I’m delighted to return to Forrester and its Customer Experience team after eight years of running my own business and technology strategy consulting practice.  

I’m returning to the same group in which I worked before with Harley Manning and his team. It was in that group that I helped develop and implement Forrester’s Web Site Usability methodology, wrote reports like “Must Search Stink?” and “Smart Personalization,” promoted the use of customer data intelligence and CRM systems to drive proactive interactions that I called “Tier Zero Customer Service,” and reported on the uses of early community-based tools for customer service (today it's "social CRM").

A frequent question that I've been asked in the scores of phone calls over the past several weeks since my return has been: What are you going to cover? The short term answer is primarily four topic areas: 

  1. Improving CxPi scores. My first report will look at how internal activities correlate with CxPi scores. I’m looking for differences between high and low scoring firms. Going forward, I’d like to spend more time looking at benchmarking companies’ customer experience capabilities and maturity and understand the internal levers that have the greatest impact on CxPi scores.
  2. Customer experience strategy. About 53% of executives that we surveyed in Q4 2009 said that the lack of a clear strategy was a major impediment to improving their companies’ customer experience — despite the fact that 63% said they had a somewhat or very disciplined approach to customer experience management. I’ll be looking at the key elements of a customer experience strategy and what a “disciplined approach” means.
  3. Creating a customer-centric culture. I will explore the levers that customer experience executives can pull to embed customer-centric DNA into the culture of companies. 
  4. The rise of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO) role within companies. While individuals may have any number of titles that differ from this, nearly 50% of companies have appointed an individual as the primary customer advocate enterprise-wide across business lines, departments, and communications channels. We imagine this position will gain in traction over the next decade. I’ll be exploring how companies structure this position as well as the teams that report to this person. And, I’ll be looking at this person’s primary responsibilities.

A few other areas that I’m interested in exploring in the longer term include:

CRM & Customer Experience. Over the past 10 years I’ve spent a lot time on CRM strategy and implementation — and even became a certified salesforce.com implementation partner. I fundamentally believe that the point of developing a CRM strategy is to improve customer experience … they are two sides of the same coin. Often, CRM initiatives focus on internal operations and business processes. I’d like to explore the interplay between customer experience and CRM initiatives.

Social CRM & Customer Experience. The idea of social CRM has been around for decades now. Technology companies have long used community based tools as a mechanism for customers to support one another and to understand the good, bad, and ugly for product development. The giant surge of individuals participating in social media and demographic change in usage have afforded a wider breadth of companies an opportunity to listen to and engage customers in helping each other and gathering feedback. I’d like to investigate who’s leading the pack in using social CRM to enhance customer experience.

Environmental sustainability & customer experience. The introduction of VPs of Sustainability in most companies, along with the tremendous technical innovation around the design of environmentally friendly products and services, comes at the same time as the rise of the Chief Customer Officer. I believe there is a great opportunity for these two emerging roles to work together to achieve breakthrough products and services that better serve customers and the communities in which they live. Conversely, there are already plenty of examples of sustainability efforts and “green washing” that set up false expectations and deliver poorly on promises. I’d like to explore the intersection of sustainability and customer experience, and look at best practices for these roles to work together.