Report: The Four Customer Experience Core Competencies (Free)

If you are only going to read only one thing about customer experience, then this report is it. It’s the blueprint for building a customer-centric organization… and it’s free.

We just published a Temkin Group report, The Four CX Core Competencies. This blueprint to building a customer-centric organization is an update to our groundbreaking research that was originally published in 2010 and updated in 2013.

Temkin Group has conducted multiple large-scale studies demonstrating that customer experience (CX) is highly correlated with loyalty across many different industries, in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business environments. When customers have a good experience with a company, they are more likely to repurchase from the company, try its new offerings, and recommend it to others.

While many companies try to improve their CX by making superficial changes, Temkin Group has found that the only path to lasting differentiation and increased loyalty is to build a customer-centric culture. Temkin Group has studied hundreds of companies to uncover the difference between CX leaders and their less successful peers, and has identified four CX competencies that companies must master if they wish to build and sustain CX differentiation:

  1. Purposeful Leadership: Operate consistently with a clear set of values.
  2. Compelling Brand Values: Deliver on your brand promises to customers.
  3. Employee Engagement: Align employees with the goals of the organization.
  4. Customer Connectedness: Infuse customer insight across the organization.

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This whiteboard video describes the Four CX Core Competencies:

Here are the best practices described in the report:

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Customer Obsession Lessons From Amazon.com’s Bezos

Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos recently sent a letter to shareholders sharing his view on how Amazon would avoid what he calls “Day 2,” because…

Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.  

I’ve shared the full letter below, but want to share my thoughts on Bezos’ four themes he shares for avoiding Day 2:

  1. True Customer Obsession: Obviously this theme completely resonates with me. I love the line… “Even when they don’t yet know it, customers want something better, and your desire to delight customers will drive you to invent on their behalf.” My take: Companies need to look for the unchartered white space, and innovate at the intersection between customers’ latent needs and emerging capabilities.
  2. Resist Proxies: Bezos calls out “process” and “surveys” as proxies to watch out for. Process is an issue because it can reinforce compliance and complacency, instead of empowering individuals to drive innovation.  Surveys are an issue, because they can provide employees with a superficial understanding of customers. Deep insights into what people like, love, and dream about aren’t fully answered with percentage points. My take: You need to create deep customer empathy, not just statistically significant charts and metrics. Find ways to include more qualitative research.
  3. Embrace External Trends: Amazon will likely be more adept at grabbing the “tailwinds” of trends than most companies, but it’s critical for all leadership teams to keep an eye on how the world is changing. That’s why we issue our annual listing of CX trends. I was also very intrigued by Bezos’ discussion about easy access to Amazon’s “deep learning frameworks.” An API that taps into Amazon’s rich analytics backbone could be much more exciting than even IBM’s Watson. My take: Every organization should identify a set of key trends and ask the question: “How will these put us out of business or help us to create even more value to customers?”
  4. High-Velocity Decision Making. Bezos discusses three elements of his leadership philosophy. First of all, treat many decisions as reversible, so that you are creating an option — not just putting all your chips on a single approach. Second, is to get comfortable with making decisions without full information. Thirdly, he talks about “disagree and commit” which means that everyone needs to get in line when a decision has been made. Finally, he wants true misalignment to be identified and dealt with immediately. Nothing kills a culture more than lingering, unaddressed issues. My take: It’s smarter to get moving and learn along the way (see my post Modernize Leadership: Learn and Adjust).

The bottom line: Every leadership team should proactively avoid Day 2.

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Report: Humanizing Digital Interactions

We just published a Temkin Group report, Humanizing Digital Interactions.

Emotions play an integral role in how customers make decisions and form judgments. This means that how a customer feels about an interaction with a company has an enormous impact on his or her loyalty to that company. However, companies tend to ignore customer emotions, especially during digital interactions, which is problematic as customers are increasingly interacting with companies online. This report focuses on humanizing digital interactions by replicating the elements of strong human conversations.

Here are some highlights:

  • We developed The Human Conversational Model, which is made up of seven elements – Intent Decoding, Contextual Framing, Empathetic Agility, Supportive Feedback, Basic Manners, Self-Awareness, and Emotional Reflection.
  • We share over 35 examples of best practices from companies that are designing digital experiences across the seven elements of The Human Conversational Model.
  • We demonstrate how you could apply The Human Conversational Model to three types of digital activities: opening a new bank account online, purchasing a pair of shoes through an app, and getting technical support online.

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A gratifying conversation requires two processes:

  • Cooperative Interface. Each participant is required to collaborate with her partner to achieve the shared goal of the conversation – be that casually catching up, gathering information, sharing knowledge, etc. This is the part of the model that a conversational partner sees and responds to, and it consists of five elements: contextual framing, intent decoding, empathetic agility, supportive feedback, and basic manners.
  • Background Mindfulness. This portion of the model is not observable within what would normally be considered the scope of the conservation as it pertains to what happens internally within person. Each participant has a pre-existing notion of who he is as an individual (self-awareness) and throughout the course of the conversation, learns about how he affects other people (emotional reflection). Though not directly observable, “background mindfulness” informs the way in which each participant communicates with his current and future partners.

Here’s an overview of the Human Conversation Model along with best practices we highlight in the report:

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Data Snapshot: Media Use Benchmark, 2017

We just published a Temkin Group data snapshot, Media Use Benchmark, 2017. This is our annual analysis of how much time consumers spend using different media channels (see last year’s data snapshot).

Here’s the data snapshot description:

In January 2017, we surveyed 10,000 U.S. consumers about their media usage patterns and compared the results to similar data we collected in January 2016, January 2015, January 2014, January 2013, and January 2012. Our analysis examines the amount of time consumers spend every day watching television, browsing the Internet (for both work and leisure), reading books (both print and electronic), reading newspapers (both print and electronic), listening to the radio, reading a print magazine, and using a mobile phone. This data snapshot breaks down the results by income level, education level, and, most expansively, by age.

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Here’s a portion of the first figure from the data snapshot that contains 13 data-rich charts. As you can see:

  • Time spent over the last six years with mobile web/apps has increased the most, followed by using the Internet at work and reading a book online.
  • Across all of the media activities we track except for using the Internet at work, consumers spent more time doing them in 2017 than in 2016.
  • Consumers increased their time reading paper books and magazines by 30% over last year, the largest increase of any activities.
  • While consumers increased their reading of newspapers, they also had a jump of 27% in the amount of time they spent reading the news online.

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Report: 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings (U.S.)

1703_temkinexperienceratingsus_coverTemkin Ratings websiteWe published the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings, the seventh annual release of this comprehensive customer experience benchmark. Here’s the executive summary:

2017 is the seventh straight year that we’ve published the Temkin Experience Ratings, a cross-industry, open standard benchmark of customer experience. To generate these Ratings, we asked 10,000 U.S. consumers to rate their recent interactions with 331 companies across 20 industries and then evaluated their experiences across three dimensions: success, effort, and emotion. Here are some highlights from this benchmark:

  • Publix, Chick-fil-A, and H-E-B earned the highest overall ratings, while Health Net, Blue Shield of CA, and Comcast earned the lowest scores.
  • When we compared company ratings with their industry averages, we found that Kaiser Permanente, Georgia Power, Advantage Rent-A-Car, and Regions most outperformed their peers, while Spirit Airlines and Days Inn feel farthest behind their competitors.
  • The Ratings saw its first general decline in 2015 and then dropped considerably in 2016. This year, however, the Ratings significantly increased, with only seven companies’ scores declining. Fujitsu, Volkswagen, Fairfield Inn, Columbia Natural Gas, and Advantage Rent-A-Car improved the most since last year.
  • To improve customer experience, companies need to master four competencies: Purposeful Leadership, Compelling Brand Values, Employee Engagement, and Customer Connectedness.

Industry Changes in the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings

We used the same methodology for the Temkin Experience Ratings this year that we’ve used for all of the prior years. Every year, the companies in the Temkin Experience Ratings shift a bit, but this year we made some more substantive changes. Specifically, we:

  • Combined TV service and Internet service. While we have historically provided separate ratings for TV service providers and Internet service providers, we decided to combine those categories this year. It turns out that many of the companies are in both categories and many consumers purchase those services as a bundle.
  • Added streaming media. Given the rise of services such as NetFlix and Hulu, we added a new category that focuses on the customer experience of those streaming media companies.
  • Expanded some industries. We enlarged a number of categories to increase the number of relevant companies. We changed the appliance category to TV and appliances to include a larger group of consumer electronics providers. We also included some newer companies into existing categories. We updated rental cars to rental cars & transport so that we could include firms like Uber, and we changed hotels to hotels & rooms to include companies like Airbnb.

Download report for FreeFreeDownloadButton You can also download the dataset in Excel for $395

Have questions? See our FAQs about the Temkin Experience Ratings. We also have snapshots on all 20 industries.

Here’s a recording of a webinar where we discuss the 2017 Temkin Experience Ratings:

The Temkin Experience Ratings are based on evaluating three elements of experience:

  1. Success: How well do experiences meet customers’ needs?
  2. Effort: How easy is it for customers to do what they want to do?
  3. Emotion: How do customers feel about the experiences?

Here are the top and bottom companies in the ratings:1703_2017txrtopbottom

***See how your company can reference these results or
display a badge for top 10% and industry leaders***

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Report: Tech Vendors: Product and Relationship Satisfaction, 2017

1701_ds_techproductsandrelationships_coverWe just published a Temkin Group data snapshot, Tech Vendors: Product and Relationship Satisfaction of IT Clients, 2017.

During Q3 of 2016, we surveyed 800 IT decision-makers from companies with at least $250 million in annual revenues, asking them to rate both the products of and their relationships with 62 different tech vendors. HPE outsourcing, Google, and IBM SPSS earned the top overall scores, while Trend Micro, Infosys, and SunGard received the lowest overall scores. To determine their product rating, we evaluated tech vendors across four product/service criteria: features, quality, flexibility, and ease of use. And we calculated their relationship rating using four different criteria: technical support, support of the account team, cost of ownership, and innovation of company. We also looked at how the average product and relationship scores of tech vendors have changed over the previous three years.

This research has a report (.pdf) and a dataset (excel). The dataset has the details of Product/Service and Relationship satisfaction for the 62 tech vendors as well as for several tech vendors with sample sizes too small to be included in the published report.

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Here’s a link to last year’s study.

The research examines eight areas of satisfaction; four that deal with products & services and four that examine relationships. Tech vendors earned the highest average satisfaction level for product features (64%) and the lowest for total cost of ownership (57%).

As you can see in the chart below, the overall product/service & relationship satisfaction ranges from a high of 76% for HPE outsourcing down to a low of 42% for Trend Micro.

1701_techproductrelationshipoverallresults

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Report: Lessons in CX Excellence, 2017

1701_lessonsincxexcellence_coverWe just published a Temkin Group report, Lessons in CX Excellence, 2017. The report provides insights from eight finalists in the Temkin Group’s 2016 CX Excellence Awards. The report, which has 62 pages of content, includes an appendix with the finalists’ nomination forms. This report has rich insights about both B2B and B2C customer experience.

Here’s the executive summary:

This year, we named five organizations the winners of Temkin Group’s 2016 Customer Experience Excellence Award – Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Century Support Services, Crowe Horwath, Oxford Properties, and VCA. This report highlights specific examples of how these companies’ customer experience (CX) efforts have created value for both their customers and for their businesses, describes winners’ best practices across the four customer experience competencies: purposeful leadership, compelling brand values, employee engagement, and customer connectedness. it includes all of the winners’ detailed nomination forms to help you collect examples and ideas to apply to your own CX efforts.

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Here are some highlights from the winners: Read more of this post

State of Voice of the Customer (Infographic)

Voice of the Customer (VoC) programs are a central part of most customer experience efforts. Here’s some interesting data snippets from the recent report, State of VoC Programs, 2016.

For additional info, check out our VoC resource page.

voc-infographic-01

You can download (and print) this infographic in different forms:

Report: The State of CX Metrics, 2016

1612_stateofcxmetrics2016_coverWe published a Temkin Group report, The State of CX Metrics, 2016. This is the sixth year of this study that examines the CX metrics efforts within large companies. Here’s the executive summary:

Temkin Group surveyed 183 companies to learn about how they use customer experience (CX) metrics and then compared their answers with similar studies we’ve conducted every year since 2011. We found that the most commonly used metrics continue to be likelihood-to-recommend and satisfaction, while the most successful metric is transactional interaction satisfaction. Only 10% of companies regularly consider the effect of CX metrics when they make day-to-day decisions. The top two problems companies face are limited visibility of CX metrics and the lack of taking action on metrics. Companies are best at measuring customer service and phone-based experiences and are worst at measuring the experiences of prospects and customers who defect. We also had companies complete Temkin Group’s CX Metrics Program Assessment, which examines four characteristics of a metrics program: consistent (does the company use common CX metrics across the organization?), impactful (do the CX metrics inform important decisions?), integrated (are trade-offs made between CX and financial metrics?), and continuous (do leaders regularly examine the CX metrics?). Only 11% of respondents received at least a “good” overall rating in this assessment, and companies earned the lowest average rating in integrated. Companies with stronger CX metrics programs deliver better customer experience and use more effort and likelihood-to-repurchase metrics.

See the State of CX Metrics studies from 2011, 201220132014, and 2015.

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Here are the results form our CX Metrics Competency & Maturity Assessment (one of 22 graphics in the report):

1612_cxmetricsmaturity

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Want Loyal Customers? Start Talking About Their Emotions!

Did you know that customers who feel adoring after an experience are more than 11 times as likely to buy more from a company than customers who feel angry? And customers who feel appreciative are more than 5 times as likely to trust a company than those who feel agitated?

That’s because how customers feel about an interaction has a significant impact on their loyalty to a company. So let’s talk about emotions.

Despite the importance of customer emotions, they are all too often neglected (or outright ignored) inside of companies. As a result of this negligence, consumers give their providers very low emotion scores in our Temkin Experience Ratings.

It’s time to start talking about emotions. To help spur this dialogue, we introduced a new vocabulary that we call the Five A’s of an Emotional Response.

1612_5asofemotionalresponse

Every time a customer interacts with you, they feel one of these A’s:

  • Angry: Customers feel wronged by the interaction and will look for opportunities to tell other people (a.k.a. vent) about the situation. They will try to stay away from the organization.
  • Agitated: Customers didn’t enjoy the interaction and will think twice about doing business with the organization in the future.
  • Ambivalent: Customers had no significant emotional response and will remain as loyal as they were before the interaction.
  • Appreciative: Customers feel that the organization outperformed their expectations and are more inclined to do business with the organization in the future.
  • Adoring: Customers feel like company fully met their needs and will look for opportunities to tell other people about the situation. They will try to interact more with the organization in the future.

If you’re still wondering why you might want to talk about the Five A’s, here’s some data that will hopefully entice you to increase your emotion vocabulary. We analyzed the loyalty of 10,000 U.S. consumers based on the Five A’s of their emotional response to interactions across 20 industries – more than 100,000 overall interactions in total.

1612_loyaltyoffiveasofemotion

As you can see above, the Five A’s aren’t just a set of words, they’re a strong indication of the loyalty of your customers. Compared with those who feel “angry,” customers who feel “adoring” are more than 11 times as likely to buy more, 17 times as likely to recommend the company, 9 times as likely to try new offerings, 6 times as likely to forgive the company if it makes a mistake, and 10 times as likely to trust the company.

If you are not talking about emotion, then you’re not being purposeful about customer loyalty. Here are some ways that you can start using the Five A’s:

  • Training. If you teach all employees this scale, then your organization will have a common vocabulary for discussing customer reactions. This framework will help trainees gauge how customers would likely respond to situations and discuss what they could do to improve the customer’s ultimate emotional response.
  • Coaching. Supervisors can ask their employees a very simple question after an interaction: “How do you think the customer felt about the call?” This can work for any employee that interacts with customers: phone reps, retail salespeople, cashiers, insurance agents, bank tellers, etc.
  • Designing. When you are creating a new experience (product, process, interaction, etc.), get feedback from customers about how they feel. Internally, you can have discussions like… “Most of the customers were ambivalent, but if we make this change then I think we can make most of them appreciative and even a few of them will be adoring.
  • Tracking customer emotions. Every time employees interact with a customer or make a decision, they can give themselves a score based on what they believe is (or will be) the customers’ most likely emotional response to their action:
    • Angry (-3)
    • Agitated (-1)
    • Ambivalent (0)
    • Appreciative (+1)
    • Adoring (+3)

The total across these interactions and decisions represents a customer delight score. Employees can calculate this score on a regular basis (daily, weekly) and track how well they are doing over time.

Having an emotion vocabulary will hopefully get you to focus more about this critical topic. And if you just start talking about emotion, you will help stimulate employees’ natural empathy. So… start talking about emotion!

The bottom line: Talk about making customers adoring, not angry.

Report: Capturing Insights from Online Customer Communities

1612_communityinsights_coverWe published a Temkin Group report, Capturing Insights from Online Customer Communities. Here’s the executive summary:

Companies across a range of industries use online customer communities to augment their customer support, marketing, and product innovation efforts. However, when used thoughtfully, these online communities can provide value far beyond their original purpose. Because these communities signify an ongoing relationship between the company and participating customers, customer insights teams will find that these forums contain a treasure trove of insights. As a result of these deeper relationships, online communities offer unique advantages to voice of the customer (VoC) programs, including Always-on Feedback, Broad and Diverse Insights, Continuous Dialogue, Peer-to-Peer Dynamics, and Employee-to-Community Interactivity. These unique advantages can help companies adapt to the five Customer Insight Trends that are changing the face of VoC programs: 1) Deep empathy, not stacks of metrics, 2) Continuous insights, not periodic studies, 3) Customer journeys, not isolated interactions, 4) Useful prescriptions, not past descriptions, and 5) Enterprise intelligence, not customer feedback. To help organizations get the most value from their communities, Temkin Group has highlighted best practices for capturing and using insights from customer communities across these five trends. Companies also must plan for the entire community lifecycle to be successful; this includes Determine Strategy, Structure Community, Recruit Members, Grow and Maintain, and Close Down.

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Online customer communities have some unique attributes that make them a valuable component to voice of the customer programs (one of the 12 figures in the report):

1612_attributesofonlinecommmunities

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People Aren’t Perfect, Design Around Their Biases

Every day, people are faced with innumerable choices, and methodically weighing the pros and cons of each one is not only unnecessary, it is also mentally draining. In order to ease this cognitive burden, people have evolved two modes of thinking—intuitive thinking and rational thinking—to help us make decisions more efficiently. 1611_2typesofthinking2Intuitive thinking—also known as System 1 thinking—is fast, effortless, automatic, and takes place in our unconscious, while rational thinking—also known as System 2 thinking—is slow, effortful, logical, and takes place consciously. Intuitive thinking actually helps us reach successful conclusions more quickly and economically than rational thinking.

Intuitive thinking relies heavily on existing mental shortcuts—known as heuristics—and on cognitive biases. Heuristics are simple rules of thumb that our brains have evolved to help us reach satisfactory—though not always optimal—decisions swiftly and efficiently. Sometimes, however, heuristics fail and lead to cognitive biases, which are systematic errors in the way we think. For instance, people:

  • Are more affected by losses than by gains. One of the most important underlying principles of human decision-making is called Prospect Theory, which holds that humans do not make decisions based on a rational evaluation of the final outcome, but rather on an unconscious evaluation of the potential gains and losses of each choice.
  • Prefer simplicity over complexity. Biases and heuristics are all about lightening the cognitive load, so it is no surprise that people tend to choose options that are easier to mentally process, even when a more complicated option is actually better.
  • Are affected by current emotional and visceral states. Like cognitive processes, visceral states and emotions play an essential role in helping people make successful choices, but sometimes they can lead to biases. For example, people are more impulsive when they are hungry, thirsty, sexually aroused, or in other heightened states of emotion.
  • Are heavily influenced by those around them. People are naturally social creatures who automatically imitate the actions and mimic the emotions of those around them.
  • Make decisions based on context. Decisions are not made in a vacuum; rather, they are extremely dependent on context. Context can include the physical environment in which a person makes a decision, the unconscious priming effects a person encounters, how a decision is framed, and what other choices are available for comparison.
  • Misjudge their past and future experiences. Our memory is not like a videotape; it does not record every moment of an experience, placing equal emphasis on each second. Instead, it is like a camera, taking snapshots at certain crucial moments and then retroactively judging the experience based on those snapshots.

For more information on how to incorporate these biases into your efforts, see the report Behavioral Guide to Customer Experience Design.

The bottom line: Embrace human biases, don’t ignore them.

5 Market Research Lessons From Election Polling Miscues

161111_tornmarketresearchIn the NY Times article Pollsters Face Hurdles in Changing Landscape and Aaron Zitner discuss a number of reasons for recent high-profile polling failures, the Brexit vote and the U.S. presidential election.

Why should customer experience (CX) professionals care? Here’s what they say in the article:

The outcome also raises questions about the research businesses rely on to test new products and measure customer behaviors, since many of the same survey methods are used for market research.

The article brings up some good reasons for the poor predictions:

  • People are less likely to answer surveys, so it’s harder to get representative samples.
  • It’s more difficult and expensive to reach people via cell phones than it was by landline.
  • Decision factors are changing. For instance, education level was a more important decision driver in this election than it was in 2012.
  • The people who choose to respond to polls don’t fully represent the population.

My take: I’ve been talking about the need to shake-up market research for many years. As a matter of fact, my 2011 post Market Research Needs An Overhaul remains relevant today. All of the issues with recent polling projections are similar to what many companies face when trying to understand their customers. Here are five thoughts on how to prepare your market research efforts for the new realities:

  1. Embrace outliers. The traditional approach for dealing with data points that don’t fit a model is to ignore them or discount them as being “outliers.” But these counter-trend pieces of data can be much more than that. They may be a window into an emerging trend or a small signal about a set of customers that your current research is missing. When you see an outlying datapoint, don’t ignore it anymore. Think about what it might be telling you, and what insights you may missing.
  2. Always ask “who are we missing?” All research processes, including surveys, are biased in many different ways (see my Latest 9 Recommendations for NPS). You can minimize and address some of the biases, but there’s always the risk that you just don’t see some of them. One of the things you can do is to proactively look for the biases. Always seek to define the populations of people that you are missing or under-representing in your research, whether it’s caused by a demographic or attitudinal blind spot. If you can’t find them, then you haven’t looked hard enough.
  3. Listen, don’t just calculate. A lot of my insights about the election came from listening to what people were saying, not from crunching datasets. As the environment around your company changes, you need to spend a lot more time with qualitative, unstructured content. Why? Because structured data collection reflects historical assumptions, and may very well be missing the key variables required to fully understand changing customer attitudes and behaviors.
  4. Over-emphasize recency. If you’re building a predictive model, make sure that it is very sensitive to recent data. If you’re mapping out a long-term trend or trying to fit the data to a historical model, it may take a while for you to identify a substantive change in the environment. Even if you don’t change your core model, look at what it says if you significantly over-weight recent data points.
  5. Modernize your leadership. The way that organizations can and should use data is one of the shifts that is making traditional management techniques obsolete. That’s why you should adopt what I call Modernize Leadership: Shifting 8 Outdated Management Practices. This requires making a shift to Engage & Empower, Learn & Adjust, Detect & Disseminate, Observe & Improve, Purpose & Values, Strengths & Appreciation, Culture & Behaviors, and Experience & Emotions.

The bottom line: It’s hard to project from the past when the future is changing.

The Rise of Mobile CX (Infographic)

I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that mobile customer experience is on the rise, but this infographic provides some more insights on what that shift looks like. It pulls from a variety of Temkin Group research, including: Data Snapshot: Channel Preferences Benchmark, 2016, Five C’s of Mobile VoC Disruption, Data Snapshot: Media Use Benchmark, 2016, and The State of CX Metrics, 2015.

You can download this infographic in different forms below, including in poster form.
the-rise-of-mobile-cx

You can download (and print) this infographic in different forms:

The bottom line: Make sure you have plans to be mobile first.

Design Lesson From… MA Department of Transportation

As you read the title of this post, you were likely thinking that there’s been a typo. Departments of Transportation (DoT) around the country have been called a lot of names, but good designers isn’t a common label. In this one case, though, I want to give a shout out for a part of the MA DoT’s roll out of MA’s new toll-less EZPass system.

1611_tollboothsbyeIn the past, if you did not have an E-ZPass transponder, you could go to a separate lane on the Mass Pike and pay a toll operator. The new system will completely eliminate the need for toll operators. If a car doesn’t have a transponder, then the system will take a picture of the license plate and charge the car owner with the toll fee plus a penalty for not using a transponder. So over time, the goal is for everyone to use a transponder.

Here’s where the design part comes in. The MA DoT is having a grace period of six months during which people who get a penalty for not using a transponder can get those fees eliminated if they get a transponder. Here’s why I think that it’s good design:

  • No matter how much the DoT tries to communicate the upcoming changes, a very large number of people won’t really understand (or care about) what’s going on.
  • The point at which many, many people will understand (and care about) the changes is when it truly affects them… when they receive their first bill with penalties for not using a transponder.
  • By providing a way to eliminate the penalties, the DoT will motivate a large number of people to get transponders — instead of just being upset with the DoT.

The key lesson here is that you need to design interactions based on how people really behave, not on how you’d like them to behave. While it would be great for everyone to understand and care about the E-ZPass changes prior to them going into effect, that would not be realistic. Most people do not pay attention to situations until they are directly affected by them. In this case, that moment is likely on the arrival of their first bill. So it is critical to design an experience around that moment which drives the behavior that the MA DoT is looking for — getting an E-ZPass Transponder.

In order for this part of the program to really work well, it is critical that those initial bills be designed to clearly communicate the option to eliminate the fees, and provide a simple path to do so. If not, then forget everything that I’ve said about good design; it will be a poor experience.

The difference between success and failure at this point comes down to what I’ve called the Design of Little Things (DoLT). All too often, people get the big things right, but fail to obsess about the DoLT that will make or break the experience.

I will be going through some toll booths without a transponder so that I can see what the experience looks like. If I find something interesting, then you might see a follow-up post.

The bottom line: Design for how people really behave, and obsess about little things.

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