The beginning of October marks the end of Q3 2008. Before I fully look ahead to Q4, 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.
My research continues to appear to be on the right track (see my analysis from last quarter: What Research Was Hot In Q2 2008?). Once again, my reports had the highest level of readership across all Forrester analysts; more than 20% higher than the second analyst on the list.
To get a better sense of what’s hot, I compiled the following list of my 10 research reports that have had the most readership by Forrester clients in Q3 (along with their publication dates):
- A Closer Look At Customer Experience And Loyalty
(August 4, 2008). Research looks at the correlation between customer experience and loyalty for 112 US firms.
- Banks’ Cross-Channel Experience, 2008
(July 18, 2008). See post: Bank Experiences Break Down Across Channels.
- The Customer Experience Journey
(September 17, 2008). See the post:The Customer Experience Journey.
- What Consumers Want From Insurers
(July 1, 2008). See the post: What Consumers Want From Insurers.
- Experience-Based Differentiation
(January 2, 2007). See post: Experience-Based Differentiation and the category of posts about Experience-Based Differentiation
- Obstacles To Customer Experience Success, 2008
(February 7, 2008). See post: Obstacles To Customer Experience Success
- The Business Impact Of Customer Experience
(March 24, 2008). See post: The Holy Grail: A Link Between Customer Experience And Loyalty
- Facebook And MySpace Redesign Sites, But Usability Remains Flawed
(September 8, 2008). Evaluated the sites using a portion of Forrester’s Web Site Review methodology.
- The Chief Customer/Experience Officer Playbook
(October 3, 2008). See post: Lessons Learned From Chief Customer Officers.
- The Gen Y Design Guide
(December 3, 2007). See post: Designing Experiences For Gen Y
I am particularly excited about The Customer Experience Journey; this new report is already generating a lot of interest. It describes 5 stages of maturity on the way to Experience-Based Differentiation, a concept that I introduced in early 2007. These two research reports are “must-reads” for any executive that is involved in, or cares about, customer experience.
Looking Ahead To My Q4 Research
I’ve got a couple of really exciting research efforts underway for Q4. The working title for the first report I’m working on is Best Practices For Building A Voice Of The Customer Program. I’m reaching out to many vendors in the space and asking them to identify the best practices across their clients. I will combine this insight with what I found during my extensive research for the Customer Experience Journey.
The second research effort is around The Customer Experience Index, 2008. Our survey for the second annual installment of this index is currently going into the field. I’m looking forward to publishing this report in Q4, which will rank the customer experience of firms across 12 industries (I added hotels, airlines, and computer manufacturers to last year’s list of 9 industries). This survey also generates an enormous amount of additional analysis and reports, so I am excited to get my hands on the data.
The bottom line: Keep reading and I’ll keep writing!
P.S. In case you want to know a bit more about the top 10 reports, I’ve included their Executive Summaries…
- A Closer Look At Customer Experience And Loyalty (August 4, 2008) Forrester’s previous analysis of nine industries showed that good customer experience correlates highly to loyalty – especially when it comes to consumers’ plans for making additional purchases. For this report, we took a look at how the correlation between customer experience and loyalty differed between the 112 firms in that analysis and each of their respective industries’ averages. It turns out that 20 firms, including Cablevision and Farmers Insurance, have an above average correlation for both measures of loyalty that we examined. Forty-five firms, including Vanguard and the Gap, fell below their industry averages for correlation with both loyalty measures. There’s nothing inherently good or bad about having a high level of correlation between customer experience and loyalty. The differences are driven by a combination of industry-specific and company-specific factors. But firms with a higher degree of correlation have potentially more to gain by improving their customer experience.
- Banks’ Cross-Channel Experience, 2008 (July 18, 2008). As part of a larger analysis of 16 firms, Forrester evaluated the cross-channel experiences of four large US banks – Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase, Wachovia, and Wells Fargo. As an industry, the banks scored slightly above average compared with other industries, but they still delivered poor experiences – with JPMorgan Chase falling well below the other three banks. While each bank suffered from a variety of problems, our analysis also uncovered a number of good practices, such as Bank of America’s helpful phone agents, Wachovia’s streamlined online banking setup, and Wells Fargo’s clear transition paths across channels. To improve multichannel experiences, customer experience execs at banks should conduct regular reviews of their own channels, focus on the specific needs of target users, and establish a voice of the customer program.
- The Customer Experience Journey (September 17, 2008). Why is customer experience such a hot topic? Because it’s important, complex, and broken. That’s why firms should head toward Experience-Based Differentiation (EBD), a blueprint for customer experience excellence. But EBD can’t be mastered overnight. Instead, companies must embark on a multiyear journey through five levels of EBD maturity: 1) interested; 2) invested; 3) committed; 4) engaged; and 5) embedded. Along the way, firms need to develop customer-centric DNA, a corporate culture with six components that include collective celebrations, commitment to employees, and consistent tradeoffs. To succeed in the transformation, firms must prepare for a multiyear journey and include their HR groups in the effort.
- What Consumers Want From Insurers (July 1, 2008). We asked nearly 5,000 US consumers what was most important when doing business with life insurers, auto and home insurers, and health insurers. It turns out that consumers most want a good reputation from life insurers, low prices from auto and home insurers, and product/service quality from health insurers. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. We also examined responses across five generations of consumers. Some of our findings: Gen Xers want low prices from life insurers, Younger Boomers care most about product/service quality from auto and home insurers, and Seniors want good service from health insurers. Insurers should adjust their marketing mix and experience design to meet the unique needs of each generation.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Facebook And MySpace Redesign Sites, But Usability Remains Flawed (September 8, 2008). Facebook and MySpace recently redesigned their sites, but Forrester’s Web Site Review methodology still uncovered major usability flaws on both. Of the 10 criteria we examined, Facebook passed four and MySpace passed only three. The sites shared some common problems like inefficient task flows, illegible text, and scarce security policies. But the experiences weren’t all bad. Facebook gave key content prominence on its home page and helped users find new contacts. MySpace provided a flexible way to search its site. Customer experience professionals at these and other sites should get the most out of their site redesigns by evaluating their experiences, attacking problems with known solutions, and designing for the unique needs of younger users.
- The Chief Customer Officer Playbook (October 3, 2008). As many firms take on corporatewide efforts to improve customer experience, more of them are establishing positions like chief customer officer or SVP of customer experience – that we collectively call the chief customer/experience officer (CC/EO). To understand what it takes to be a successful CC/EO, we interviewed executives from a variety of firms that currently have those positions. Their insights fell into five categories: 1) Make sure that you’ve got the right environment; 2) prepare to take on a broad change agenda; 3) establish a strong operating structure; 4) kick off high-priority activities; and 5) look ahead to the future. As these executives start to change the culture in their firms, they are initiating what we call the silent customer experience wars
- 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.