2008 Top 25 Companies for Customer Experience

Forrester just released their Customer Experience Index for 2008. The study surveyed 4,500 people and asked them to rank 114 companies across 12 industries.

At a high level, the results were relatively sad: Only 11% of companies garnered a rating of "excellent", and 38% percent of firms were rated as “poor” or “very poor.”

This is pretty interesting in a day and age where Harris Research and Forrester say that between 82% and 85% of executives agree that customer experience is critical to competitive advantage and may well be the next competitive battleground over the next three years.

This lackluster performance also suggests an opportunity -- especially if I am correct in repeating a Harvard Business Review claim that a 5% decrease in customer attrition can increase profits by 25%. (Note: I saw that figure and wrote it down and am looking for the specific citation)

What's missing? Well, more than one person or post can cover, but consider this:

If you ask any large company to give you a site map of their website, most could provide one with ease. However, if you asked them to show you a cross-channel experience map that illustrates the "brand journey" for a key customer segment, they'd probably look at you with confusion.

Why does that matter? Well, it could mean a few things. No map may indicate there is no unified or accurate understanding of the actual customer experience that is being delivered. No map may mean there is no truly integrated plan to proactively manage customer experiences across channels. No map may also indicate an inability to unite the vision of leadership with all other "agents of experience" (staff, agencies, third parties, partners, etc.) to drive coordinated execution.

Just consider the incredible channel proliferation we've faced over the past two decades alone. It's enough to make one's head swim. The way we go to market, the way customers shop and the way we all communicate has shifted entirely. As we have attempted to adapt to this raging amount of change, the truth is this: our customer experiences simply evolved over time. Most were never strategically conceived for the environment we live in today...

For the most part, most of today's customer experiences can be likened to a structure that was built one room at a time: The floor plan is a confusing and in places, nonsensical. The many ad-hoc renovations have made the foundation uneven and unstable. Visitors (customers) do their best to navigate the rooms...and sometimes we knock holes in walls to make it easier... but the truth is there are a lot of pitfalls along the way. However, unlike the mansion with only a few doors to the outside -- in real life, our customers can leave easily, whenever they want.

What can we do about this?
Well, Forrester has some good recommendations, and I tend to agree with these. In addition to things like employing "Voice of the Customer" programs, leveraging data mining and BI tools and making customer experience a top priority, I'll add my thought that companies need to start with more fully understanding the true customer experience that is being delivered today.

To do this, I'm a proponent of employing interaction design principles to visually map out the customer experiences we deliver. . "Customer experience maps" are visual diagrams that illustrate the customer journey across channels, including the key linkages, programs, services and critical engagement intersections, where customers decide they'll leave you or love you. By engaging in proactive customer experience mapping companies can better understand the true customer experience, identify the pitfalls that damage relationships and fix what's broken. As they do this, they can begin to more proactively manage the experience, correct operational barriers that damage loyalty and better position themselves as listeners and customer advocates.

Getting back to Forrester's Report, Here are the top 25 performers:

1. Barnes & Noble
2. USAA (credit cards)
3. Borders
4. Amazon.com
5. Hampton Inn/Suites
6. BJ’s Wholesale Club
7. Sam’s Club
8. A credit union (bank)
9. Kohl’s
10. Marriott Hotels & Resorts
11. JCPenney
12. Target
13. Old Navy
14. Holiday Inn Express
15. eBay
16. Southwest Airlines
17. Macy’s
18. Apple
19. Costco Wholesale
20. Toys “R” Us
21. USAA (insurance)
22. CVS
23. Holiday Inn
24. Lowe’s
25. Staples

It's worth mentioning that a lot of the companies at the bottom are within industries that are facing financial hardship (e.g. Financial Services industries, Airlines), although not exclusively. It's easy to see how today's market factors can weigh in to customer experience viewing this report...

However, the good news is that even in a down economy, 58% of customers say they'll pay MORE for a better experience (Forrester also). It's time to get tactical on improving customer experience!

Giving a hat tip to Evelyn So Evelyn So for the link to Forrester's free complimentary research report. Enjoy!


Cin City said...

Isn't it funny that the last thing some company's think about is the customer? They crunch numbers, shift resources, employ internal training, optimize pricing but at the end of the day of running as fast as they can, do they actually know where they're going? They should be heading straight for customer retention through 360 customer experience satisfaction.

Unknown said...

Challenge is, many of them think they are focused on the customer experience, and in a way, they are ... at a myopic level.

Getting it right is easier said than done...anyone in the trenches knows this. Inherently, we know something is missing... but often don't know where to start... or don't have the leadership to set us in the right direction.

Thanks for the comment, Cindy.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning my link!

I TOTALLY agree. I always start with a flow - biz flow, customer flow, whatever is applicable - and it really opens up some cans of worms....silo operation is, unfortunately, still often the norm in companies large or small. To be fair, it is probably easier for someone from the outside to provide a 20/20 vision.

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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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