Only 11 percent of companies garnered a rating of “excellent” in this year’s Customer Experience Index of large US firms, released today by Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). Forrester asked more than 4,500 consumers about their interactions with 114 companies across 12 different industries and developed its Customer Experience Index based on the usefulness, ease of use, and enjoyability of those experiences. Thirty-eight percent of firms were rated as “poor” or “very poor.”

Barnes & Noble topped Forrester’s ranking, while Charter Communications received the lowest score. Compared with last year, banks made the largest improvements, led by U.S. Bancorp, SunTrust, and Citibank. Meanwhile, Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications, and Blue Shield of California had the largest decline. At an industry level, retailers and hotels ended in the top spots of this year’s Customer Experience Index for all categories, while medical insurers and TV service providers ended up at the bottom.

“Executives regularly tell us that customer experience is critical to their competitiveness, but this year’s Customer Experience Index demonstrates that there’s room for improvement across all industries,” said Bruce D. Temkin, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research. “While many firms are dealing with rough economic times, they can’t let customer experience fall to the back burner. If firms let their customer experience deteriorate, then they’ll lose customers and amplify the negative impact of the downturn.”

To keep customer experience momentum in a downturn, Forrester offers several recommendations for companies including:

  • Prioritizing the moments of truth that occur during customer interactions because they have the biggest impact on overall satisfaction, likelihood to repurchase, and likelihood to recommend.
  • Seeking usability improvements to key customer touch points like Web sites, service emails, and interactive voice response (IVR) systems.
  • Increasing communication with employees to keep them apprised of any shifts in priorities and engaged with overall customer experience efforts.

Forrester offers research, workshops, peer networking, and consulting services specifically for the needs of Customer Experience professionals. More information about these offerings and a complimentary copy of “The Customer Experience Index, 2008” report are available at: