Customer Experience

Forrester’s Forum for Customer Experience Professionals: Top Observations

Jimmy Chou discusses why CX silos are breaking down and how successful companies are building their CX execution muscles.

by Jimmy Chou

Day two at the Forrester Forum on Customer Experience was another day of quality speakers.

I’d like to share our top three observations from the event. The confluence of these three observations signals interesting times ahead in the CX space.

The next big shift in CX maturity will come from better integration of CX efforts (spanning strategy, design, technology, processes, and people).

Whereas customer journey mapping and capturing voice of the customer (VOC) was novel 10 years ago, it is the norm today. Lots of companies have embraced CX improvements, but oftentimes in a somewhat sporadic way, focusing on addressing individual issues rather than overall CX. Many companies leverage their Lean and Six Sigma skills as the foundation for their growing CX teams and many use VOC tools and analytics platforms. Companies are jumping into smarter content personalization and marketing automation. Great stuff.

It’s all well intended CX effort, but much of it is still completed in silos. CX strategy is often not integrated into business strategy, resulting in many initiatives that lack coordination. Integration is the missing component. John Maeda gave an inspiring talk on the importance of design in CX and in life and hits the integration topic spot on.

“Design is experience. Experience trumps technology, but technology grounds the experience.” -John Maeda (@johnmaeda)

John Maeda on stage

So, that’s Design + Technology. Let’s take that further.

Strategy gives the context for design. Design creates the experience. Processes and technologies make that experience possible. And the cherry on top is the people who differentiate the experience through personal touch and empathy. It takes this tight coordination to create the delightful experiences so many of the speakers spoke of during the conference. No doubt we’ll see a lot more focus on empathy and feelings, an undercurrent at the conference. Yet, solving for this with a series of empathy trainings for your team or customer immersion sessions without a connection to strategy, design, technology, and processes will only give you another small lift. It cannot be either/or any more. To make the next big leap in CX maturity, it’s and/all. It’s strategic integration.

There are CX vendors galore.

VOC researchers, VOC platforms, analytics providers, interactive agencies, traditional agencies, cloud vendors, consulting firms, systems integrators, content management, campaign management, telephony, customer correspondence, mobile developers, security, Big Data, customer relationship management, etc…the list goes on. The planned networking time during the event was a who’s who of CX vendors. It seems everyone is in the CX space today. This may be a curious observation coming from a CX consultancy ourselves, but we’ve seen this before. There is a lot of CX hype now as every vendor under the sun aligns themselves to the “age of the customer.” Companies need to tread carefully here because, even though the industry is maturing CX overall, deep CX expertise is still difficult to find as technology innovation continues to advance at a rapid pace and shifts the realm of what’s possible. The CX performance mean will continue to shift to the right (see highlight #1 from yesterday). Buyer beware as we head into an intense period of vendor consolidation in the next couple of years. Knowing who you’re partnering and the basis for their expertise is critical.

The challenges we’ll face are familiar ones.

If coordination of our different functional areas, of our different disciplines, and of our corporate investments is what we need to excel in CX, then we’re faced with the familiar challenges that stem from current organizational structures, processes, systems, incentives, and mindsets that are siloed by design. As the famous philosopher, Pogo, once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

'We have met the enemy and he is us.'

Re-orienting ourselves to the jobs our customers are trying to achieve vs. by product or functional area is easier said than done. Yes there are many great ideas to improve CX. Many shiny new technologies with promises of instant customer insight and engagement await us. But let’s start first with these three steps:

  1. Connect CX strategy to business strategy – Why is CX important to your business? Until this connection is clear, it is impossible to create alignment across the team. Paul Hagen (@paulhagen) reported that according to one of Forrester’s latest surveys, the lack of a clear CX strategy was the biggest obstacle to improving CX.
  2. Select one project that has a meaningful impact to CX and business results – The and is important here. The need to focus on the meaningful few was a stronger theme in this year’s conference compared to recent years when more of the conversation was focused more on tools.  
  3. Execute, learn, execute – Get it done. Move past the strategizing and idea generation quickly. Agile and iterative delivery were common themes in how successful companies were building their CX execution muscles. Execute and learn. Rinse and repeat.

It was a fun two days at the Forrester conference. The Forrester (@forrester) crew continues to put on a great event with a mix of education, networking, and knowledge sharing. Exceptional!

We’re poised for some interesting times ahead. It won’t be easy as the expectations for business results from CX initiatives increase and the vendor/partner space gets more crowded. SingleStone is in this with our clients every day, so we’ll continue to share our lessons learned.

Until next time,

Jimmy (@choujimmy)

Jimmy Chou
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