Auto pioneer Henry Ford famously said his customers could choose their car in whatever color they wanted, as long as it was black. A century later, color was offered as a main differentiator behind Apple’s latest iPhone, a device that was arguably on par for innovation with Ford’s Model T in its day.
Innovate the Customer Experience
Today, there’s no argument that discovering what customers really want, then delivering it through fantastic customer experiences, is a hallmark of strong brands. But what builds excellent customer experiences? And who ultimately owns the improvement of customer experience within an organization?
These were some of the primary issues that Forrester Research explored last week with more than 2,000 attendees at its East Coast Customer Experience Forum in New York. Audience members came mostly from corporate marketing departments in search of the tools to track and improve customer experiences within their companies.
Forrester updated the state of customer experience (CX) with the results of its 2014 Customer Experience index (CXi) survey, in which consumers rated major brand companies. Surveyed companies ran the gamut of household names in virtually every major industry. While survey results show progress, it’s still a steep hill to climb for most companies.
Rated on a scale of very poor to excellent, Forrester’s CXi found that seven years ago, 35 percent of major US companies were rated as very poor or poor—only 25 percent rated as delivering good customer experiences and none delivering excellent. But, 2014 results show that the balance has shifted to the other end of the spectrum, with only 11 percent rated poor or very poor, while 48 percent were rated as good or excellent.
Creative Offerings Can Delight Consumers
“The bar went up, and today if you’re just good, you’re not good enough to differentiate yourself from your competitors,” said Forrester Analyst and Conference Chair Harley Manning. In his opening keynote, he detailed that savvy companies at the top of the CXi index have found ways to delight their customers through innovations like the Capital One Café and the Delta Airlines free iPad use program at major airports.
The Capital One Café, for example, provides you with the ability to have casual conversations with financial advisors while enjoying free WiFi and a selection of complimentary gourmet coffees and snacks, all in a coffee house environment. Think Starbucks without the cost while you get your banking done. With Cafés in nine major US cities in one year’s time, Capital One’s brand shot up from poor to good on the Forrester CXi, making it one of the most improved. Delta experienced similar results through its customer experience program, which provides iPads for passengers waiting to board flights, Manning said.
Forrester also unveiled results of another new study at the conference, listing top drivers of customer experience:
- Ensure customers feel valued.
- Resolve customer problems and issues quickly.
- Talk to customers in plain language, without jargon, particularly on websites.
Unfortunately, most companies don’t yet have a good handle on who is in charge of improving customer experiences. According to Forrester’s survey, the largest percentage of responsibility for CX improvements was held by marketing departments, but at only 27 percent of surveyed companies. The other 73 percent of respondents split CX responsibilities between lines of business, customer service, CEOs, COOs, CIOs, and chief customer officers.
Besides building strong brands, positive customer experiences build loyalty through trust; ultimately, those companies that embrace it see solid financial returns, according to Forrester. Manning reported that the six-year stock performance of those firms with the highest CXi scores this year outperformed the lowest performers by three times.