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Forrester Customer Experience Forum: 'Good Is No Longer Good Enough'

experience–focused program, encouraging employees to join through a recruitment campaign that asked "Is there a little Deere in you?"

The next steps are "more challenging," Stern said, and involve developing a shared understanding of the intended experience, as well as aligning all employees to the cultural transformation. "Humans are hard-wired to resist change," he said, "which is why you've got to explain the benefits and make the positive outcomes clear." When Safelite Autoglass took on a customer experience transformation, the brand made a "People-Powered Pledge" to its employees and customers, promising to reward and recognize employees who exhibit leadership, focus, care, and talent, Stern explained.

The final step, according to Stern, is to embed customer experience principles into the organization to ensure that the cultural change is long-lasting. "It's a major undertaking," he admitted, "but it can be done."

Bringing Branding and Customer Experience Closer Together

Once a customer-driven employee culture is in place, companies can shift the focus onto consumers. The biggest hurdle to overcome in this regard, analyst Tracy Stokes said, is the disconnect between marketing and customer experience initiatives. Chief marketing officers are driving the divide between the two because they are "too busy chasing future business," Stokes said. More than 63 percent of CMOs prioritize acquisition over retention, which takes away from the focus on existing customers. Customer experience strategies also typically lack a "clear home" and as a result, "responsibilities for customer experience [are] fragmented," she added. Goals and measurement techniques are disconnected, and in order to start moving in the same direction, marketing and customer experience executives need to focus on blurring the line between brand messaging and brand interaction, Stokes urged.

Creating seamless brand and customer experiences calls for a new brand hierarchy that starts with brand strategy on top, customer experience strategy below it, and marketing, sales, and service operations at the bottom, with constant feedback among all three. Implementing the hierarchy starts at the top, and involves aligning messages and experiences around a "simple North Star," Stokes said, praising shoe e-retailer Zappos for building its brand around service. "They don't claim to be the best shoe company in the world, or the best e-retailer, but they promise the best customer service, and that promise is carried out in their brand messaging and in their interactions with customers," she explained.

To be truly successful, companies must also start to view their messaging and the interactions they deliver from the point of view of the customer. One of the main drivers of brand trust among consumers is having a consistent experience at every touchpoint, Forrester research revealed, so to give consumers what they want, companies should aim to blend online and offline experiences. Home furnishings company Crate and Barrel accomplishes this by taking its home design tips beyond the realm of a catalog or a physical store, and giving customers who spend more than $2,000 in a transaction access to a free in-home design consultation, Stokes shared. "Crate and Barrel is a great example of taking a brand message outside of the traditional channels and turning it into a brand experience," she said.

Ultimately, the consensus among analysts was that all customers just want to be valued. Though good customer experience drivers vary across industries, "emotion plays the most important role in most industries," analyst Megan Burns said during her portion of the morning's keynote. "How people feel about a brand is crucial," she added, "and it's up to customer experience manager to make them feel a certain way."


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