Customer experience horror stories are not quite as inevitable as death and taxes but they are close cousins and we all have a large back catalogue of screw-ups to rant about operatically.  That crappy cheese sandwich, the misleading advice about product features or being ushered into an avoidable gargantuan queue by a staff drone.  Some of my own frustration exotica include annoyances like harmoniums couriered from India and only good for firewood (or modern art) on arrival in Edinburgh*. Yes, the world is a stage but some brands can look like The Three Stooges on it.

Brands want to deliver a quality experience but of course the topic of quality, how it might be observed and measured can be a slippery one that strays into quantum mechanics if not closely checked. I’m reminded of the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where the author Pirsig astutely observes that Quality isn’t something innate – it’s something that ‘happens’ between subject and object – it doesn’t exist without both being there. Our translation for Customer Experience is that there is no innately wonderful customer experience – they only become wonderful (or not) when your consumers interact with your brand.  You need to set up the touchpoints, observe, measure and keep on tweaking.

  • Experience matters because time matters. If you are delighting consumers then you have all the time in the world with them but if you are frustrating them then each second is torture they will want to pay you back for. Freedom of information and publishing means that customers know what standards can be expected and are tooled up to take a social hatchet to brands that abuse their privilege.  Getting the customer experience right and respecting consumers time is a survival imperative. My colleague Darika Ahrens will be running a workshop at the Forum on how to manage your brand experience via social.
  • The Physical world is being digitally retrofitted and observed by digital. Those drinks trolleys in the sky, couriers, corridors, waiting rooms and shopping carts are being fitted with MEMs and other cheap connectivity devices.  Images are being recognized along with voices, emotions and locations. ‘Brain to finger to screen’ is just one path into the digital realm from the physical world and the expansion of customer journeys through new digital props is changing the game. Smartphones are the trojan horse for ushering in this new rich interaction landscape and my colleague Thomas Husson will speak about how to think of Customer Experiences and Smartphones at the Forum.
  • Why Use a Toothpick at a Banquet? Measuring Customer Experience with survey tools and techniques like NPS is just the beginning. More indirect methods enabled by sensors, web session playback tools, analytics and image/video analysis are revealing the widescreen picture between consumers and brands. There is tonnes of data that brands can get now or engineer to have tomorrow.  I’ll be digging into some of these methods and how brands are using them in my speech – from instrumenting customer journeys in the physical world to listening to customer journeys in progress through text analytics.   

I'll be speaking at the Forrester Outside In Forum EMEA, London on November 6-7 – it’s a two day event with a focus on Customer Experience and how Brands should be tackling paradigm of customer obsession. It ties in with the release of Forrester's new book, Outside In

I’ll be looking after the track on Measurement and Technology and will be speaking about the Universe of Interaction – exploring  how consumers interact with brands directly and indirectly, how we measure it and how we can ‘debug’ the more tricky aspects of customer journeys.

The anything anywhere anytime world comes with lots of easy to use services via SDK, API and the cloud. As the mechanics of communication become less of a barrier to Marketers the mainstay of brand activity will be on a quality and depth of interaction – not simply connecting the technical dots. The discipline of Customer Experience is stepping up a gear. Being able to address every moment with the right medium and method increases the chance for brands to be remarkable, unmistakable, trusted and essential.

I hope to see you at the Forum!

* In truth, I could have foresaw this when the UPS courier turned up to my Delhi Radisson hotel with his mate on the back of a tiny moped and wobbled off into the thick traffic and night. My handmade wooden harmonium was doomed from that touchpoint right there.