• June 9, 2022
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Forrester’s Harley Manning Passes Down 5 Universal CX Truths Before Retiring

In his Forrester swan song, Forrester Research vice president and research director Harley Manning revealed the five customer experience truths that he’s amassed during his 24 years with the company, truths that he says have withstood the test of time.

Harley Manning is retiring from Forrester after 24 years with the company 

Manning, who founded Forrester’s CX practice in 1998 and is retiring from the company, delivered the closing keynote at the Forrester CX North America conference today.

These five truths, he said, are as follows:

  1. You need your customers more than they need you. According to Manning, most companies already know this, but don't always act like it. They spam customers with daily email, design phone menus that prevent customers from reaching live agents, incentivize agents to get customers off the phone quickly, and charge nuisance fees, all of which, over time, result in lost customers and business.
  2. Superior customer experiences create superior customer loyalty. For this reason, Manning urged companies to find their most passionate customers, whom he called "devotees," and said they should be the heart of every business. A full 100 percent of these customers, according to Manning, will buy more, stay with the brand, be willing to forgive missteps, and be willing to pay a premium for services. Among non-devotees, only 65 percent will stay with the brand, only 55 percent will buy more, only 42 percent will forgive missteps, and only 11 percent will pay a premium.
  3. Superior customer loyalty positively impacts business results. Devotees, Manning said, are worth far more in revenue per year.
  4. Delivering superior CX requires real business discipline. "Good CX doesn't just happen," Manning said.
  5. Emotion is the key to differentiation. Customers want products and services that meet their needs and are easy and enjoyable, Manning said. "You have to understand what drives customers perceptions and that the emotion it creates drives the entire CX."

Manning also outlined four business imperatives that are crucial to achieving the benefits outlined in the five truths. They are as follows:

  1. Find your devotes and what drives their experiences with quantitative research.
  2. Find the meaning behind the data with qualitative research.
  3. Design to delight by creating, evaluating, and iterating with customers.
  4. Show how CX contributes to revenue and profits by creating the business case.

For this last one, he said, revenue and profitability are what drives the C-suite executives, and they can be proven. "You can do it because it is true," Manning said.

So I guess, there are really six truths!

And, as long as we're doing all this counting, Forrester vice president and principal analyst Brandon Purcell had a list of his own. In the day's opening keynote, Purcell identified three primary CX trends that he said are now front and center:

1. The digitization of the customer experience.

Customers, he said, are digitally fluid, but companies are not equipped to match that behavior. Very few companies are analyzing digital data. With digitally fluid customers, a new form of data, called event data, is emerging, and it requires companies to deploy new analytics to make sense of it and put it into context, according to Purcell. 

2. The democratization of advanced customer analytics.

While companies first looked to no-code/low-code data solutions, they are now looking for a "do-it-for-me" approach, and they expect the companies that provide this service to have full transparency, Purcell said. Companies looking for this kind of service should expect their providers to be able to explain the models they are using and how they make the decisions, he added.

3. Companies need to plan for uncertainty.

If there was one thing the pandemic taught us, it's that uncertainty happens, whether it is because of the randomness of the universe or a lack of knowledge, Purcell said.

To deal with uncertainty, companies can't just rely on data, according to Purcell. They also need to understand the context.

"If you're not analyzing digital data, do it now. If your not taking advantage of the democratization of data, do it now. And know that uncertainty is not going away," he stated.

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