[Posted by Jonathan Browne]

How did you like our Customer Experience Forum? Did you come participate in person at the event in New York? Or did you see some of the presentations that we offered as a live stream?

On my way home from New York, I met a friend at LaGuardia airport for a coffee and I enthused about the event to him. He leant forward as if to let me in on a secret: "There's a company that I deal with, that always delivers an excellent customer experience – and you've probably never heard of it."

He proceeded to tell me that three generations of his family rely on USAA for all their financial needs. Boy, was he surprised when I told him who I'd been speaking with earlier… :

Wayne Peacock  

[Wayne Peacock – Executive Vice President, Enterprise Business Operations, USAA]

For me (and many others) the highlight of the forum was the panel discussion with three stellar Chief Customer Experience Executives on the second day of the event:

The three queens of customer experience - and the court jester 

[From left to right:

  • Aisling Hassell, Vice President, Customer Experience and Online, Symantec

  • Ingrid Lindberg, Customer Experience Officer, CIGNA

  • M. Bridget Duffy, M.D.

    , Chief Experience Officer , Cleveland Clinic

  • Bruce Temkin, Vice President and Principal Analyst, Forrester Research]

    How did these executives describe themselves? 

    Ingrid Lindberg is the self-proclaimed Queen Of Dirty Words. Why? She identified a couple of hundred bits of jargon that customers don't understand, and she banished them from the company. If you make the mistake of using one of the words on her list, you can expect to pay a fine – Doesn't matter if you're the CEO or the biggest VIP in the room. What has this done for CIGNA? It delivered a 160% increase in understanding among their customers.

    M. Bridget Duffy, M.D. is the Queen of Empathy. (The word "empathy" was even in her job title at one time). She transformed the Cleveland Clinic from a top hospital that fixed people's health problems into a center that recognizes the human needs of its patients and cares for the whole patient. (I'm sorry if I don't explain that well – I expect my colleague Liz Boehm will have more to say about this, later). Suffice to say that the heart surgeons and neurosurgeons who used to ignore the need for empathy are now doing brilliantly at caring for the whole patient.

    Aisling Hassell – I don't think Aisling used the word "queen" but she did mention her "salmon guts" (willingness to swim against the current). She used the Voice Of The Customer and Net Promoter Score initiatives to drive change, irrespective of the challenges presented by a fast moving company in a rapidly evolving industry. (Through difficult mergers, frequent changes of personnel at the most senior level, and random, unexpected events). With an appetite for these tough challenges, and a willingness to "roll with the punches" she has secured complete support from the CEO and constantly keeps her firm focused on progress along the customer experience journey.

    These three executives provoked more questions from our audience than any other session at the event. It's not surprising — Ten or eleven years ago, when Forrester started to write customer experience research, it was a kind of fantasy that firms might one day appoint Chief Customer Experience Officers. To meet three executives who have mastered that role and who wield so much influence in their companies and deliver such great results was inspiring.

    What else can I say about the event? I loved David Cush's presentation about Virgin America. It came as no surprise to  hear how important it is to hire the right kind of people if you want to have an airline that feels different. (Hiring the kind of pilots who WANT to meet and greet the passengers who are boarding).

    I also loved being in New York City … and I can't wait to get back there for another CXP forum next year:

    BlackBerry Pictures - Apr 21 2009 211 BlackBerry Pictures - Apr 21 2009 221 BlackBerry Pictures - Apr 21 2009 230

    [Photos taken with my mobile device – apologies for the poor quality]

    I got back to London this morning, and I'm still overwhelmed. With over 700 people at the event, there were so many great discussions going on in every room, all of the time. I had 15 separate one-on-one discussions with clients, who came with questions to ask and opinions to share. I noticed a marked uptick in questions about mobile and social media at this event. It seems that major US companies are getting serious about the mobile internet now. Is this the iPhone effect?

    If you were at the forum or following us in some other medium, please post your thoughts and feedback in the comments section of this post. And now I'm going to get some rest…. yawn.