Takeaways and How-To’s from the Forrester CXNYC Conference

By Danyel LaGow, CCXP

Customer Experience has been a hot topic the past several years. A simple Internet search will simultaneously entice and confuse. As you skim articles, you’ll read how organizations acknowledge the vital importance of CX as a way to grow and improve their businesses. But you’ll also read how organizations aren’t staffing for CX, or how CX efforts are declining despite interest. It’s a fascinating business paradox, ripe for exploration. This year, Forrester took the topic head on, sharing their insights and ideas at their CXNYC conference.

Forrester’s belief is that there are a number of contributing factors to a decline in CX adoption, including an impending economic slowdown. Even so, they believe— as Strong-Bridge Envision does— that despite the hurdles, organizations can still make important strides in customer experience.

Below, we cover the three Key Takeaways from the conference, some of which line up directly with the report they shared: “The US Customer Experience Index, 2019: How Brands Build Loyalty With The Quality Of Their Experience.” Other takeaways are ones we have extrapolated based on the conversation in the room and our experience working hands-on with clients on Customer Experience over the last few years. What you’ll read in our closing suggestions is a uniformly prominent theme: CX can be hard in today’s climate, but it can (and should) be done.

Takeaway #1: Stagnation of CX Among Top Brands Is Creating a Leadership Gap

“Customer experience leaders grow revenue faster than CX laggards, drive higher brand preference, and can charge more for their products.” — How Customer Experience Drives Business Growth, Forrester, 2018

Even with the recognition that CX can be a competitive asset, brands still fail to make progress. According to Forrester’s 2019 report, 81% of brand scores stagnated, including the top 5% of “elite brands.” With no brand rising to the top of the Forrester rankings, there seems to be a subsequent lack in CX leadership. In the absence of true brand leaders, there remain four types of brands:

  1. Languishers: brands that rose high and then stalled
  2. Lapsers: brands that rose and then fell back
  3. Locksteppers: brands that move up and down with the pack
  4. Laggards: brands that have stayed at or near the bottom

Some contributing challenges to CX leadership gains include a lack of clear vision and strategy, small or no budget, difficulty gaining leadership buy-in, lack of urgency, and competing company priorities or focus. Customer expectations are also rising. The challenge is to improve customer experiences faster than the rise of customer expectations— to do that, brands will need to create an actionable roadmap and invest time and resources to ensure it gets done.

Takeaway #2: Employees Deliver on Your Customer Experience

“With the changing workplace, companies need to help their employees get inspired and reach their potential.” — Sam Stern, Principle Analyst, Forrester

Workplace dynamics have changed dramatically in the last decade. It is simply not enough to treat your employees “well,” they need to be brought into the company vision and mission and be connected to the company values. When people feel connected, and when the organization invests in the employee experience, the result is a group of employees who become champions of the brand and who are more fulfilled in their work lives.

What exactly has driven a change in the workplace dynamic? Expectations. Employees have turned into consumers of the workplace. They now have the same expectations of employers as they do the brands they choose. Just like consumers, employees make choices about the level of engagement they give to their employers, including whether to find a new one.

87% of employees that agree with their company values are more likely to stay with their employer, in comparison to the average 76%. — Forrester Research

Companies would be wise to tackle Employee Experience initiatives that help their people develop confidence and adapt to the many changes that occur in an organization as it grows and evolves— including the transformative work of CX. Forrester’s PEAK framework outlines helping employees be poised, enlightened, adaptable, and knowledge-seeking as a way to encourage the development of “purpose workers.”

Takeaway #3: Customer Emotions Are Important

“It is so important to understand your customers’ needs and emotions. Emotional ROI is the ROI.” — Adam Blumenfeld, Director of Global Customer Insights at TOMS

As Forrester’s 2019 report outlines, “Brands that want to break away from the pack should focus on emotion: How an experience makes customers feel has a bigger influence on their loyalty to a brand than effectiveness or ease in every industry.”

The report also detailed the emotions that boost CX (appreciation, happiness, and value) and the emotions that harm it (annoyance, disappointment, and frustration). These should come as no real surprise; we’ve been discussing the power of these emotions in CX for a very long time. But it never hurts to remind. Even reflecting on our own experiences as customers can be helpful in shifting to the mind space needed to comprehend the emotional connection to experiences.


HOW TO: IMPROVE YOUR CX SUCCESS BY KEEPING THESE THREE FACTORS IN MIND

There are a lot of demands on CX professionals. As demonstrated by the Forrester report and conference, most of us “get it” when it comes to the importance of CX. Still, there are outside factors that can impact our success. Based on our experience and the takeaways from CXNYC, there are four factors we believe are important to address before taking on your next big CX initiative.

 

1. Customer Experience is transformative work

As Harvey Manning of Forrester put it: “Digital touch points do not increase customer loyalty, they are base level needs that you need to get right. What does drive loyalty is getting answers to questions, so spend time and resources investing in digital tech that supports these drivers.” Understand that implementing a CX strategy and fostering a customer-centric culture is a transformation, and one that should be connected to other transformations going on in your business.

 

2. Customer Experience is a cross-functional effort

Understand that CX is a cross-functional effort that needs to resonate with and hold all levels of employees accountable. Get your employees involved and focus on the employee experience, including the role (and difficulty) or organizational silos. Rob Tarkoff of Oracle Product Development said it best: “Business transformation in an experience economy requires silos to be torn down.” As we have seen time and again with our clients, CX can be a catalyst for bringing teams together to create connected customer experiences. We like to call it “silo-busting.”

 

3. Customer emotions are critical

Understand what your customer emotions are across their journey. Prioritize around and fix the areas where customers are getting annoyed, frustrated, or disappointed, as well as enhance the existing experience where your customers are feeling appreciated, happy and valued to delight your customers even more. This allows companies to focus on improving the aspects of experiences that matter most for driving revenue and avoids wasting time and money on tactics that don’t offer much upside.