Friday, December 22, 2017

'Twas four nights before Christmas, a True Story of the Retail Apocalypse and Customer Experience

An actual photo of a shopping mall in Chicago last 
night, four days before Christmas
I was inspired to write a poem by a visit to a mall that I made last night. Far from finding it crowded with holiday shoppers, the place was sad and empty. You can enjoy the poem below, but please visit my Gartner blog for more context and observations about how the discipline of customer experience can help retails make bold choices for future success. 

Without further ado, and with apologies to both Clement Clarke Moore and Charles Dickens...

'Twas four nights before Christmas, and all through the mall,
Not a creature was stirring, the crowds were so small!
The decorations were hung 'round the galleria with care,
In hopes that some shoppers soon would be there.

But unlike the ghosts of Christmases past,
The shops were all empty, the clerks looked downcast.
No bustle! No shoppers! No last-second buyer!
No families or children! The scene was quite dire.

So I strolled from the food court (I don't need to get fatter),
And went to investigate to see what was the matter.
In the first store, I asked for the size that is mine,
"We don't carry that here, you must shop online!"

In the next place, I struggled to roam through the store,
To maximize density, they'd crammed in more. More!
So crowded and cramped, they'd packed all the aisles,
That trying to get through was more like a trial.

The next store was empty, no clerk could be found,
The place was in chaos, with clothes in a mound.
Employees were chatting, their duties neglected,
Under a sign that proclaimed "Satisfaction's our objective!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
I could not help but recall, dead retailers gone by.
Borders, Circuit City, Blockbuster, and KB,
American Apparel, Wet Seal, The Limited, RIP.

In that moment, so dispirited and glum,
I was visited by the spirit of Christmas Yet to Come,
"This mall will be shuttered," he uttered grim-faced,
"These brands will go under, their memory erased."

I cried, "Why show this if all hope has passed?''
In response, he whispered, "The die is not cast.
If retailers honor customers deep in their soul,
Put them first, do them right, and above all, make them whole!"

"Leaders must live in the future, not just this quarter,
Investing in customers can save brick and mortar,
People crave experiences, they want to feel cherished,
Brands that treat them like wallets will all soon have perished."

"Customer experience can save them," he declared as he vanished,
"Without satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy, their brands will be banished!"
And I heard him exclaim, ere he disappeared from sight,
"Next season will be happy if you just get CX right!"

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Top Zero Customer Experience Trends for 2018

I love the holidays, but I hate "trend season." You know, how every blogger, agency, and media site has to publish its forecast for the hot trends in marketing and business. I saw a headline today that promised the megatrends that would change your business in 2018. I've got news for you: If there is a "megatrend" that will impact your company within 12 months and you are not already aware and acting, it is already too late for you.

Of course, I get particularly frustrated with the breathless headlines promising sexy trends in customer experience (CX), my area of focus at Gartner. These sorts of articles typically fall into three different categories: The obvious (Frictionless experiences become more vital!), the optimistic (VR will change everything in 2018!), or the misguided (Snapchat is essential to your brand's CX!)

This year, I'd like you to ignore these articles. Why? One reason is that most of these essays are full of hot air, intended not to educate but to ignite a sense of FOMO and sell the writer's services. More importantly, chances are your company is not getting the basics of CX correct, and the focus on hot trends and tech only obscures your best opportunities to improve your brand's relationships with its customers. By all means, monitor how emerging technology (such as IoT, VR/AR, voice-activated devices, chatbots, and AI) is evolving, but do not lose sight that technology must serve your customers and their desired experiences, not vice versa.

To see the real hot trends (really just the good, basic building blocks of CX success), please continue reading on my Gartner blog. And if you're a client, you'll find links to relevant research notes that can help your 2018 planning.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What is Customer Experience?

Photo by ANDRIK ↟ LANGFIELD ↟ PETRIDES on Unsplash
In the two years I've been at Gartner, I've had hundreds of calls and meetings with clients about customer experience (CX), and I am regularly struck with how misunderstood it remains. CX is a hot topic in business today, which is evident not just from the many articles and blog posts you see but because 61% of marketing leaders now report their companies have a CXO (Chief Experience Officer) or an equivalent role (although most do not report into the CMO).

I have shared Gartner's definition of CX in the past, but I think the issue is that so many people get lost in the tools, processes, and execution. I think a metaphor might help here: You can run for all sorts of different reasons, and how you plan and evaluate your running will depend on your purpose. If you are a sprinter you will plan, evaluate and execute your running effort differently than if you are a marathon runner than if you are merely running to improve your health or lose weight. In other words, everything--your gear, goals, metrics, and plan--is determined not by the running but your reason for doing so.

In the same manner, companies already do many (perhaps all) of the things often associated with CX. Your organization already has people dedicated to improving acquisition and awareness, to increasing sales, to responding to customer needs and to developing products, so why does it also need people dedicated to the discipline of CX? You cannot answer that question unless you first understand what customer experience really is and what it does. In other words, everything--your gear, goals, metrics, and plan--are determined not by the activities but your reason for doing so.

So, let's review that definition again, but this time, focus not on the process but on the why. Customer experience management is “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.” Every part of that definition is important, but the most critical part is the reason why--to lift customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy.

Like the running, what defines CX is not the processes--since you can use personas, journey maps, voice of the customer data, and customer insight to achieve all sort of different business outcomes--but in what you wish to accomplish and how you intend to measure. If you are not investing in, focusing on, goaling, and measuring your effort against customer satisfaction, loyalty, and advocacy, then you are not really doing CX.

To understand why you must focus on the customer before the experience and how being customer-first/company also drives long-term business results, please continue reading this blog post on Gartner.com.