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Forrester Forum 2015

 How CX Will Make or Break Your Company’s Future

Last week I had the privilege of attending CXSF 2015: Forrester’s annual forum for customer experience professionals in San Francisco. Pacesetters from businesses that are iconic for CX and entrepreneurs that are disrupting the CX space presented on digital CX strategies. Topics included digital CX and culture, emotion in a digital world, innovation in digital CX, and digital design. Attendees had the opportunity to connect with leading innovators and share best practices, converse on the latest Forrester research, and enjoy some delicious Bay Area cuisine.

For me—a brand new member of the CX community still trying to understand what the hoopla is all about—this was a baptism by fire. Surrounded by cutting-edge innovators in the CX space, the energy and enthusiasm for crafting lasting, impactful CX programs was almost palpable—especially with a Golden State Warriors t-shirt in my hand.

But CX is still shaking a reputation for being an enigmatic field. As an executive from the Dollar Shave Club asked me, “how do you measure something as nebulous as customer experience?” After hearing practitioners and analysts explain their methods for getting the giant wheel of CX turning, I’m beginning to catch a glimpse of why it’s such a hot space.

CX is a Strategy for Success

The answer lies in the power of a great customer experience program to transform a company. According to Forrester Research Principal Analyst Leah Buley, 87% of companies recently completed or are currently planning a company transformation, most of which are centered around adapting to digital change. Only 25% of these transformations are succeeding. The reasons for this shocking level of failure center around the concept of design thinking: empowering employees so they can collaborate toward a goal, rather than focus on solving a problem.

But it’s harder than it sounds to foster design thinking over old-school damage control. In fact, Forrester Research Senior Analyst Tony Costa explained that 57% of CX professionals across industries want to be CX leaders for their companies. But in reality, CX professionals spend 70% of their time either fixing or preventing bad experiences, leaving a remarkably small portion of their time available for innovation and proactive CX strategy. Businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve need to empower not just CX professionals, but their entire workforce, to behave innovatively. How can companies achieve this ideal, especially in established environments where policies and procedures have stifled a once-thriving hotbed of innovation and energy?

Keys for Transforming Your CX Program

Below are some tips shared during the two-day intensive conference that helped these seasoned veterans transform their CX programs—and their companies. Their advice provides a good starting point for businesses looking to jump-start their CX programs and thus position themselves for lasting success.

  • CX innovation is a team-based effort. If a CX professional does her job right, she will create conditions that enable CX revolution, including:
    • Enabling experimentation
    • Reframing the problem
    • Rallying the troops
  • Allow people to be accountable. Passionate employees will hold themselves accountable for their time and efforts. Fill your ranks with individuals who view the company’s cause as a locus of energy and momentum, and don’t let polices and procedures stand in their way.
  • Mature organizations are not usually designed for innovation. The key is finding balance between the Performance Engine and the Innovation Engine.
    • The Performance Engine is:
      • Risk averse
      • Wary of consequences
      • Focused on creating motivation
    • The Innovation Engine:
      • Embraces failure
      • Is exploratory
      • Targets those who are already motivated
    • People who work together need to play together. Schedule a team dinner or a hands-on project. This will work wonders for building an environment that fosters trust, camaraderie, and creativity and reduces judgment, blame, and disengagement.
    • Focus on changing behavior, not revenue. If you change behavior, money will come as a natural byproduct.

Your Team Is Your Secret Weapon

Joe Lallouz, Product Leader at Etsy, confided that one of the keys to CX success is creating a culture of innovation within an organization. “The most important resource you have,” he reminded audiences, “is your team.” Essential to creating a strategic culture is giving everyone in your organization the power to innovate. This requires creating a space where individuals can move quickly and fearlessly.

For example, one Tuft and Needle employee learned from a college girl’s Tweet that her mattress purchase was a gift for her parents, who were starting over after their house burned down. The employee was so touched by the story that she purchased a camera and mailed it, along with a handwritten note, to help the family start a new chapter. Years later, Tuft and Needle is still in touch with this customer, who has become a Tuft and Needle advocate for life. Arming front line employees with resources to reach out to customers in direct, personal ways is a trademark of CX success.

Focus on Strategic Design

Design also factors into any successful CX program. Forrester Research Principal Analyst Leah Buley, spoke about the emerging trend toward digital design as a strategic focus for companies staying abreast of the curve. “In ten years,” Leah stated, “75% of the workforce will be millennials.” And millennials are accustomed to higher orders of design. If companies today are used to centering design on symbols and things (1st and 2nd Order Design), then companies aiming for success down the line need to change their focus to actions, thoughts and systems (3rd and 4th Order Design). With start-ups costing one tenth of what they did ten years ago, companies need to take a hard look at design in order to beat the competition of today and the rising competition of tomorrow.

Embrace Failure As a Part of Success

CX innovators share a tireless commitment to excellence. They recognize that asking hard questions is a requisite to creating lasing change, even if—or when—those questions reveal unsettling truths. Some questions CX disruptors consider when aiming for an innovative CX culture include: How does our team share knowledge? How do we promote inclusiveness? How do we tolerate failure? An innovative environment is one in which knowledge flows freely between groups, teams, and departments in a shared space. An innovative environment promotes acceptance and inclusiveness; employees feel part of a team. Lastly, an innovative culture embraces failure—not a pattern of failure, but an environment where failure is recognized as an important aspect of risk-taking.

The good news is, if your company isn’t currently participating in these strategies for revolutionizing your CX program, it’s not too late to start. Many of the leaders of today started in relative confusion and obscurity. And nearly all confessed to experiencing a few failures along the way. And with the CX marketplace evolving almost daily, there are lots of resources at your fingertips. Best wishes to finding success in your CX efforts and staying ahead of the curve in your industry. Maybe we’ll cross paths at Forrester’s Forum next year.