Last week I posted my impressions of the general sessions at Forrester's Consumer Forum in London (November 6-7, 2008). Today, I want to share some snippets from the Customer Experience track, which I moderated:

>> Dr. Nicola Millard (Customer Experience Futurologist – BT)

Nicola gave a very "high energy" presentation on the lessons that BT has learned from its experiences in operating contact centers –

We heard about:

– The voyage towards "appropriate automation" – using automated systems for tasks where it makes sense, but allowing humans to speak to humans when they need to. 

– The ever increasing complexity of communicating through the multiple channels that customers want to use. Just as companies get the hang of e-mail, a new generation of customers feels that e-mail is so 1999… It's time to start supporting channels such as mobile chat, online communities and so on.

– The benefits of listening to customers. BT has found that a community of its customers can identify problems with home broadband equipment faster than BT finds them. And not only do the customers find the problems, they also find the solutions.


– And finally, Nicola introduced some new initiatives in "Homeshoring" – contact center agents who work from home. WIth the high penetration of broadband access, this has become easier to realize than ever before.

– With a "homeshoring" solution, BT was able to create a network of experts for Boots (a high street drug store in the UK). Boots customers aren't interested in getting advice from a young call center agent who doesn't have any life-experience. But they're very interested in speaking to women of their own age, who have real expertise and experience to share. It turns out that you can get those people to  work at home, but you can't persuade them to commute to a call center. Unsurprising, but profound. Bt_community_homeshoring

What did she say?: Many things… Here are my three favorites:

(1) Listen to your front line employees and act on what they tell you.

(2) The senior executives at BT today understand the importance of customer experience. The front line employees have always known. But it's still a struggle sometimes to get the "frozen middle" on board.

(3) Just because nobody complains doesn't mean all parachutes are perfect. (Benny Hill)

What should I do about it?: Systematically bring customer feedback to the attention of the people who can do something about it.


>> Lars Hemming Jorgensen(Chief Creative Officer – Story Worldwide) & Pernille Bruun-Jensen (Marketing Director – Johnson & Johnson)

When Johnson & Johnson discovered that diabetics felt embarrassed or inhibited about using their OneTouch device to measure blood sugar at mealtimes, they realized that they needed to rebrand. They worked with Story Worldwide to take the device in a completely new direction.

They took a multimedia approach – incorporating print ads, improved packaging and online communities to transform a useful but embarrassing product into something joyful.

Can you  spot the medical device among these fashionable items?


How about among these fine products. Do you see the equipment for measuring blood sugar?


The most impressive point for me was the online community. They created a place for diabetics to share experiences with each other.

First of all, the site is usable – which is hugely important. Some diabetics have poor eyesight, so the designers took pains to satisfy needs for legibility and clarity. (Sure it's white on black – but the typefaces are LARGE).

It turns out that diabetics have a lot of questions about lifestyle and health issues that they don't even want to discuss with their doctor or their real life friends and family. These may be issues related to sex, drugs and weight control etc.

The online community became a safe place to have those discussions and to get reliable, trustworthy advice.


Through this approach, Johnson & Johnson achieved engagement with their clients like never before. They got clients to register as members of the community – and with each impression, each interaction, they nudged their customers towards greater involvement with the brand.

What did they say?: DON"T KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

… but KISS is one of my favorite sayings, Lars … why mustn't I do that?

Because "KISS" just repeats the same thing in every channel. Today's customers get bored with that. They expect new and evolving content. When they move from your print advertising to your web community, they want to see the story develop.

… so how can you achieve a high quality of engagement?

  • Excite, motivate and delight 
  • 1st touch…2nd touch…………3rd touch
  • Will the audience find what they were looking for?
  • Will they learn something new?
  • Will they re-engage?

What should I do about it?: Use personas to gain a deep understanding of the needs and preferences of my target customers. Design experiences that drive engagement and  involvement. Remember that even a "boring, practical, essential" medical device can appeal to customers on an emotional level. Good design and good experiences can help customers to feel confident.

I hope that you found my comments on the Forrester Consumer Forum in London to be helpful. If you're hungry for more Customer Experience insights from the forum, then I recommend that you read the summary by my colleague, Bruce Temkin (author of the Customer Experience Matters blog).

Bruce summarizes the Customer Experience insights from several major banks who presented at the forum – including Barclays, HBOS and Credit Suisse. You see, the Consumer Forum was held concurrently with the Financial Services Forum, so there was an embarras de choix, when it came to great Customer Experience stories to learn from. I'm still digesting it.