When Roles Collide -- Update from Forrester Customer Experience Forum

I am here at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square in New York to attend the Forrester Customer Experience Forum.  Forrester analyst Harley Manning kicked off the event announcing that it continues to grow, with 1,200 attendees exploring what it means to become a customer centric organization.

According to Harley, being customer centric means “how do you make sure your customer has a desirable and consistent experience?” He showed a number of video interviews in Harvard Square asking people for their good and bad customer experiences (no lack of strong opinions in Harvard Square).

Harley was followed by Paul Hagen, another Forrester analyst, whose keynote picked up on that theme by suggesting that organizations need a customer experience strategy, just like a conductor needs a score. You need a strategy because of the complexity of delivering a consistent multi-channel experience. Certainly makes sense.

He then delighted us with cool examples of new service products, such as Recon’s ski goggles with the embedded Android OS in the display, and how Macy’s is using the Microsoft Kinect interface as a virtual mirror to help people try on clothes.

Paul then told us that a customer experience strategy needs three things. It needs to describe the intended experience (Costco scores higher than Apple retail stores because it meets their intended needs). It has to direct the key activities and resources. Third, it needs to meet or exceed customer expectations. Of course, he goes on, you can’t do any of this if you don’t know your organization’s key value proposition. Are you a cost leader? Are you a differentiator? Or do you target a specific niche or segment? He contrasts the W Hotel and the Omena Hotel (no frills city hotels mostly in Finland). Both examples align with a certain set of expectations.  They clearly have different experiences to support their brand promises.

All good, but I come away thinking of Pelonius’ advice to Laertes, “This above all: to thine own self be true…” (Hamlet Act 1, scene 3, 78–82).   

My question keys on Paul’s second point, directing key activities and resources. How does the customer experience champion direct the process transformation required to drive key service fulfillment and delivery resources? Without a doubt, having a positive online experience is important. But how do you effectively execute your customer experience strategic goals across the front line customer service representatives? And second lingering question is: aren’t “customer experience” professionals actually “business process” professionals (and vice versa?). For some reason, Forrester has two roles, a business process professional role and a customer experience role. Separated at birth in my opinion. They are both working toward a common goal and should not have segregated and siloed Forrester events (tear down that wall!). A “transformed business process” cannot really be complete if it is an internal process only; it needs to not just extend out to the customer but indeed begin from the customer’s preferences, expectations and needs.

Forrester then brought Wayne Peacock, EVP Member Experience USAA to the stage. USAA has top scores for its customer experience that it provides to its 8 million members (23,000 employees, 19B net worth). USAA is of course in service to members of the American Military and their families, with core values of service, loyalty, honesty, and integrity and a conveniently unique member ID across their different lines of business.

Wayne described it best when he said that the goal is to become a “relationship-driven company” evolving up the X axis of member value and out across the Y axis of breadth of offering.

The first stage in the journey is product-centric (inside-out) approach and is push oriented. At this stage, we are stuck in the lower left with low member satisfaction and low personalization.

The second stage, where we are today, is “pull preference / conversational”, allowing the customer to make interactive requests which are answered as part of a conversation.

But a conversation is not yet a relationship. The third stage is “anticipate needs/relationship based” which scores the highest member value with the most personalized and customized offerings and products. Upper right hand corner.

This absolutely rings true as a great definition of what an outside-in customer-centric organization should aim for: predictive intelligence guiding situation appropriate, context sensitive interactions that are single points in a lifelong relationship. Sounds good to me!