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Online Interview with Bruce Temkin of Forrester Research (topic: Customer Experience)

INTERVIEW NO. 4 in INTERVIEWS WITH TOP BLOGGERS series.

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Really pleased to be able to do a Q&A with Bruce Temkin. Bruce (with brief bio./details below) is a widely acclaimed expert on customer experience. He is Vice President & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research and the author of the very popular blog Customer Experience Matters.

What this interview is about:

- This interview is all about Customer Experience [Management] : introduction / overview, as well as, customer experience and the economic downturn, social media, digital strategy, technology, word-of-mouth, and favourite customer experience examples.

NewsDrillDigital: What is ‘customer experience’ compared to ‘customer service?’

BRUCE: Customer experience is the perception that customers have based on all of their interactions with a company, including everything from marketing messages to service interactions. Customer service is a specific type of interaction; helping customers when they have a problem. One of the keys to success for customer experience management is to focus on the “moments of truth” which are interactions that have a disproportionate impact on the overall perception of customers; and are therefore most likely to impact customer loyalty. It turns out that customer service interactions are often some of the most important “moments of truth.”

NewsDrillDigital: Should customer experience [management] change in any important ways during an economic downturn?

BRUCE: Customer experience turns out to be even more important in a recession. Why? First of all, our data shows that customer experience became even more correlated with loyalty between Q3 2007 and Q4 2008. So as the economy fell into a recession and consumers had less money to spend, they began to care even more about how companies were treating them. In a recession where new customers are hard to come by, it’s critical to maintain customer loyalty. The other reason that customer experience is important in a recession is that companies are forced to cut back their spending in this environment. While most companies make “across-the-board budget cuts, firms that focus on customer experience can make smarter decisions. Rather than treating everything as being equal (and making the same cuts across all parts of the company), they can focus the cuts in areas that have the smallest impact on their most important customers. In some cases they can even raise the investment in key areas while cutting out entire programs that have little impact on their key customers.

NewsDrillDigital: What has been the most important impact of social media on customer experience?

BRUCE: Social media has had a few major impacts on customer experience. First of all, it’s created an entirely new channel of feedback. If companies are smart, they find a way to treat social media as one of the many “listening posts” that they monitor. By putting together a comprehensive Voice Of The Customer program that acts upon feedback from ALL listening posts (including the social media ones), companies can detect problems quicker and identify opportunities that they may never have found in the past. Social media also provides a great vehicle for customer service and support. Many companies have found that enabling customers to help each other (answering questions) can be both cost-effective for a company and valuable to its customers.

NewsDrillDigital: How much could organizations be losing out by not having thought enough about customer experience, properly, in their digital strategy? Any organizations, in particular, that are doing it well with customer experience in their digital strategy?

BRUCE: Digital strategists need to think about customer experience at two levels. On the first level, companies need to design online experiences that are useful, usable, and desirable for target users. This is getting more and more difficult as “digital” goes beyond PCs to iPhones, Blackberries, and other mobile digital devices. And more and more, digital interactions are not standalone activities, so companies need to think about how digital interactions link with other digital and offline interactions. The ability to focus on the needs of target users (a key principle of customer experience management), the more successful any digital strategy will be.

I often talk about a strategy that I call “Online Infusion.” In most cases, organizations think about digital channels as just that – channels for researching, buying, and getting service. But as consumers get more comfortable doing more things online, companies will need to embed digital features in their product offerings. Some great examples of this strategy include NetFlixand Webkinz.

NewsDrillDigital: Do you have any favourite pieces of technology that are making an important difference in customer experience today?

BRUCE: I don’t really have favorite technologies, because technology, alone, doesn’t do too much. But I really like it when I see technologies that allow companies to do things they weren’t able to do in the past. One of the technologies that fits that description is text analytics/mining. The ability to quickly decipher meaning from unstructured data like comments on surveys, call center conversations, inbound emails, Tweets, and other social media sites allow companies to shift how they listen to customers. It turns out that there’s potentially a lot more insight in these free-form elements than in a multiple-choice answer on a survey. I see these technologies moving the focus of listening to customers away from structured/solicited data (e.g., multiple choice surveys) to unstructured/unsolicited data (e.g., product feedback on a social network site).

NewsDrillDigital: How much does positive / negative customer experience impact on word-of-mouth compared to other areas of marketing / communications? Any data available for this?

BRUCE: As I mentioned above, customer experience includes all interactions, including marketing. But when it comes to customer service interactions, these can have some of the most dramatic impact on word of mouth. If you think about the emotional state of customers, they are often most worked-up during a customer service discussion. Why? Because they are often trying to fix a problem. The results of emotionally-charged interactions can have a very lasting effect on customers – which will likely drive them to share a disproportional number of these experiences (good and bad) with other people. And, since the stories are emotionally charged, they tend to be more memorable than most – raising the impact.

NewsDrillDigital: Can you give an examples of some customer-experience consultancy work you’ve done recently that has had an important impact on the organization. What was the important insight / value-add you gave?

BRUCE: I have the opportunity to work with a number of large organizations that are at varying stages of customer experience maturity. Unfortunately, because of confidentiality concerns, I can’t name the companies that I advise. But I have had a number of recent projects that have had a significant impact on customer experience at a variety of companies. For a large retailer, a large technology company, and a large financial institution, I led a customer experience workshop that introduced several customer experience frameworks and had the attendees do hands-on exercises to apply those frameworks to their efforts. These workshops are really good at taking an amorphous concept like customer experience and making it tangible and applicable to how organizations operate. It’s amazing to see the “ah-ha” moments when people who conceptually understand the importance of customer experience begin to realize how they can make a difference. Another consulting project that I do, a lot of, is working with executives who are in charge of enterprise-wide, customer-experience initiatives. Since there’s no standard processes or approaches for customer experience (like there are in areas like engineering and accounting), these execs can use help defining the mission, organizational structure, and discrete programs they will undertake. So I am often providing them guidance around what to prioritize and potential obstacles to avoid. These sessions are great, because I can dramatically accelerate the success for these executives and their efforts.

Biography
Bruce Temkin is Vice President & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research where his research focuses on the strategy, processes, leadership, and cultural change required for large organizations to transform their customer experience. He is the creator of Forrester’s Customer Experience Index that ranks the customer experience of over 100 large companies and has authored several of Forrester’s most popular research reports including Experience-Based Differentiation and The Customer Experience Journey. Bruce is widely quoted in the press and a highly requested keynote speaker.

(at the time of the interview NewsDrillDigital.com was spotlightideas.co.uk)

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One Comment

  1. Enjoyed the comment about ah-ha moments. Staff need to realise that they deliver the experience it’s not just about processes.

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