Customer Experience Needs to 'Mature'

NEW YORK—Companies aren't doing what it takes to achieve their customer experience goals and satisfy today's connected, empowered, and distracted customers. That was the consensus at today's Forrester Customer Experience Forum.

In her keynote address, Forrester principal analyst Megan Burns revealed that in a recent survey, 60 percent of customer experience professionals said their executives want to differentiate their firms on customer experience, but only half of these companies were actually taking steps to reach this goal. The reason for the discrepancy, Burns explained, is that companies often rush to improve their customer experience strategies with overly ambitious goals but no systematic approach.

According to Burns, "Only fifty-three percent measure customer experience quality on a consistent basis, leaving almost half with no way to tell if they're succeeding or failing. Fewer than a third track everything the firm is doing to improve experience quality, putting two-thirds at risk of wasting money by duplicating efforts—while creating inconsistency. And only fifteen percent consistently follow a design process. That means that eighty-five percent of firms have no systematic approach to determine what a differentiated customer experience even looks like, let alone create one."

To improve customer experience in meaningful, measurable ways and achieve what Burns refers to as "customer experience maturity," companies must pass through four phases. First, firms have to repair the experiences that customers find frustrating. "By identifying problematic customer experiences, prioritizing fixes, coordinating implementation of improvements, and measuring results, customer experience leaders can begin to change the way their businesses operate," Burns said.

After determining and correcting the issues, companies should focus on elevating service and "preventing backsliding by adopting practices that make good behavior the norm," Burns urges. To ensure that this takes place, Burns recommends that firms share customer insights programmatically, measure customer experience quality more thoughtfully and consistently, integrate customer experience into core business practices, and reward customer-centric behaviors across the enterprise.

By the time they reach phase three, most firms have already repaired their customer experience to a satisfactory level, but to achieve true CX maturity, companies have to optimize their approaches. "To develop a more sophisticated CX toolkit, customer experience leaders need to model the relationship between CX and business results, build strong experience design practices, and sharpen employees' CX-related skills," Burns asserts.

Finally, in the last phase, companies seeking to truly differentiate themselves in the marketplace need to shift their focus back onto the customer and reveal unmet customer needs, reframe customer problems, and rethink the entire customer experience ecosystem, particularly because the needs of today's customers are constantly changing.

"Today's customers are more difficult to pin down than ever. With all of the devices and content available to them, customers have more options, more control, and more distractions than ever," Ron Rogowski, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester agreed.

According to Rogowski, the complex modern device ecosystem and customers' reliance on it have created a digital-first environment in which customer behavior tends to be complex, irrational, and non-linear, since interactions with one task are often being mixed with social media or other channels.

Furthermore, as customers become more connected than ever, the marketing funnel is being replaced by customer journeys. "Instead of trying to push customers through a controlled progression of steps, firms must now adapt by mirroring their customers' paths and figure out how to best deliver value along the way," Rogowski said.

Rogowski also explained that customers no longer work with a single channel, meaning that companies should no longer organize experiences by touch point. Instead, he explained, they need to take a unified approach to delivering services that cater to their customers' multi–touchpoint, multifaceted needs.

"The rise of smartphones and tablets is just the beginning of a shift in the way people interact with companies," he said. "With consumers more distracted than ever, they'll expect companies to bring value to them, rather than making them feel their way to a destination. Companies will have to make use of aggregate and individual customer data to bring this value to their customers."

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