It’s that great time of year when I finally get to talk publicly about Forrester's Forum For Customer Experience Professionals in New York at the end of June. If you’ve ever been to one of our events, you know that we always have a theme, and this year that theme is “Why Good Is Not Good Enough.”

We picked our theme because of the good news/bad news story told by our Customer Experience Index (CXi) results this year. First, here’s the good news: The number of brands in the “very poor” category of the CXi is down to one out of 175 brands we studied. What’s more, only a handful of brands — 10% — are in the “poor” category. Together, those findings show that as customer experience improvement efforts got traction over the past year, the number of truly awful experiences dropped like a rock.

Now for the bad news: Just 11% of brands in the CXi made it into the “excellent” category.

Taken together, those two pieces of news mean that most brands are bunched up in the middle of the curve — not awful in the eyes of their customers but not differentiated either. I think of this situation as “okay is the new poor” or, in my darker moments, “the year of ‘meh.’” Regardless, it adds up to the same thing: A merely good customer experience is no longer good enough if you want incremental sales, positive word of mouth, and better customer retention.

Building on that analysis, this year’s Forum will focus on bringing attendees insights that can lead to a competitive edge. From innovation leaders to companies that crack industry barriers to excellence, we’ll be focusing on breakthroughs that lead to differentiation — because no one can afford to be just good anymore.

Forrester’s Megan Burns will kick off the first day of the event with a speech about “The Making Of A Great Customer Experience.” Her talk will debut new research about the drivers of customer experience quality – the things that truly matter and the things you can safely ignore. On the second day, our senior analyst Rick Parrish will share his latest findings on how companies can redefine and radically improve the way they do business: “The Customer Experience Ecosystem, Redefined.”  

As in past years, I’ll write more about our industry speakers as we get closer to the event. For now, I’m quite pleased to simply reveal our lineup:

  • Stephen Cannon, president and CEO, Mercedes-Benz USA.
  • Nancy B. Clark, senior vice president, head of operational excellence organization, Verizon.
  • Steve Quirk, senior vice president, trader group, TD Ameritrade.
  • John Maeda, design partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB).
  • Kelly McSwain-Campbell, senior vice president, customer experience director, US Bank.
  • Carey Kolaja, vice president, global solutions management, PayPal.

I couldn’t be more excited about the stories these speakers will tell. For example, Mercedes-Benz has an impressive story of CX excellence through innovation. John Maeda, former president of Rhode Island School of Design, will tell us why KPCB thinks it’s important to build design into the cultures of its entrepreneurs and portfolio companies. And both Verizon and TD Ameritrade were industry leaders in our CXi this year, with both showing notable gains in their scores. How did they do that? We’re going to find out at the Forum!

I hope to see many of you in New York. I’ll be easy to spot because I’ll be the host and moderator. Just look for the guy with the funny gray patches in his beard who’s having a great time on stage with our distinguished roster of speakers. 

P.S. If you are planning to attend, you can save $200 off the event price if you buy a ticket before May 10th, 2014. It’s the best thanks I can think of for reading my blog post to the end!