Can companies engineer a good customer experience?

Forrester Research finds that there is a broad-based improvement in customer experience (CX). The bad news is that enterprises struggle to break beyond being merely OK.

Customer experience across multiple industries is improving, but companies are still struggling to break beyond merely OK to being good.

Forrester Research released its US customer experience (CX) index scores, and it's clear that brands that excel in CX do well. It's also clear from Forrester's report that there is broad-based improvement. The catch is that few enterprises even get to a good rating on CX.

The CX Index score is based on a metric that incorporates effectiveness, ease of use, emotion, retention, enrichment, and advocacy. At its core, Forrester argues that companies need to make customers feel good, generate an emotional response, and then retain them.

Here's the good news:

  • 28 brands gained 5 points or more on the CX score. Even three US federal government agencies showed big improvements (let's hear it for the IRS).
  • Only two industries fell on average.
  • The percentage of good and OK scores rose slightly, but excellent scores were flat from a year ago. In other words, there is a bit of CX parity among enterprises, and elite brands are stuck at a plateau.

And now the bad news. No company has excellent CX. Individual CX superstars can dominate industries with good but still not elicit the brand loyalty they want. This graphic tells the tale.

forrester-cx-score-distribution-q3-2016.jpg

By category, it appears that standalone efforts do better than ones that are more integrated between digital and physical. For instance, digital-only retailers crush brick-and-mortar rivals on CX. Other the top service providers like Netflix trump cable and broadband providers.

As for brands, USAA dominates in four categories all financial. Amazon dominated as a mobile device manufacturer. Zappos shined, QVC was strong, and Apple led in the PC category. Samsung showed improvement.

Here's a look at the highest and lowest brands based on CX score by category.

forrester-cx-high-low-brands.jpg

Forrester's report, based on 122,500 US online adult consumers, is designed to pitch its CX score services as well as digital transformation consulting. However, the CX score results raise some interesting questions:

  • If every industry becomes OK or better at CX, what's the competitive advantage?
  • What's the role of culture in CX? If a company doesn't start being fanatical about customer experience from inception can it ever catch up?
  • Digital only brands have better CX scores as a general rule. Does that mean that scores are hurt more by human interaction? How do companies course correct?
  • Can companies engineer an emotional response with artificial intelligence and other tools? Forrester noted:
Contrary to conventional wisdom, making customers happy does not correlate with making them loyal. What emotions do lead to customer loyalty? The top three are making customers feel valued, appreciated, and confident. We found that the impact of these positive emotions on loyalty was clear and strong.

What's clear is that once CX falls into a pit it can take years to dig out. CX is a lot like fitness. The best way to get in shape is never to fall out of it in the first place. A lot of money is going to be spent on projects designed simply to get enterprises CX in shape.

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