research agenda, it’s helpful to see what people are reading because as P. L. Travers said:

A writer is, after all, only half his book. The other half is the reader and from the reader the writer learns. 

It appears that my research remains on the right track (see my analysis from last quarter: Which Customer Experience Topics Are Hot?). Once again, my reports had the highest level of readership across all Forrester analysts; 32% higher than the second analyst on the list.

To get a better sense of what’s hot, I compiled the following list of my 15 most-read research reports in Q2 (along with their publication dates):

  1. The Business Impact Of Customer Experience
    (March 24, 2008). See post: The Holy Grail: A Link Between Customer Experience And Loyalty
  2. How Consumers Research, Buy, And Get Service 
    (March 31, 2008). See post: Dial 1-800 For Customer Service
  3. Customer Relationship Snapshot: Insurers 
    (April 29, 2008).
  4. Three Different Gaming Approaches That Can Enhance Online Experiences 
    (April 30, 2008).
  5. Eight Steps For Keeping Customer Experience Momentum During An Economic Downturn 
    (April 25, 2008). See posts: Keep Customer Experience Momentum In A Recession and Keep Your Good People, Even In A Recession
  6. Obstacles To Customer Experience Success, 2008
    (February 7, 2008). See post: Obstacles To Customer Experience Success
  7. Experience-Based Differentiation 
    (January 2, 2007). See post: Experience-Based Differentiation and the category of posts about Experience-Based Differentiation
  8. Young Gen Yers: Fun-Loving, Social, And Wired
    (January 3, 2008).
  9. What Consumers Want From Financial Institutions
    (June 10, 2008). See post: What Do Consumers Want From Financial Institutions?
  10. The Gen Y Design Guide
    (December 3, 2007). See post: Designing Experiences For Gen Y
  11. RockYou Showcases Gen Y Design Practices 
    (April 17, 2008).
  12. The Strength Of Customer Relationships
    (February 21, 2008).
  13. The Customer Experience Index, 2007
    (November 21, 2007). See post: Forrester’s 2007 Customer Experience Rankings
  14. Customer Experience Thrives With Executive Leadership 
    (April 24, 2008). See posts: Customer Experience Thrives With Executive Leadership and Senior Execs Are Not Fully Customer-Centric
  15. The Experiences That Satisfy Consumers
    (February 11, 2008). See posts about channels: Phone satisfaction, Web satisfaction, and store/branch satisfaction

In case you want to know a bit more about these reports, I’ve also included the Executive Summaries from all of those report:

  1. The Business Impact Of Customer Experience (March 24, 2008). Executives know that customer experience is important, but they can’t always tie it directly to business results. So we examined the correlation between the customer experiences delivered by 112 US firms (as defined by Forrester’s Customer Experience Index) and the loyalty of their customers. Our analysis shows that good customer experience correlates highly to loyalty – especially when it comes to consumers’ plans for making additional purchases. When we examined how this might affect the annual revenue of individual companies, we found that customer experience quality could cause a swing of $242 million for a large bank and $184 million for a large retailer. Customer experience quality was most highly connected to the purchase plans of Fifth Third’s customers and the intentions to switch of Cablevision and Nextel customers.
  2. How Consumers Research, Buy, And Get Service (March 31, 2008). Forrester asked consumers about the channels they use when researching, buying, and getting customer service. In-person interactions, both phone and store, dominated these activities. But consumers were not very satisfied with most interactions. Our research also looked at channel preferences across generations. No surprise: Older consumers prefer to research in a store while younger consumers prefer the Web. It turns out, however, that Gen X showed the most preferences for buying online. Firms should improve all of these interactions by examining the experience from the customer’s viewpoint, using personas, and tapping into Forrester’s self-help evaluation tools.
  3. Customer Relationship Snapshot: Insurers (April 29, 2008). Forrester asked nearly 5,000 US consumers about many aspects of their relationships with insurers. We examined their feedback on overall customer experience; their satisfaction with Web, branch, and phone interactions; and their plans to stay loyal to their current providers. To understand the dynamics of these relationships, we analyzed the data across five generations of consumers: Gen Y, Gen X, Younger Boomers, Older Boomers, and Seniors. For most of the areas we examined, Seniors gave insurers the highest marks and Gen Yers gave insurers the lowest marks. The gap is particularly significant when it comes to the likelihood of switching providers.
  4. Three Different Gaming Approaches That Can Enhance Online Experiences (April 30, 2008). We examined three types of online gaming experiences: a branded microsite called Get the Glass, the online gaming community Club Penguin, and a social network with gaming elements called I’m in like with you. Customer experience professionals looking to build more desirable online experiences should explore ways of integrating one or more of these gaming approaches into their online efforts.
  5. Eight Steps For Keeping Customer Experience Momentum During An Economic Downturn (April 25, 2008). Forrester asked its Customer Experience Peer Research Panel about the state of the economy. While most of the companies have lowered their financial outlooks, only a few felt that customer experience would become less important. However, if they do need to cut costs, companies ranked design agency services and focus groups high on the list of customer experience activities that might get trimmed back. In this environment, customer experience execs need to prepare for tightened budgets, intensified focus on costs, and customer dissatisfaction. To deal with this situation, Forrester recommends that these execs follow eight steps that include keeping an eye on the customer, prioritizing key moments of truth, and focusing on small-scale cultural changes.
  6. Obstacles To Customer Experience Success, 2008 (February 7, 2008). In a survey of 287 customer experience decision-makers from large US firms, 91% said that customer experience would be either very important or critical to their 2008 efforts – a significant jump over results in a similar survey last year. We also found that customer experience is equally important across larger and smaller firms. While customer experience is increasing in importance, less than half of the respondents have a senior executive in charge of customer experience across products and channels and a single set of customer feedback scores that are used across the company. The two major obstacles identified by these firms are the lack of a clear strategy and the lack of cooperation across organizations. Given the importance of customer experience in 2008, we recommend that firms infuse the voice of the customer, assign a customer experience executive leader, and chart a course toward Experience-Based Differentiation (EBD).
  7. Experience-Based Differentiation (January 2, 2007). With more access to information, more sensitivity to price, and less sensitivity to advertising, customers are getting harder to win and keep. Organizations try to woo these empowered consumers with mediocre customer experiences – but it won’t work. Firms need to dramatically raise the bar on the customer experience they provide. How? By adopting what Forrester calls Experience-Based Differentiation (EBD). This enterprisewide effort focuses on three principles: obsess about customer needs; reinforce brands with every interaction; and treat customer experience as a competence, not a function. To succeed with EBD, firms must commit to a multi-year journey. That’s why firms need to make this one of their top corporate initiatives. We expect EBD to make fast inroads in financial services, healthcare, and travel industries.
  8. Young Gen Yers: Fun-Loving, Social, And Wired (January 3, 2008). Forrester analyzed consumer survey responses to understand the differences between Younger Generation Y (18- to 22-year-olds) and Older Generation Y (23- to 27-year-olds) consumers. The analysis showed that Younger Gen Yers are more motivated by fun and style and are more connected to technology than older consumers. They also prefer portable devices, use their PCs as media centers, and are Social Computing aficionados. To address these differences, firms should infuse sites with immersive elements taken from video games design, provide content that is fun and stylish, and make interactions easily shareable with peers. Many industries can benefit from distinct efforts to target Young Gen Yers.
  9. What Consumers Want From Financial Institutions (June 10, 2008). We asked nearly 5,000 US consumers what was most important when doing business with five different financial institutions. It turns out that consumers most want nearby locations and good service from banks, good service from credit card providers, good reputations from investment firms, and low prices from both mortgage and educational loan providers. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. We also examined responses across five generations of consumers. Some of our findings: Gen Xers want nearby locations from banks, Seniors want good service from credit card providers, and Older Boomers want good reputations from investment firms. Firms should adjust their marketing mix and experience design to meet the unique needs of each generation.
  10. The Gen Y Design Guide (December 3, 2007). Gen Y consumers are a unique breed. But what exactly makes them different from their elders? Our research unearthed nine attributes of Gen Yers’ social, emotional, and mental makeup that shape their perception of interactions. To reach these young consumers, we’ve identified four design approaches: immediacy, Gen Y literacy, individualism, and social interactivity. To truly engage Gen Y, firms should create a Gen Y advisory board and apply Gen Y design approaches across touchpoints.
  11. RockYou Showcases Gen Y Design Practices (April 17, 2008). With around 2 million daily active users, RockYou’s Super Wall is one of the most popular applications on Facebook. And RockYou.com, which provides slideshow creation tools to young consumers, attracts 20 million unique visitors per month. To better understand the thinking and design approaches that brought on success for this small startup, Forrester spoke with Jia Shen, CTO and co-founder. Our discussion uncovered five key design suggestions for engaging young consumers, such as “target girls first, boys second” and “design for viral messaging and social incentives.” Firms looking to fully engage Gen Y should translate and apply RockYou’s approach to their own efforts.
  12. The Strength Of Customer Relationships (February 21, 2008). How loyal are consumers? We examined this question by asking nearly 5,000 US consumers about their intentions for doing business with 112 firms across these nine industries: banks, credit card providers, health plans, insurance firms, Internet service providers, investment firms, retailers, TV service providers, and wireless carriers. Our analysis reveals that retailers have the most loyal consumers while banks have the least loyal consumers. When looking at how individual companies compared with their industry averages, credit unions came out on top and Sprint/Nextel came out on the bottom.
  13. The Customer Experience Index, 2007 (November 21, 2007). Forrester asked nearly 5,000 consumers about their interactions with a variety of companies, gauging the usefulness, usability, and enjoyability of those experiences. Based on these consumer responses, we calculated the Customer Experience Index for 112 firms in nine different industries. Led by Costco, Borders, and Barnes & Noble, retailers dominated the top of the rankings. But on average, there’s a lot of room for improvement: Only 10% of the firms wound up with “excellent” ratings – and 21% were “poor” or “very poor.” That’s why firms should put customer experience initiatives near the top of their 2008 strategic plans and chart a course toward Experience-Based Differentiation.
  14. Customer Experience Thrives With Executive Leadership (April 24, 2008). In our Q4 2007 Customer Experience Peer Research Panel survey, we found that 45% of the firms had a senior executive in charge of improving customer experience across products and channels. To find out what type of an effect these execs had on their companies’ customer experience efforts, we compared their responses to those of firms without these types of executives. Firms with these leaders view customer experience as more important, have more enterprisewide customer experience efforts, report having fewer obstacles, do more primary customer research, and score better in all three areas of the Experience-Based Differentiation (EBD) self-test.
  15. The Experiences That Satisfy Consumers (February 11, 2008). We asked nearly 5,000 US consumers about their satisfaction with Web, phone, and in-person experiences across nine different industries: banks, credit card providers, health plans, insurance firms, Internet service providers, investment firms, retailers, TV service providers, and wireless carriers. On average, credit card issuers and investment firms had the best Web ratings, investment firms had the best phone ratings, and retailers had the best in-person ratings. When looking at individual companies, USAA stands out on the Web, The Hartford Financial Services Group stands out on the phone, and Citizens Bank stands out in person. Companies looking to improve their experiences in any channel should focus on the three questions of Scenario Design: Who are your users? What are their goals? And how can you help them achieve those goals?

The bottom line: Keep reading and I’ll keep writing!

Written by 

I am a customer experience transformist, helping large organizations improve business results by changing how they deal with customers. As part of this focus, I examine strategy, culture, interaction design, customer service, branding and leadership practices. I am also a fanatical student of business, so this blog provides an outlet for sharing insights from my ongoing educational journey.

Simply put, I am passionate about spotting emerging best practices and helping companies master them. And, as many people know, I love to speak about these topics in almost any forum.

My “title” is Managing Partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience research and consulting firm that helps organizations become more customer-centric. Our goal is simple: accelerate the path to delighting customers.

I am also the co-founder and Emeritus Chair of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org), a non-profit organization dedicated to the success of CX professionals.

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