I Found My Customer’s Heart in San Francisco

Feeling the Warmth with Customer Experience Innovators at Forrester’s Event

“Great customer experience is like peeing your pants. Everyone can see it, but only you can feel the warmth.”

So said Larry Yusuf, head of customer analytics at IBM, one of the mainstage presenters at Forrester’s CXSF 2016 conference, which I had the pleasure of attending last week in San Francisco. While the line got a hearty chuckle from the sizeable crowd of customer experience professionals in attendance, it spoke quite well to what I’d consider the dominant theme of this show: If their New York event boiled down to a focus on simplicity in customer-facing applications and processes, its West Coast counterpart seemed most concerned with the importance of establishing an emotional connection with customers.

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IBM’s Larry Yusuf, discussing the role of CX analytics
and (hopefully) not feeling the warmth.

Indeed, another IBM representative, Brooks Day (associate partner—IBM Interactive Experience), cited his brand’s use of “empathy maps” as key to designing customer experiences. By directly addressing customer desires and expectations, you instill loyalty in customers. And as Shep Hyken would say, “loyalty is the big prize, because loyalty is emotional.”

Interesting tidbit: According to Day, 89% of CEOs are concerned with customer loyalty, but more than 50% of them believe they are not keeping pace with customer expectations.

Hunting Pokémon, observing customers

The conference emcee, Forrester VP and research director Harley Manning, led the way towards augmented reality, discussing how new technologies were tapping into the customer’s psyche in ways that may prove revolutionary to the customer experience. He called out Pokémon GO as one highly-visible example of augmented reality fostering an “addictive” response in users.

Incidentally, one of the more popular sponsor exhibits at CXSF enabled attendees to have their own virtual reality experience right there on the show floor, and observe just how addictive such technology could be.

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Apparently, several characters were in attendance. Don’t ask me
to explain Pokémon, but do ask me about voice of the customer.​

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One brand cited as a leader in establishing an emotional connection with customers was Expedia, the online travel booking site. Sitting for a one-on-one with Manning, Scott Jones, Expedia’s VP of global design and user experience, discussed the importance of measuring customer emotion, and knowing when they feel frustration or happiness.

“People will say lots of things, but if you watch what they do, you get more valuable insight,” said Jones.

Today’s customer is on the move

Another Forrester VP, Roxanne Strohmenger, discussed the role of mobile technology in the evolution of CX. By her sources, we will observe 91% global smartphone adoption by 2020, with $250 billion in mobile and tablet commerce by that date in the U.S. alone.

According to Strohmenger, three things matter in any customer experience interaction: effectiveness, ease, and emotion. As mobile experiences tend to take place when customers are on the move and/or otherwise in a state of urgency, such experiences, when successful, will yield better emotions—namely that customers feel respected, valued, and appreciated. Fittingly, she cited the airline industry, whereby customers will inevitably interact with brands while on the move, as clearly demonstrating this principle:

  • Customers who interact with the airline via mobile device will recommend the brand 87% of the time and become a repeat customer 85% of the time, versus 58% and 61% of those who engage via other means, respectively.
     

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Forrester VP Roxanne Strohmenger believes the way to a
customer’s heart often goes through his or her smartphone.

Personalization wins

Forrester analyst Andrew Hogan spoke of another key factor in reaching customers on an emotional level: personalization. According to Hogan, “62% of adults have chosen, recommended, or paid more for a personalized experience;” however, the most successful brands apply “thoughtful” personalization, rather than “robotic” personalization. The difference:

  • Robotic personalization is “a little awkward,” identity-based, data-centric, and focused on messaging.
  • Thoughtful personalization is “natural,” intent-based, journey-centric, and focused on functionality.
     

Hogan cites Uber as having “one of the best apps for adjusting functionality to your situation, and providing a quality, personalized experience.” He also cited Airbnb as another brand excelling at providing optimal CX via personalization. (Could it be a coincidence that both are highly successful digital upstarts that have caused a major disruption to traditional industries—taxicab and hospitality providers, respectively?)

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For effective personalization, do these things.

Wow, cool

One surefire way to connect with customers on an emotional level is via the “wow” factor.

“Technology is cool, but it’s all about making that emotional connection,” said Manning at one point in the proceedings. As CXSF 2016 demonstrated, some innovative brands are doing a great deal to surpass expectations on both of those fronts.

“At the Kennedy Space Center, a holographic Buzz Aldrin will lead you on a tour,” said Scott Erickson, GM of marketing for Microsoft’s HoloLens, branded as “the world’s first fully untethered holographic computer.”

For the enterprise, Erickson discussed the use of holograms to bring remote staff together for a conference call.

“If you’ve seen it in a movie, we’re working on it,” he said.

Josh Jacobs, president of Kik Services, discussed the evolution of chatbots as “the killer app,” providing winning customer experiences with an efficiency that would’ve seemed impossible for enterprises just a short time ago. He touted Kik as having seen 20,000 bots created on its platform, servicing 300 million registered users who’ve exchanged two billion messages since the technology first became available.

“The only relationships that matter to millennials are the ones that can engage with them in chat,” said Jacobs. “The cool thing about being in a conversation is that you can ask (the customers) what they want next.”

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“‘Bots’ used to be a bad word, but now it’s pretty cool.” –Jacobs

“A companion”

For what many might’ve deemed the “coolest” app of the conference, Manning sat down with Amazon’s Heather Zorn, who discussed the brand’s popular Echo personal assistant device, affectionately named “Alexa.”

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“Why did the cookie go to the hospital? He felt crummy.”
–“Alexa” offers attendees jokes on demand.

As demonstrated onstage, “Alexa” will play requested music, turn the lights on and off, perform research, keep track of personal tasks and to-do lists, and more.

“What surprised us was how many people think of ‘Alexa’ as a companion,” said Zorn. “There’s an emotional connection.”

Zorn said “Alexa” had certainly won the heart of at least one user: her young daughter, who told her, “I want a flying ‘Alexa’ that follows me to school, then helps me answer questions.”

“Alexa” was also a hit with the young son of Solstice chief strategy officer Kelly Manthey, who discussed why brands need to “seek a surfboard…and ride the next wave of digital innovation.” To learn about Manthey’s presentation and further valuable insights shared at CXSF 2016, check back with our blog next week for the follow-up, “That Customer Experience Sweet Spot​.”

We’ll be hosting a webinar presentation, “Launching Your Customer Experience Program: Change Management,” on Wednesday, November 2. Join us to learn about managing the change within your organization that launching your CX program demands.

 

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