Experian, Progressive, and Vanguard are the winners of the inaugural Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR) Voice Of The Customer Awards, announced today at the Forrester Customer Experience Forum. The Voice Of The Customer Awards recognize initiatives that enable companies to dramatically improve how they collect, interpret, and react to customer feedback. More than 600 people attended the event in New York.

“Voice Of The Customer has become a critical discipline for Customer Experience professionals,” said Forrester Research Vice President and Principal Analyst Bruce D. Temkin. “We were greatly impressed by the quality of the nominations we received. The award winners illustrate how innovative companies are using next-generation voice of the customer programs to increase customer loyalty and monitor shifting customer needs.”

Forty companies representing leading brands in financial services, healthcare, retail, technology, and travel submitted entries to this year’s Voice Of The Customer Awards. Winners were judged across five categories: clarity of their approach, business value, customer experience improvements, innovation, and value of lessons learned. The winners include:

Experian. The information services provider won for its listening process that measures performance against 11 key loyalty drivers. Customer insight gained from the process allowed Experian to reorganize its sales and service organization, create new sales training programs, and revise incentive programs to create a seamless customer experience across four lines of business. This dramatically raised its Net Promoter Scores and helped improve both revenue growth and margin.

“Experian is thrilled to be named an inaugural winner of what will no doubt come to be a prestigious industry award,” said Experian Senior Vice President Of Strategic Initiatives Laura DeSoto. “We have long shared Forrester’s belief that the voice of the customer needs to be a core business focus, and we are delighted to have our ongoing efforts and successes recognized.”

Progressive. The insurance provider uses a mix of surveys, employee feedback, agent feedback, and social media monitoring to gather customer data that drives companywide goals linked to profit sharing. This program helped drive changes that contributed to a double-digit rise in Net Promoter Scores for Progressive’s claim service and a 28-point rise in its customer satisfaction index in the JD Power and Associates 2008 Auto Claims Survey.

“Meeting our customers’ needs is one of the biggest motivators at Progressive because it drives our product and service design innovations,” said Progressive Customer Experience Leader Christine Johnson. “We’re always looking for new and unique ways to improve the customer experience, and we’re absolutely delighted to be recognized by Forrester for our commitment to customer service.”

Vanguard. The investment management company won for its comprehensive, integrated program of active and passive listening that drives business decisions and reward systems. Results include a 59 percent improvement in favorable ratings for its retail problem resolution service and millions of dollars in cost reduction through process improvements.

“We are honored to be recognized by Forrester for our efforts to listen and respond to the needs of our clients,” said Vanguard Chief Executive Officer and President William McNabb III. “At Vanguard, listening to our clients is central to our client-first philosophy. But from a more practical perspective, it’s something we consciously work hard to do each and every day.”

Forrester’s Customer Experience Forum

More than 600 people attended the first-ever Forrester Customer Experience Forum in New York City. During his keynote address, Bruce D. Temkin unveiled new research that demonstrated the business impact of the customer experience. According to the Forrester report “Customer Experience Boosts Revenue,” even a modest improvement in customer experience can increase revenue by $177 million to $311 million for large companies, depending on the industry. Customer Experience professionals can use the data and analysis in the report to build customized business plans.

Industry leaders who spoke at the event included:

  • C. David Cush, Chief Executive Officer, Virgin Atlantic
  • William McNabb III, Chief Executive Officer and President, Vanguard
  • Wayne Peacock, Executive Vice President, Enterprise Business Operations, USAA
  • M. Bridget Duffy, M.D., Chief Experience Officer, Cleveland Clinic
  • Ingrid Lindberg, Chief Experience Officer, CIGNA
  • Aisling Hassell, Vice President, Customer Experience, Symantec
  • Martin A. Nisenholtz, Senior Vice President, Digital Operations, The New York Times Company
  • Chuck Cordray, Senior Vice President, General Manager, Hearst Magazines Digital Media
  • Frederick S. Leichter, Senior Vice President of User Interface Design, Fidelity Investments
  • Sohrab Vossoughi, President and Founder, ZIBA Design

Attendees took part in more than 275 one-on-one sessions with Forrester analysts, peer networking, and a technology showcase where 23 sponsors — including platinum sponsor Acxiom and gold sponsors Effectiveui, Molecular, Sapient, and Sitecore — shared their solutions.

Members of Forrester’s Marketing & Strategy Leadership Boards, including members of the Customer Experience Council, took part in a post-event session entitled Preparing For Success In The Next Generation Of Online. More information on Forrester Leadership Boards is available at: www.forrester.com/LeadershipBoards.