Thankful For A Decade Of Great Experiences

Happy New Year!

Wow, it’s 2020… the start to a new decade. I’m really looking forward to what’s ahead. My previous post discusses how 2020 will be the Year Of Insightful Actions, but I also wanted to zoom out and share a broader perspective.

Appreciating The Past 10 Years

Before focusing on the 2020s, I’d like to pause and express my gratitude for the 2010s. It was a great decade! I’m very thankful for all of the wonderful friends, family, colleagues, and clients that I’ve been privileged to spend time with during the previous 10 years.

It’s been a fantastic decade from a personal standpoint. My kids graduated college and have started their paths towards highly productive careers. My Boston sports teams won many championships, and I was able to attend three Super Bowls. I adopted a healthier lifestyle, with better eating habits and more exercise. I expanded my worldview, traveling to many new countries.

I would never have had such an amazing decade if it weren’t for YOU. If you’re reading this post, then thank you! You’re one of the people who has motivated my work. I’ve always felt that my team’s primary audience are the many people who follow what we write, whether or not we’ve ever had the opportunity to meet or work with you.

And most of all, I’m thankful that I’ve been able to go on my personal and professional journey with my best friend, my wife Karen.

A Decade of Professional Changes

It’s also been a fantastic decade from a professional standpoint, full of interesting shifts and turns. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Forrester Research. I began the 2010’s as a VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, introducing the world to the practice of customer experience. It was a great opportunity, as I built a wide range of new skills over my 12-year stint. In particular, I learned to be a strong researcher, writer, and storyteller, which enabled me to be the most-read analyst for my final 13 quarters at Forrester. This experience also provided me with the platform to establish a large community of people who followed my work.
    • Special thanks to the the many people across Forrester who helped me hone my skills, especially Bill Bluestein (R.I.P.), Bobby Cameron, Chris Charron, George Colony, Waverly Deutsch, Stan Dolberg, Bill Doyle, Harley Manning, John McCarthy, Chris Mines, Mary Modahl, and Ted Schadler.
  • Temkin Group. In April 2010, Karen and I founded Temkin Group. I still remember a meeting with my friends Ingrid Lindberg and Steve LaValle who convinced me not to name the company “CX Institute” (which is where we were heading), but instead to name it “Temkin Group.” It was a great decision. Over the next eight years, we built a fantastic team and worked with an amazing array of clients—all from our basement. Our little company built a large global brand, as our research and content was used by practitioners around the world. We never had to make any sales calls, as we were very lucky to build our business based on our reputation and word of mouth.
    • Special thanks to the Temkin Group employees who joined us on this journey. It started with Andrea Fineman who was brave enough to be the first to join us in the basement, followed by Aimee Lucas, Isabelle Zdatny, Denise Bahil, Julia Jaffe, Jen Rodstrom, Laura Wells, and Maggie Mead. Also, thanks to Mike Flint and the team at Metropolis Creative who built our websites.
  • CXPA. During the Summer of 2010, Karen and I started developing a plan to build a community of CX professionals, along with Andy Freed from Virtual (an association management company). We recruited Jeanne Bliss to co-found what became the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA). And in April 2011 we launched the CXPA. We hired the amazing Lesley Lykins in early 2012 as the CXPA’s Director of Member Engagement, and she became the heart and soul of the community. I had the immense pleasure to chair the CXPA and to shepherd its growth into a thriving 4,000+ member non-profit association. Over those five years we established the CX profession and created many industry-defining things such as CX Day and the first professional CX certification, CCXP.
    • Special thanks to Karen, Andy, Jeanne, Lesley, and the entire staff at Virtual (especially Janice Carroll, Shannon Taylor, and Megan Cannon who managed the relationship). I also want to thank the initial CXPA board members who trusted our vision and helped bring it to life: Brian Andrews, Parrish Arturi, Lior Arussy, James Bampos, Jeanne Bliss, Erica Bullard, Ginger Conlon, Chris Davey, Kim Edmunds, Karyn Furstman, Ian Golding, Dorsey McGlone, Jason Mittelstaedt, and Karl Sharicz.
  • Qualtrics. In October 2018, Qualtrics acquired Temkin Group. While we were happy to keep going as-is with Temkin Group, Karen and I saw that Qualtrics was becoming the dominant market leader and we felt that its XM message aligned directly with our point of view. Joining forces provided us with the opportunity to amplify our impact on the market. So our entire Temkin Group team joined Qualtrics to create the XM Institute. Over the last year we’ve had the opportunity to work with a great team across Qualtrics and deliver new thought leadership around the world (including in-person sessions in Toronto, London, Dubai, Dublin, Madrid, Brussels, Stockholm, Helsinki, Singapore, Sydney, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Paris, Berlin, and Munich).
    • Special thanks to the Qualtrics team that helped complete the acquisition at a very fast pace, especially Austin Bankhead, Cate Isert, Iris Ng, Zig Serafin, Jeff Shaw, Ryan Smith, Tucker Stockman, and John Torrey. And I’m also thankful for the entire XM Institute team, Moira Dorsey, Ben Granger, Aimee Lucas, Maggie Mead, David Segall, Karen Temkin, Laura Wells, and Isabelle Zdatny.
  • SAP. Three weeks after Qualtrics acquired Temkin Group, SAP acquired Qualtrics. Talk about a crazy month. Luckily, I’ve known SAP since my days at Forrester, and Temkin Group had worked with many large enterprise software companies. So we know that world. While it’s been somewhat dizzying to try and respond to requests from across our 100,000 new teammates, SAP provides the XM Institute with an even larger platform to bring XM to the world. Thanks SAP.

I feel great about all of my professional accomplishments over the past decade except for one gap… a book. I started to write one in 2011, but had to put it aside as the CXPA ended up taking up just about all of my time. While I’ve been too busy to get back to it, I’m committed to writing a book at some point during this current decade.

Comparing Three Exciting Decades

I’m even more excited today about the future then I was a decade ago. Over the past 10-years we’ve established the foundation upon which organizations will transform into the future. Here’s how I see the connection between this new decade and the previous two:

  • 2000s: The Decade of Process And Technology. While the phrase “people, process, and technology” has been around for decades, the 2000s were all about enterprise technology and process management (no real focus on people). It was a very internally-focused period. Laws such as Sarbanes–Oxley put pressure on organizations to establish enterprise wide control and visibility. This propelled the importance of CIOs, as they led programs to centralize and rearchitect the core infrastructure within most large organizations. The dominant form of transformation, business process re-engineering, was also very internally and cost focused. At the same time, the Internet started to penetrate technology and process boundaries, with companies enabling customers to start self-serving for simple purchases and a handful of basic service interactions.
  • 2010s: The Decade of Customers And Digital. With customers starting to directly touch enterprise technologies/processes and fueled by momentum from the end of the “Great Recession,” organizations not only acknowledged the value of customers in the 2010s, but they also started to focus much more attention on understanding and catering to their needs (thanks in part to the mainstreaming of academic domains such as neuroscience and behavioral economics). We defined and established customer experience management as both a critical capability and as a thriving profession. Disruptive online businesses such as Amazon, Uber, and Airbnb forced organizations to rethink how they interact with customers. At the same time, the rapid growth of mobile along with Cloud/SaaS models made every interaction—internal and external—fair game for digitizing. This customer/digital movement led to the rise of experience design, mobile-enabled processes, and the shift in customer research from a one-off activity to a more continuous process. At the end of the decade, the CX movement started spreading to other areas, most noticeably employees (which started the rise of XM).
  • 2020s: The Decade of Humanity And Intelligence. During the upcoming decade, we’ll build upon what we’ve learned from customer experience and apply it to every part of an organization. Driven by the momentum from the 2010s along with an emerging view among leading executives that the purpose of a corporation is to serve humanity, we’ll focus more on the needs and feelings of all human beings in our ecosystems (e.g., suppliers, employees, customers, influencers, etc.). Organizations will deploy more advanced and automated analytics on top of their growing digital/mobile infrastructures. This will make it much, much easier to discover and distribute tailored insights from increasingly larger and more diverse datasets. In this environment, organizations will infuse Experience Management—the capability to continuously learn, propagate insights, and rapidly adapt—throughout their entire operating rhythm. Using the distributed insights, enterprises will provide more individualized interactions and actively decentralize more decision-making.

I’m excited about where all of this is heading, and believe that the XM Institute is well positioned to keep helping organizations navigate through the change.

A Look Back At 2010 CX Recommendations

I thought it would be fun to close out this post by sharing content from a 10-year-old post that I wrote to prepare people for the start of the previous decade. It’s pretty cool that the recommendations are still relevant today. So here were my 7 keys to customer experience in 2010:

  • 1) Drop the executive commitment facade. It’s very easy for executives to say “customer experience is important.” But it’s much more difficult for them to dedicate the time and energy required to make it a real priority. So in 2010, executives should either get actively involved in customer experience transformation or drop it from their agendas.
    • Start here: Develop a customer experience dashboard and manage the results with the same energy that you manage financial results.
  • 2) Acknowledge that you don’t know your customers. When market research teams require long lead times and expensive projects to answer questions about customers, too many organizations go without this insight. But the path to customer experience success requires significantly deeper customer insight. So in 2010, companies need to develop voice of the customer programs that provide ongoing and continuous access to customer insights.
    • Start here: Create a voice of the customer program with a cross-functional team that focuses on four “LIRM” components: listening to customers, interpreting the feedback, reacting to the insights, and monitoring results from actions over time.
  • 3) Keep from getting too distracted by social media. Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites may seem sexy, but they aren’t the only channels for customer feedback. Other channels like comments on surveys and calls into the call center can often provide even richer insight. So in 2010, companies need to learn from social media feedback, but not overreact to it.
    • Start here: Treat social media as one of many listening posts in a comprehensive voice of the customer program that examines both structured and unstructured feedback.
  • 4) Stop squeezing the life out of customer service. My research shows that consumers care more about good customer service than they do low prices. It also turns out that many customer service interactions are critical “moments of truth” that drive customer loyalty. But companies often treat customer service an unwanted stepchild; focusing almost exclusively on aggressive cost-cutting. So in 2010, companies need to start viewing customer service as a strategic asset.
    • Start here: Measure customer service organizations based on how effectively they help customers instead of efficiency metrics like average handle times.
  • 5) Restore the purpose in your brand. True brands are more than just color palettes, logos, and marketing slogans, they’re the fabric that aligns all employees with customers in the pursuit of a common cause. They represent a firm’s raison d’être. Unfortunately, many companies have lost this sense of purpose in their brands. So in 2010, companies need to redefine their brand and embed it in the hearts and minds of all employees.
    • Start here: Translate your brand into promises you will make (and keep) with customers across every key touch point.
  • 6) Don’t expect employees to get on board. Employees are often the most critical element of any customer experience effort. But firms can’t just hope that everyone will participate in these change initiatives. So in 2010, companies need to actively focus on engaging employees at every level across the organization in their customer experience efforts.
    • Start here: Communicate (a lot) about “why” customer experience is important and allow employees to participate in defining “how” to make improvements.
  • 7) Translate customer experience into business terms. My research uncovered a strong correlation between customer experience and loyalty. An average $10 billion company can generate $284 million of additional revenues from customer experience improvements. But most companies don’t fully understand the link between customer experience and business results. So in 2010, companies need to identify how customer experience impacts their financial results.
    • Start here: Engage the CFO to develop a model which shows the impact that customer experience has on customer loyalty.

The bottom line: The 2010s were fantastic, but the 2020s will be even better!

Written by 

I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about leading-edge XM topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

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