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User Experience

Business, Customer Experience, Retail, Service Design, Shopping, User Experience

Making Customer Experience Personal. One Person at a Time.

May 19, 2013
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These are early days for Customer Experience.In the same way a gardener is sometimes surprised at what bursts forth from the ground, customer experience is beginning to take form in front of our eyes. We are still figuring out what the difference might be between customer experience, user experience, usability, omni-channel, cross-channel, and multi-channel so we have to take care not to wander too deeply into the world of buzzwords and biz speak when we try to talk about the very human relationships of customer experience.

Where I work we have created a slide that takes a position on each of these topics just as a conversation-starter with prospects and clients. This serves two purposes; 1) It let’s us know how our client thinks about such things and 2) It gives us all a common, shared lexicon when discussing these things.

So, for the purposes of discussion, here are some definitions:

CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a brand over the duration of their relationship.

USER EXPERIENCE involves a person’s emotions about using a particular product, system or service.

USABILITY is the ease of use and learnability of an item. The object of use can be a software application, website, book, tool machine, or process.

OMNICHANNEL weaves the touchpoints of products and services of the brand into a seamless fabric of all phases of the customer’s brand experience.

CROSS-CHANNEL has the ability to see all of a customer’s information across all channelsand enables more personalized offers based on their brand relationship.

MULTI-CHANNEL is simply having multiple channels through which you buy, market, sell, and fulfill.

Not perfect, perhaps, but certainly a good way to level-set a conversation around customer experience.

Speaking with Human Beings.



In a recent keynote speech, Micah Solomon did a very nice job of talking about customer experience in a refreshingly conversational manner that helps us remember this is about relationships with real live human beings. What I like about this presentation is the personal, conversational tone that supports the subject Micah is presenting. It is, at once, a presentation that is a personal sharing with the audience…much of what a well-executed customer experience strategy aims to achieve.

Customer Experience Keynote Speaker: Customer service speaker Micah Solomon on customer loyalty

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Business, Customer Experience, Startups

A CIO and a CMO Are Locked in a Room and Forced to Do Battle. Who Wins?

February 26, 2013
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Mike Troiano has had an enviable career so far, albeit one with a mandatory need for lightning fast reflexes, the ability to see the future and course-correct amidst the chaos, and by definition, a rather strong stomach. In my experience, these are the best ones to learn from.

Chief Marketing Officers have long had a difficult job. It can be a fun career choice for the right person, certainly, but the CMO’s challenges have changed dramatically over the last decade. Gone are the days when “We ran great TV” was enough to have everyone in management leave you alone. Along the way the CFO…and then the CEO started asking pesky questions about return on investment. Most CMO’s had no good answer for many of their programs beyond the tepid, “oh, it’s all brand awareness”. Brand awareness and many other marketing programs were generally declared unquantifiable…until the world changed and the CEO…and the business…said that would no longer be so.

One of the reasons I like Mike so much is that he always seems to be in the right place at the right time which makes his stories exponentially more interesting than, say, mine. I was a Creative Director for Mike when he was CEO of Ogilvy Interactive in New York in the mid 90’s, right at the time there was a seismic intersection of old and new media colliding.

Ogilvy & Mather had a Direct Marketing group at the time that created and mailed out direct responses pieces and compiled the results several months later, as was the custom of the day. On the other side of the third floor of Worldwide Center in NYC, the nascent Interactive group was publishing banner ads and calculating results overnight. This incredibly short time-to-market and ridiculously fast response time was, of course, summarily dismissed by the traditional Direct Marketing group and then history promptly went on to prove them delightfully wrong. Funny when that happens.

When asked about those days, Mike told me, “It’s important to understand that medium reflects hierarchy inside ad agency culture. What I remember most about those early days was the change in culture that took place. In the beginning, “interactive” (as it was called) sat somewhere below bumper stickers and t-shirts, below direct mail, newspaper, outdoor, magazines, radio, and – of course – television. After the Netscape IPO things seemed to change, though, and when digital became a shiny object, the big guns wanted in even if they didn’t really know what they were doing. Working and iterating at digital speed was part of what they really needed to learn but was also the most difficult for them. In the end I think our lasting impact on Ogilvy was that it got on that learning curve earlier than most.”

The Interactive group had data and they understood a customer experience that, while rudimentary, was a well enough defined loop to be useful. These were early ugly days but the insanely short duration communication-response-optimize process that is the Googleized world was born of those days and there was a great thrill in going home for the night and thinking, “I’ll see how that did in the morning and make it better by lunchtime”.

The Interactive group was a brilliant but scruffy upstart group that was nipping at the heels of a Very Large Global Agency. And while O&M was very comfortable with the traditional advertising they did so well, they were nonetheless a little worried about these crazy interactive kids who didn’t seem to be playing by the same rules.

Indeed, those early days birthed the exact moment when technology integration and customer experience appeared at CMO’s bedside, calling them from sleep, a torment that continues until this day.

About five years ago there were some very dramatic and lively discussions in corporate board rooms as the CEO informed the CIO and the CMO that they needed to work closely together because it was critically important to the business. But these two had never had to play together. In fact, as a general rule they avoided each other on general principles. Now there was a corporate mandate to work collaboratively but, man, they didn’t even speak the same language. Try saying, “non-trivial” to a CMO and see what happens. And collaborative project planning between IT and Marketing? Well, cats and dogs describe that situation best.

Over time things improved…not without difficulty and sometimes seismic eruptions that sent admins running for cover…but reluctantly the business world came to realize that marketing was going to either live or die by technology and it was going to take a village for it to work. Beyond that, it started to become clear that a CIO or a CMO was also going to become something of an interpreter and translator for each other.

Fast forward to 2013 and Mike Troiano is CMO at Actifio, a four year old data storage startup in Boston. So, what keeps him awake at night as CMO these days? You guessed it, data integration and a unified customer experience. With a marketing spend about two to three times the technology spend, clearly these two things are high priority to the strategic growth of the company.

Fortunately Mike has always had a good relationship with technology people so he is different than your typical CMO. My opinion is that his experience as a CEO put him in a position where he needed to focus on solutions first and then consider the chemistry required to get it done. This makes him one of the most pragmatic CMO’s I know. When I asked him about the typical CIO/CMO dynamics he has experienced over the years, he responded,  “I think historically there’s been this right brain / left brain divide, and both sides were the worse for it. If you look at why most CIO-led technology projects failed, you’d find more of the human factors that CMOs understand. And if you’re a CMO trying to communicate effectively in 2013, you need to know what’s possible with the latest technology, as good CIOs do.”

Out of general interest I did a Google search for “data integration unified customer experience” to see what would come up, expecting thousands of results as people clamored to solve this problem that Mike mentioned and the same one that I have seen across industries in my consulting work.

Astonishingly little. Almost nothing. One, actually. How is it that there is just one result that had data integration and user experience in the same thought?

So, if data integration and unified customer experience are all but ensuring sleep deprivation for CMO’s where are the solutions? I know it’s not a tool and I suspect it is more of a methodology or, at least, a process of sorts. More likely, it is a type of person who is trusted and is able to translate and interpret CMO to CTO and back again while being the advocate for the customer.

Ever the diplomatic pragmatist, Mike tells me, “Both jobs are about managing change. CIO’s are trying to change the flow of information – the “means,” if you will. And CMO’s are trying to change perception – the “end,” in that same sense. It seems almost inevitable that the two roles would converge, and the Internet really drove that convergence. It both made the technology easier to use, and softened the boundaries of the organization.”


Mike Troiano serves on the boards of several Boston-area startups, and is an award-winning blogger ( and counted among the top 1% of the most influential people on Twitter (@miketrap) and a pretty awesome guy, if you ask me.

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Easy Money.

August 29, 2012
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Payment options continue to expand, making commerce easier for companies and individuals to do business anywhere and everywhere. It is absolutely fascinating to watch how this is changing business right in front of our eyes and it is exciting to see how it will change our lives in the next few years.

[LINK:] Want to see how our relationship with money is changing?

Today I read that WePay has rolled out a button, with a single line of code, that allows any site to accept in-line credit card payment. Sure, PayPal is still an almost frictionless option but for those without a PayPal account, WePay offers the ability for them to pay by credit card on any site. Maybe even your site.

[LINK:] TechCrunch article here.

If you are not familiar with NFC (Near Field Communication), here’s a [LINK:] short video that explains it for you.

And here are some projections from the good people at Square:




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User Experience

Why Top Execs Are Starting to Care About UX Design.

August 1, 2012
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Very good video with Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path which describes the path of User Experience to Customer Experience.

What do you think? Do you need your customers more than they need you?


Recommended Reading: Repairing a Fragmented Customer Experience

Recommended Reading: Customer Experience – A Daily Guide for Managers




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Customer Experience

Service Design: Do You Need Your Customers More Than They Need You?

July 19, 2012
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Harley Manning is standing silently at the edge of the stage at Forrester’s Customer Experience 2012 conference in New York. He has just dropped a bomb on the audience and is now standing with arched eyebrows waiting for it to sink in. Moments earlier he flashed a single statement in big red type up on the overhead screen that said simply,
“I need my customers more than they need me.”

While arguably obvious, many companies have not operated this way for a very long time and this audience of senior executives in charge of customer relationships seems profoundly impacted.  His statement clearly has the intended effect on the audience as Harley changes the conversation from “What’s in it for my company” to “What’s in it for my customer?” and why that is so very urgent.

Now the audience is thinking differently…but why should they? Very simply, because they know that they are doing things that will either make the customer loyal or make the customer leave and it all depends on how they choose to run their business.

“These questions are at the heart of the matter over the next decade.”, Harley Manning declares, “Literally every company will compete on the basis of customer experience. In fact, they already do – most just don’t realize what that really means, what’s at stake, or how to do it well”.

“You are not going to succeed through manufacturing strength, distribution power, or information mastery – those have all been commoditized. And you can’t win by controlling the flow of information about your products and services either.”

Welcome to the Age of the Customer.

But isn’t that just customer service? In OutsideIn: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business we learn it’s not. “Equating Customer Service with Customer Experience is like saying a safety net is a trapeze act. Yes, the net is important to the act but if the performer needs to use the net the something has gone wrong with the show.”

Three questions we can be asking our customers is, “Did it meet your needs?”, “Was it easy?, and “Was it enjoyable?”. But remember, two out of three is not good enough! Meeting needs and making it easy are just table stakes, everyone is doing that. Making the experiences enjoyable is where the money is.

I have seen the rise in the UK over the last few years of a relatively new discipline called Service Design that asks some fundamental questions about what the customer experience should be like. An article in the Guardian on the subject, that includes both external customers and internal employees, asks, “What should the employee experience be like? How does a company remain true to its brand, to its core business assets and stay relevant to customers?”

During the conference someone told me a story about a telecom company in Europe that invested heavily in empowering their call center people to “make the customer happy”. But they came to realize that customers did not want to be made happy when calling customer service, they wanted the company to stop causing problems in the first place! And so the company went upstream to the root problems and fixed them.

So how might you go about this? Here are some of our tools and processes from the world of Service Design and Customer Experience:

• Create a Customer Journey Map: This is a co-created diagram that illustrates the steps your customer goes through when they with your company, whether it be a product, an online experience, retail experience, or a service, or any combination. The more touchpoints you have, the more complicated, and necessary, such a map becomes.


• Identify the Problems: A good way of doing this is to put red, yellow, and green dots on each of the customer touchpoints the team has identified. Green means working well, yellow means some improvement is possible, and red means it is broken and needs to be fixed. The team can then take a step back and see where the ship is leaking.

• Make a Business Case of Specific Benefits: This is, of course, just good business but you and the team may be very surprised at the amount of value in Customer Experience. According to Forrester, Sprint was able to save $1.7 Billion by reducing the need for several call centers. Fidelity found that their most satisfied customers invested 450% as much with the company as did their least satisfied customers, the difference between satisfied and not satisfied customers meaning billions of dollars.

In these early days of companies increasingly focusing on Omnichannel efficiencies, now is the right time to remember that we need our customers more than they need us and figure out how to create excellent customer experiences.

Here’s why execs are starting to care about UX.


Recommended Reading: Data Mapping the Customer Experience in 2013


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Customer Experience

Is Customer Experience Just a Fad?

July 18, 2012
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It is 7:30 in the morning at the Forrester Customer Experience conference in New York City and Kerry Bodine, her shoulder length brown hair bouncing to accentuate each new point, is enthusiastically explaining how the decrease in butterflies in Zion National Park is analogous to customer experience problems in companies around the world.

Even at this early hour, the analogy makes sense.

Kerry is pacing the front of the room, underlining her findings with a presentation filled with big pictures and few words while showing us how Sprint, Vanguard, Holiday Inn, Virgin Mobile, and the Mayo Clinic have all created significant ROI (In two cases, in the billions of dollars) by systemically addressing customer experience issues and the stories are absolutely fascinating! That, and her early morning enthusiasm, is totally infectious.

Facing the audience with arms held wide Kerry continues, “The development of Zion National Park in 1918 brought in a flock of visitors which, as an unintended consequence scared off the cougars, which led to an increase in the deer population, which ate the cottonwood trees, which caused the banks of the river to erode leaving large areas of gravel where wildflowers could not bloom and so the butterflies mostly disappeared.”

“In short…an unhealthy ecosystem.” She says animatedly pointing to the slide on the screen.

“This chain of events may seem obvious now but it took scientists decades to determine the root cause of the butterfly problem. That’s because natural ecosystems consist of complex interdependent relationships that change over time.” Kerry says and is pointing to a slide entitled, The Six Essential Customer Experience Disciplines, which are explained in detail in a new book by Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning entitled, Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business.

And here the butterflies turn into business.

“If you are trying to solve customer problems without understanding your customer experience ecosystem you might as well be air-dropping butterflies into Zion National Park. You are going to spend a whole lot of money and end up right where you started”.

“If you have customers, then you have a customer experience ecosystem!”

In an advance copy of Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, it tells of how Megan Burns, Forrester’s lead analyst on customer experience maturity, uncovered six disciplines by reviewing Forrester’s customer experience research going back to 1998 and also studying programs at firms that got high marks in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index.

For those practitioners on the customer experience journey, it offers a way to organize everything they have to think about into manageable chunks.

Without giving too much away, here’s a high level overview. The book, of course, goes into much greater detail:

The Six Essential Customer Experience Disciplines

1 Strategy Practices
You’ll want to define a customer experience that describes the intended customer experience and also aligns with the overall company strategy and brand attributes.

 2 Customer-Understanding Practices
This is where you get out from behind that desk of yours and find out what customers are really thinking about all the touchpoints with your company. Create surveys, conduct interviews, mine calls, email, and social media posts. Go talk to real customers.

Also, gather input from employees about their experiences with customers and their role in delivering the customer experience. You’ll want to start collecting allies across your organization.

 3 Design Practices
Create a Customer Journey Map and identify all the touchpoints with your customers. Do not do this by silos or business units for two reasons, 1) your customers don’t think of you in this way and 2) because you will likely find that your problem areas are in the “white space” between silos…places where the dots are not connecting well in your organization.

Remember to co-create with your customers during this process of developing the customer experience ecosystem. Use iterative ideation, prototyping, and evaluation of the complex interdependencies and do it together. You are on the journey together.

 4 Measurement Practices
Here you will want to define a customer experience quality framework that aligns with how customers judge an experience and then measure how customers perceive their experience. You will want to model the relationship between drivers of customer experience quality, perceptions, and business outcomes.

 5 Governance Practices
Start here by defining a consistent set of customer experience standards across your company and, if possible, include alignment with the customer experience strategy as a criterion for evaluating project funding and prioritization decisions.

 6 Culture Practices
You’ve heard this before but communicate, communicate, communicate. Talk to employees, customers, partners, and shareholders about the importance of customer experience. Use informal and formal reward structures to highlight successful customer-centric behavior.

Everyone in your company is on your customer experience team. Everyone.

So, What About Customer Experience?

Towards the end of the presentation Kerry leaned in, spread her hands on the table in front of her, looked up and declared, “Customer experience leads to profits…but only if you treat it as a business discipline.”

I knew from my experience in retail that this was true and I am looking forward to see how deeply companies embrace the customer experience work that needs to be done. We all know expectations are high. We all know the customer is in control. We all know there is work to be done.

But is this customer experience thing just a fad? Is it just the latest catch phrase in a game of business buzzword bingo?

Let me ask you this then, “Are your customers just a fad?”

Didn’t think so.


Recommended Reading: Co-Create Your Customer Experience



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Customer Experience

Does Customer Experience Pay and Pay and Pay?

July 16, 2012
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One of life’s more pleasant rewards is discovering that the work you are doing is valuable. And in some cases, discovering it is extremely valuable.

So for those working towards creating enjoyable Customer Experiences, there is good news.

 A recent Customer Experience Stock Performance Analysis reveals that Customer Experience Leaders outperform the S&P 500 Index by 27%, creating value for customers, their companies, and investors.

Watermark Consulting, who did this research, explains how the analysis works:
“We look at the cumulative stock returns for the Top 10 and Bottom 10 publicly traded companies in Forrester Research’s annual Customer Experience Index ranking (Watermark defines these two groups as the Leaders and Laggards, respectively).

We compare the total return from investing in an equally-weighted, annually readjusted portfolio of customer experience Leaders to that for customer experience Laggards and the broader market (as reflected by the S&P 500 index).

 The Results

For the five-year period from 2007-2011, the customer experience Leader portfolio outperformed the broader stock market, generating cumulative total returns that were 27% better than the S&P 500 Index and 128% better than the customer experience Laggard portfolio.

 This pecking order of performance held true even on an annual basis.  In all but one of the five years, the Leader portfolio outperformed the index, which in turn outperformed the Laggard portfolio.”

Now obviously there are several caveats to point at this research; five years is not a long enough time to prove this out, the sample size is relatively small, and embracing a customer experience strategy is not the same as executing well. Nor is this an invitation to not cost-justify each customer experience project, you must.

But what it does suggest is that companies that successfully deliver enjoyable comprehensive customer experiences are rewarded by both customers and investors.

Why are Customer Experience and Service Design such hot topics? For many companies it is because it is important, it is complex, and it is broken.

Perhaps this is even true at your company but maybe you are not sure how to get started.

Begin with building a business case for superior customer experience, use the Customer Experience Stock Performance Analysis to start the conversation. Trust me, it gets people to sit up and take notice.

Then take a look at some case studies of companies that are effectively improving their customer experience. In August, a book that I highly recommend is coming out and I suggest you buy several copies for your team. Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business, by Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine provides powerful, compelling case studies that can be used in conversations around customer experience within your organization and with customers.

In it you’ll find customer experience success stories from USAA, Office Depot, Fidelity, Sprint, EMC, Canada Post, and Holiday Inn, all of which will be helpful in building your business cases for customer experience improvements. These are powerful, insightful stories that will inspire you and other business leaders in your organization to ask, “Is this something we can be doing here?”

For the leaders on the Customer Experience Index, the answer is “yes”.

And for you, the answer can also be “Yes”.

Is Customer Experience just a fad?


Recommended Reading: Looking For An Improved Customer Experience | The Blog


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