Outside In: Forrester Customer Experience Forum 2012

Last week a steamy New York City hosted the Forrester Research Customer Experience Forum, Outside In: The Power Of Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business. The forum content was carefully designed to support and provide real world examples connected to the upcoming book Outside In by Kerry Bodine and Harley Manning. I was stunned at the number of people in attendance. Certainly holding the event in New York contributed, but I think firms are beginning to understand the gravity of the situation. Speed, paradigm shift (sorry), mobile, social and big data are the beacons of change today. As with all Forrester Forums there was a a ton of information, case studies and technology solutions. No one could possibly attend every session, so I boiled down some nuggets that caught my attention.

Customer Experience Needs to be Unified

Consumers are  literally all over the map these days. Brands orchestrate platforms on devices and interfaces, but consumers ignore all that hyperbole. They just want to get things done.  In his talk, The Unified Customer Experience Imperative, Ron Rogowski (@ronrogowski) spoke about complex customer journeys and the even greater complex challenge it presents for brands to understand and deliver across this new landscape. Things used to be much simpler. He showed this chart that illustrates what brands need to consider.

Consistency has always been a critical path for success. Forrester has tweaked that term and now calls it unified. Unified but not uniform. This is a very important nuance to understand. We wrestle with this notion all the time, having spent a decade plus working the ever-expanding big canvas of a full site, we now must make tough decisions on what to do on handsets and tablets.

This means make it similar, not the same. In order to get better at this, the entire brand will need to begin to understand and inflect their work to meet this new challenge. It will be important to get everyone on board, or we will face a series of never-ending discussions across the organization each and every time we want to add content, features and functionality to interfaces that are not full site.

We will need to continue to listen, collect and categorize the voice of the customer in each channel, but find ways to do an experience mash-up VOC to help inform and guide how we design and deliver experiences in the future. Relevance and real time data should be our mantra.

There has been a lot of discussion about responsive design recently and this forum was no different. It is promising, but there are lots of challenges and some big decisions that must be made. I can’t imagine converting a massive web site to be all responsive, but it does make sense to begin to experiment and learn. Bottom line. Get moving and bring everyone along.

The World is Mobile

We hear it all the time, mobile first. Julie Ask (@JulieAsk) said it right at the outset of her talk on The Future of Mobile. It’s tricky, because if you are an established brand with millions of customers, your full site traffic and usage likely dwarfs your customers coming to you via mobile. Julie explains that designing mobile first doesn’t mean abandon full site or prioritize mobile above all else. It means your designers and CX people for mobile will need to be fully aligned with your full site team. I suggest you make them the same team, otherwise you risk an unhealthy diversion of experiences. Julie has a sharp eye and she trains it on the future. Phones will continue to get more powerful and bandwidth will improve. This will lead to a host of new technologies that will be mobile. She is careful to not restrict these new technology advances to handsets or tablets. They might extend to contact lenses or cardio stents.

No one can say with certainty exactly the order of advancement, but it’s clear that mobile will diverge even further from the PC experience and become the dominant device for service brand and shopping. The landscape will be a convergence of context, intelligence, contextual dimensions and completely new ways to navigate.

Design Still Matters

Understanding how consumers use interfaces is even more critical than ever. This used to be much easier than it is now and so expertise must be developed in house or contracted. It’s time to re-double our usability tools use to uncover struggles within interfaces as well as ensure that users can connect with your brand across devices no matter where they are. Bill Albert of Bentley University, provided one of the most concise summaries of UX tools and when to use them. Loved this chart.

Four years ago I wrote a post on neuromarketing. This is a set of emerging techniques allowing us to get at the physiology of consumers. By measuring heart rate, galvanic skin response, even body movement, we will get better data from consumers to help guide us through design. The equipment is getting better and the costs to field these studies is coming down. Add this to your big data chart.

Big Data is Really Big

Tim Suther of Acxiom laid out a nice summary of how they think about big data. Big data does not mean lots more data. There is already more data than we can mine. We all know what we need is more insights, but that is getting much harder to come by. Big data means new data sources at the most granular level that can be accessed through existing CRM systems and will be largely digital and behavioral in nature going forward. Segments are a thing of the past. People is where we need to go. How people use and interact with today’s social networking experiences must also be included.

No one signal consistently describes or predicts consumer behavior. Activate and evaluate these signals at scale with speed. – Tim Suther

Along with Tim, Richard Char of Citibank talked about their efforts to harness big data and deliver relevant offers. He spoke about Lifestyle Enabled Marketing (LEM) which he uses to push his company to gain a more compete view of the customer. He had a lot of interesting slides, but I think this sums up the shift we are trying to manage through. Somewhere where the arrows meet is where big data will be the most help.

It’s the Customer, Stupid

Amazing as it sounds, we are still learning how to deliver great customer experiences. It’s not that no one is trying, it’s that the customer won’t hold still, keeps getting smarter, more fickle and less loyal. Hard to blame them as they are constantly being tempted by the next shiny object and brands continue to stumble.

Forrester’s forthcoming book Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of your Business offers lots of great information and practical approaches to better understand the evolving consumer. But perhaps more important, how to work inside your own company to shift the culture to be more customer focused, and therefore more successful.

They lay out six disciplines of customer experience; Strategy, Customer Understanding, Design, Measurement, Governance and Culture. They posit that getting customer experience right can add billions to the bottom line of businesses. This is challenging to measure and we all know how difficult attribution can be. But having finished this book in galleys this weekend, I’d have to say they have broken some new ground and provided us with a way to think differently, plan and act.

They speak of the rise of the Chief Customer Officer, and indeed this position is beginning to pop-up. I personally believe it will be some time before it’s a common job description and routine hire across corporate America. I do believe it will evolve, forced actually, as consumers become more independent, technology advances and competition changes battlefields from marketing to experiences.

Photo: Steve A Furman 

Assessing the Value of Research and Thought Leadership

On Friday, January 21, 2011, I had a distinct honor. I sat on a panel before the entire global sales team of Forrester Research in Boston to discuss how firms measure the value of research, as well as what I like most and least about Forrester. It’s one of those things that you wish all your partners would do more of. Listen hard to what their customers are saying. The panel included myself, Jeff Reid, AVP at The Hartford Insurance Company, Neil Clemmons, President of Critical Mass, and Susan DiManno, Research Director at The Boston Globe.

Full Disclosure: I’ve been a client of Forrester since 1997, and sit on one of their Leadership Councils. This blog post represents my personal thoughts, and does not include comments from any other panelist.

The question came up about how I think about and measure the ROI of research firms like Forrester. It’s of course a great question. Certainly in business one must manage spend and revenue, and everything a company undertakes should be reviewed for it’s value back to the firm. But I would posit that not everything has to be about ROI, at least not in the strictest sense. Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should. You can’t measure everything unless you have endless analytical resources, and if you try, you’ll probably miss out on key insights because you are too busy measuring. The entire doctrine of driving insight adoption is built on knowing when you have enough information to move forward. Carpenters have a saying, “Measure twice, cut once.” It’s not measure over and over and over. Not if you want to actually finish that house.

I value research and thought leadership the way I value education, knowledge and experience; highly. Do you ask yourself, “Should I hire smart, talented people? Do I need to train and coach them?” There is no way a digital professional can be consistently successful without these tools in their toolkit. Once you have acquired them you need to take full advantage. That’s where research and thought leadership comes into play. They act as finishing stones to hone these tools. To keep them razor sharp. This edge can be the difference between making a good decision or a bad one. It can help you build your business case and be more effective socializing your ideas across the broad cross-functional landscape of your firm. They make you better informed. Here is how I bucket this resource.


I’ll frequently turn to Forrester to to validate my current thinking or approach. No matter how smart you are, it’s always helpful to ensure you’re not blindly drinking your own kool-aid. The greatest writers had even smarter editors.

Cross-Vertical Learning

Many of the best lessons are learned by observing someone that’s accomplished in another realm. Forrester gets to peek under the covers of hundreds of companies and publish a combined, fully informed research paper. It’s a place I can’t go (probably better off most times, bed bugs, etc.).


I am constantly assessing new technologies and tools to help automate processes and in general help me do my job smarter. Frequently Forrester will usually have a Wave report that can help me narrow the field of who would be good candidates to invite into that so well loved RFP process.

Company Education

Not everyone in your firm thinks about things they way you do. We invite Forrester analysts to add their voice to our own inside the company, helping to educate and spark ideas and activity.


There is no such thing as a fully reliable crystal ball. But if you want to lead, not necessarily bleed, you will need to make some calculated bets on what might happen. Firms like Forrester sometimes make bold, provocative predictions that bridge data with their brains. True, one is left to divine their own future from this, but the value is in breaking the tunnel thinking we can so easily fall into.

Certainly Forrester is not without their opportunities to improve. A potential white space is to partner with the execution agency resources that are employed by their clients. This could serve as connective tissue between desired outcomes and deliverables that achieve them. Over the past 15 years I have gained a lot personally from my interaction with Forrester, and that has clearly translated into value back to my company. The research is great, but in the end it comes down to people. I thank my account manager at Forrester, Michelle Beaudreau, for working tirelessly at making me more successful everyday.

If you are still a stickler for that ROI, then have at it. I’ll spend my time getting smarter thank  you.

How Many Agencies Does it Take to Screw in a Light Bulb?

Low_Energy_Saving_Spiral_Light_Bulb.jpg.gifI recently sat on a panel called Managing Multichannel Agency Relationships at last week’s Forrester Consumer Forum in Chicago. Sean Corcoran the panel moderator and Forrester Analyst took an interesting approach. He passed across a short list of questions for us to ponder a week ahead of time, but did little else to help us prepare. It was a pre-mediated strategy to spur more spontaneous dialogue. The two clients on the panel were myself and Tracy Benson, Senior Director of Interactive Marketing and Emerging Media at Best Buy, The two agency representatives were Chris Miller, Senior VP, Group Management Director, Digital with Draftfcb and Ian Wolfman, CMO at imc². It was quite an honor to be on the same stage as these accomplished professionals. The teams were even with Tracy and me sandwiched in between the agency guys.

What is a digital agency’s role in today’s multi-dimensional landscape? Is it more important or roughly the same as it’s been?

Putting advertising aside, there are more digital channels used by consumers than analog channels today (see graphic below). And the digital channels are newer, richer, more interactive and can be easily shared. This means your digital agency’s role is increasingly more important than ever before. The fact that technology powers the new digital channels has actually hindered exploration and adoption among the big firms. That’s because traditional marketers don’t fully understand these new channels and can easily become infatuated with the technology. Suddenly their cry becomes about the technology and that drowns out strategic conversations. “We need a Twitter stream! Get me an iPhone app, now!” Oftentimes these take the form of demands of traditional agencies or even interactive agencies who have no real depth of experience in either mobile or social.


Marketers should be engaging in proactive discussions with their current interactive agencies about emerging trends, and ask the tough questions about their on-staff talent, capabilities and experiences beyond standard web development. If they don’t have much, but you are not doing much, maybe it doesn’t matter. But I can guarantee you that some day someone in the C-Suite will be sending you an e-mail or dropping by asking you what your plans are in new areas of mobile and social. If you don’t know and your agency doesn’t know you are officially behind and your job and your business may be at risk.

The role of a digital agency in this ever-changing landscape should be a shifting from single threaded projects to multidimensional marketing ecosystems. Here is a list I think great digital agencies must be doing to meet this new challenge.

  • Expand the use of Personas, layering on mobile and social attributes
  • Move away from single-threaded design projects into a marketing and communication ecosystem
  • Fold in analytics and data more deeply and earlier on in the process
  • Use more iterative design, not an assembly line approach. More sketches before the formal design process begins
  • Help the client do something, not just say something
  • Constantly seek to get closer to the client’s marketing and brand strategy
  • Build out new skills within the agency team

Push your current agency to further educate and expand their staff skills. But you have to be committed to this new world as well. Learning and growing together can be a very good thing. If you are about to change digital agencies, include the topics of mobile and social skills, as well as channel integration experience and the points above high on your discussion list.


What makes a successful interactive agency-marketer relationship?

The same thing that makes any relationship successful; working hard at it. I had my first encounter with an agency when I was running a chain of bookstores in the 1980’s. I have always viewed my agency as an extension of my own staff. That mindset alone puts everyone on a better path. Make them a partner. Bring them into your strategic discussions and connect them with other key players around the company. Some feel that if others around the firm are going directly to the agency, then somehow control is being lost. Not true. It probably means overall that more is getting done. If you have interactive agency responsibility at your firm you need to provide guidelines and standards to both the agency and your company peers. Use the agency as outside validation to help elevate the digital IQ in your own company.

Have relationship reviews twice a year and make them frank discussions. I have three big buckets; efficiency, style and vision. Most things will fit nicely into one of those. Identify issues, but bring solutions yourself, and keep an open mind.

What are the pros and cons of working with one consolidated agency vs. several specialist agencies?

If you are a big brand you will absolutely have multiple agency relationships, no doubt about that. There is a need for big firms to get lots of things done in many areas, and the communication across departments is still sorely lacking (yes, as shocking as it may seem, silos still exist). People will go to all the trouble and work to get a new agency before they go around the company to see if an incumbent can do the job; amazing. It’s about the number of agencies, although I think fewer is better, it is about who you select.

  • Choose agencies that compliment your business and other agency models and cultures
  • Provide guidelines to everyone and be crystal clear who is leading
  • Have them present together so no one over reaches on credit
  • Connect agency personnel up and down levels and across disciplines

One thing I would steer away from are very small, specialist agencies that will struggle to hold their own in the C-Suite or with high-powered talent from the big guys. If you are hiring an agency for one small, unique initiative and don’t plan on introducing them to other external partners, think again. The interactive marketing world is highly integrated today, so if your project isn’t connected it will probably fail. Don’t create more silos, we have enough thank you.

How has social media changed the landscape and what is the role of agencies in this space?

So much has been written and said about Social Media the past year or so that I am not going to address any of that here. If you are reading this you are fully aware of how Social Media is changing things. Whether or not your company is taking is another matter entirely. When it comes to the digital agency and Social Media my position is that they should be learning and doing side by side with you. Social is about being transparent and genuine, it is intimately linked to your brand. There is no better way to get started than with the agency that knows your brand, understands digital and can execute on technology (See the answer to the first question above). I would give your current digital agency a try before looking for a specialist.

Social Media is not a project, it’s an interactive marketing tool that can influence brand perceptions, and it’s too new for anyone to claim deep expertise. I know many will disagree with me on that point, and that’s fine. In fact I would argue that the most effective Social Media can only be done by the brands themselves. Think about it. Would you offshore the essence of your brand? Wouldn’t you want to be the ones talking about your brand? But first we have got to get the silos talking.

So, how many agencies does it take to screw in a light bulb? Probably not as many as you think. More on this later.

Please chime in on this topic.

Read my summary of the 2009 Forrester Consumer Forum here.

Forrester Customer Experience Forum Delivers the Goods

On June 22nd and 23rd, Forrester Research held their first ever Customer Experience Forum at the Grand Hyatt in NYC with this timely theme; The Customer Experience Journey: Keeping Momentum in a Downturn. They work hard at keeping it real and relevant. First let’s get the Wordle thing out of the way. I took eight pages of notes during the event; single spaced and 9 point font. I deposited all eight pages into Wordle and got this map.

Forrester CXP 2009 Wordle

I always think long and hard about why I should attend a conference. In this climate you’ve got to make everything count, so I create a list of what I want to learn and questions I would like answered. I make it a point to meet at least three new people that I will follow up with after the event. I attended this forum in search of how to make customer experience more of a business driver for my company. I believe a good customer experience leads to additional product sales and loyalty, but in this downturn I need more and more empirical evidence for my senior managers. My approach when attending a conference is to do so as if I am required to give a summary to my CEO when I return.

I’ve been thinking about the forum for a week now. There was so much information presented that it takes a while for it all to settle into my brain. What I have arrived at is the following; customer experience is no longer a deck chairs moment. It’s real. Brands that get it will emerge from this downturn stronger than ever. Those that don’t; well let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be working for them. But their problems will be less about their employees and all about their customers.

The High Hard Ones

  • Consumers are in control. Technology advancements in social media have enabled and empowered consumers to crowd source ideas, opinions and advice. The bad news is frustrated consumers want to tell the world. The Good news is that happy consumers want to tell the world.
  • Government action focusing on regulation as a result of the recent economic issues is really about improving the customer experience. Specifically it’s about increasing confidence, trust and advocacy in brands and industries. Brands should seize this rare opportunity to align with this inevitable change.
  • People want to do business with people, not faceless, nameless organizations. People watch out for people. Companies watch out for shareholders. There needs to be more work done on how to connect these two areas and make it work for all. The corporate tension of today that’s been created by silos simply pushes the pendulum in the other direction. The result is consumers are constantly being whiplashed.
  • Businesses still need to turn a profit. Sales, revenues, efficiencies, etc. are alive and well in the C-Suite. Firms demonstrating leadership that can connect customer experience with a social overlay and deliver business results will rule.
  • More and more technology is playing an ever growing part on the stages once dominated by classic marketing, advertising and customer service. Integrated, multi-channel approaches are no longer nice to have, they are required.
  • Some companies are already doing this. They are winning. Are you one of them?

Day One

Keynote was given by Bruce Temkin; Charting Your Customer Experience Journey. In this very engaging presentation, Bruce brought us back to The Wizard of Oz with references to needing a heart, brains and courage to tackle this challenge.

  • Heart – Ensures you are practicing empathy for your customers
  • Brains – Makes you think about how to cut costs. Not a haircut exercise, but a thoughtful one that shifts funds appropriately
  • Courage – Look for the opportunities but trust in your initiatives

He presented some powerful slides that directly linked customer experience to the bottom line to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars for firms doing in excess of $10Bn. He reinforced his Experience-Based Differentiation model coined a couple of years ago. These require companies to follow these rules.

  • Obsess about your customer needs, not product features
  • Reinforce brand with every interaction, not just communications
  • Treat customer experiences as a competence, not a function

Bruce’s mother was in the audience and he recounted something she taught him as a young boy. If you make promises, keep them. This nicely sketched out his second rule of customer experience.

Making Keeping Promises
Reinforce brands with every interaction, not just with communications

He set out a five stages of customer experience maturity that companies will need to follow to arrive at their destination. Each stage has a corresponding focus and culture descriptio

  • InterestedFocus is explore opportunity. Culture is raise awareness
  • InvestedFocus is fix problems. Culture is get buy-in
  • CommittedFocus is redesign processes. Culture is solidify beliefs
  • EngagedFocus is on empowering employees. Culture is align HR systems (soft systems: hire, train, promote)
  • EmbeddedFocus and Culture are to Sustain customer-centric DNA

He closed with the following advice. Align all your customer experience efforts to business results. Use the voice of the customer to help. Provide clear leadership and governance.

Acxiom and Hearst Publications presented some fascinating concepts called Winning Elections in the Marketing Democracy. They say it’s all power to the people. Everyone can contribute and everyone has a voice.


Acxiom threw TV and other traditional advertising under the bus. I realize that’s popular, but not practical. At least not yet. The take home message was that consumers more and more are saying,

If your marketing is important enough, it will find me.

That’s a focusing fact to remind us we need to ensure there is a social overlay to our advertising and marketing campaigns.

Hearst moved away from the restrictive construct of iVillage and created their own online properties. Traffic has flourished and they discovered they have two audiences for the same product. Fewer than 30% of a specific magazine’s site visitors also read he newsstand version, while fewer than 2% of the magazine readers visited the same site online. Creates more overhead to maintain both, but also opens up lots of opportunities to monetize.

C. David Cush, CEO of Virgin America Airlines really delivered on how to execute brand differentiation with his speech, A Good Airline Experience is not an Oxymoron. Having spent many years at American, he gave a simple explanation on why airlines aren’t customer focused. Most airline CEOs come up through either finance or sales and they think about the customer as revenue. He talked about all the things Virgin America is doing on the planes for the customer, such as free wifi on all flights, and customers order food and drinks from their 9″ seat back touch screen, swipes their credit card and a team member brings them their order on a tray. No carts moving up and down aisles.

Customers sometimes Tweet to @virginamerica while in flight and make comments. If something goes wrong, Virgin sends a team member to meet the flight at the gate to address any issues when the customer deplanes. Wow. I wish they flew to Chicago.

When you look at the number of followers to airline Twitter streams here’s how it stacks up.

  • JetBlue – 712,234
  • Southwext – 109.261
  • Virgin – 20,748
  • United – 14,339
  • Delta – 5,344
  • American – 3,535
  • U.S.Airways – 1,390

Consumers like brands with personality who are challenging the standard ways and putting the customer first.

The tech showcase had a round-up of the usual suspects, but I did get to interact with a new interactive, touch screen Coke machine. Sapient had it at their booth and apparently it was battle tested during the Beijing Olympics last year. The screen real estate can be sectioned off to show video, or display ads. It can even go social, allowing consumers to write on the screen and share it in a community. It dispenses the new aluminum Coke bottle shaped cans.

An Interactive Coke Dispensing Machine

The day went from analyst speak to big brand case studies to a world class designer. Sohrab Vossoughi, President and Founder of Ziba Design said, Forget Customer Experience – Create Meaning.

He delivered an energetic and compelling case for creating authentic relationships with consumers. He talked about finding your brand’s DNA. That is it’s essence and character, the company culture, it’s authenticity, and finally, base it all on trust. He placed design at the center of creating a great customer experience and defined design as follows:

  • All about connection
  • The act of connection is the real power of design
  • Great designs connect people and connect with people
  • It’s centered around meaning and moments
  • Great design has meaning
  • Great design anticipates and creates great customer experience moments

Design should be used to understand, synthesize, connect, simplify the complex, make meaning and create. He then presented his Umpqua Bank case study, which is a poster child of design for customers.

Day Two

The final day keynote was given by Moria Dorsey of Forrester entitled, The Future of Online Experiences: Prepare Now for Recovery. She took us from ballet to automobiles to the future of the web in about 45 minutes. The Forrester analyst I follow the most is Bruce Temkin, but Moria Dorsey is now a close second if not in a virtual dead heat.

She led off with a history of the automobile and how it has taken 50 years for cars to find their true form and another 100 years to evolve to what we recognize them to be today. The web is essentially in the Model T stage, which means there is a mind numbing amount of change coming our way.

Moria Dorsey divining the future
Moria Dorsey divining the future

Ms. Dorsey was pushing us to think about the future and possibilities with her predictions. She boiled down the future online experience as follows.

  • Customized by the user
  • Aggregated for a broader view
  • Relevant at a given moment
  • Social will be fully embedded

She spoke about how the capability / mobility gap is closing while at the same time the number of interfaces and devices are multiplying. Consumers are being bombarded by new technology choices from all angles. They want to always be online, they visit social networking sites and more and more prefer richer interactions. These consumer preferences should guide our digital roadmaps. But it’s not all about devices. Cloud computing has ushered in a whole host of new players and interactions. The number of web sites continues to grow, all of this combines to make formidable competition to even the most well established brands.

All fine, but how does one get ready for this evolving world? Her advice is that brands need advanced techniques to deliver what the customer wants and be able to achieve business results. This can be accomplished by:

  • Creating and using multi-channel personas that reflect and include information to help design the experiences you are trying to create
  • Conduct virtual ethnographic research to inform scenarios and build a new kind of customer experience map
  • Atomize your content and functionality so it can meet the consumer where they are
  • Establish an incubation environment to rapid-cycle testing of new ideas with low risk
  • Build mad design skills. Think software development, not web page coding.

As we move into the Model-T era of the online space, design and create experiences not simply inside the window, but off the desktop and out to devices.

The main stage closed with Martin A. Nisenholtz, SVP of Digital Operations at The New York Times. He presented a cast study on Building an Online News Experience. His talk was professional and well crafted. Obviously an experienced newspaper man, but clearly one that has made a successful transition to digital media. It wasn’t a classic case study, but it did provide some interesting glimpses of how a brand as strong and old as The New York Times is in the analog world has tried to remake itself for the a new era.

It was a fascinating experience listening to Mr. Nisenholtz, because of his intellectual approach to the problem. They have tried to align customer experience with business model innovation. Advertising is their main source of revenue and although you don’t often see ad takeovers, they do rich media units on their home page. I’m a Mac, I’m a PC from Apple ads were showcased.

Building a new online news experience has been accomplished in their interactive graphic reporting and how they try to balance social web and narrative web. They are viewed as two sides of the same storytelling coin. Mr. Nisenholtz said that beaking news is not their value proposition, but the title bar when you load nytimes.com says Breaking News, World News & Mulitmedia. The content delivers deep analysis and serendipity, and has high appeal to long time readers who have a thirst for knowledge and a desire to get life long learning. They focus more on psychographics than demographics.

Martin Nisenholtz
Martin Nisenholtz of The New York Times

He did a very nice job of evoking old school journalism and translating it into digital terms. “Report the news without fear or favor” still holds today. It’s integrity, skill and craft that builds a real newspaper. He also hinted as to how their business model might change. He used the term fremmium (might have even coined it) that’s a combination of free and paid content. They don’t treat the models as binary, but try to do both. Mobility might be a good revenue avenue for paid subscriptions because it lacks a proven advertising structure right now.

During the Q&A he was asked about the growing social media tools like Twitter and did he see that as a threat. He very emphatically and I believe rightly so, said that Twitter is a very large feeder to nytimes.com, but it will never replace what’s published in The Times. The audience broke out in applause. Indeed many of us stopped Twittering to join in.

I have strong opinions on what’s happening with newspapers and express them here.

On both flight segments there were some amazing cloud formations. Was able to capture three different ones.


If you’ve never attended a Forrester Forum, I would highly recommend it. But go in looking for answers. Ask the analysts the hard questions and network as much as possible.

Read my post from the Forrester Marketing Forum held in April 2009 here.

Photos: Steve A Furman

Forrester Marketing Forum 2009 – The Future of TV Advertising

I give full credit for my interest in technology and media to my father. He was a self-taught electronics engineer. That’s right self-taught. He had an amazing capacity as well as the courage to take anything apart to understand how it works. He could also put it back together. This was particularly true about televisions. It was the age of vacuum tubes, resisters and rectifiers powering gigantic cathode-ray tubes.

His reputation for this talent quickly got around and when someone’s TV went on the fritz they would call my dad. I would frequently tag along with him as he went to someone’s home and loaded the set onto the station wagon. From there it would go into his workshop, a magical room with oscilloscopes, meters, soldering guns, old TVs, spare parts and a file cabinet of schematics. The schematic was the map of the electronics inside. What we would today call code. It used a special language of symbols to communicate functionality, flow and the interface of these crude devices.

Electronic Schematic for Television
Electronic Schematic for Television

In those days there were only 3 television networks; ABC, NBC and CBS, and maybe 10 stations. My current Comcast channel lineup has 215 choices! There’s a station for every thing you could imagine and it’s on 24 hours a day. I watch only about 5 of those 215 stations during any given week, but because of the current business model, I pay for all of them.

The main reason for having that box, sorry, flat screen, in your home is to sell you something. It’s called commercial television for good reason. Yes I know, there’s the DVR that allows you to fast forward through all those commercials, but no matter how hard you try, you cannot fully escape the dreaded “spot.” Damn those agencies and their clients.

Card, Clayman, Verklin, Lyles (l to r)
Forrester Panel Discussion (left to right) - Card, Clayman, Verklin, Lyles

At the end of the first day of the recent Forrester Marketing Forum in Orlando, a panel discussion was held entitled The Future of Media. It was moderated by Forrester’s David Card (VP, Principal Analyst) and included a TV exec, Greg Clayman (EVP-MTV Networks), a media advertising businessman, David Verklin (CEO, Canoe Ventures), and a consumer product goods VP, Annis Lyles (Coca-Cola, North America). I had the good fortune to have lunch with Mr. Clayman earlier that day and we engaged in an interesting discussion on television, entertainment and distribution. I found him to be gracious and smart, while very much open to my thoughts and opinions. He is remarkably grounded in the basics of his business while at the same time looking out over the horizon in search of the next model. He has a massive job that spans all kinds of content and opportunity. I was impressed with his clarity and how he is carefully charting a course for the proper confluence of TV, online and mobile as a successful way forward.

The panel began and Mr. Card was determined to find out how effective TV advertising is becoming. The discussion was dominated by Mr. Verklin who was forceful and excited, proclaiming that “TV is getting back in the game!” He sounded like a cross between Steven Ballmer of Microsoft and George Castanza. “I’m back baby, I’m back.” I appreciated his energy, but he’s focus is on transforming the advertising experience on TV, not the content. Mr. Verklin wants to turn TV into a technology platform with a decision engine where marketers can target, measure and execute inside that platform to reach the right audience. The example he used over and over was if you have a dog in the house you should see an ad for dog food, not cat food. He calls it Community Addressable Messaging and outlines three components.

  • Interactive advertising
  • Addressable advertising
  • Data overlay

So the promise once again is that TV will be a trackable, measurable platform. I’m skeptical. I work in financial services. We know a little something about  the complexity of third party data overlays on top of dozens of consumer segments across databases with billions and billions of rows. It’s not unheard of for FI’s to score their entire database of customers several times per day and when one of them logs into the website or calls the service center customers are identified in sub-milliseconds and a decision is made on what to show them at run time.

Mr. Verklin talks about targeting the 51st state. The 18% of households that make over $100,000. As a marketer I would love to reach that demographic, but how much TV are they even watching? Isn’t the bigger opportunity with the perpetual intermediate of the TV audience, middle America? What about tracking across channels and stacking your message the way online ad networks can do?

Mr. Clayman was much more on point with his comments. MTV is balancing broadcast, online, retail and mobile distribution for the greatest profit. As a content owner/publisher, his view must be different. For him content is king and careful stewardship is critical. He is fully aware of how he makes money, so of course he will be interested in these new platform ideas as a way to increase ad revenues.

Ms.Lyles, on the product side, has become a content producer from time to time in order to distinguish her brand and bring it appropriately to a particular medium. Pushing Coke is paramount and she seemed determined to leverage all media to achieve success. Her firm has brought traditional and digital media buying together.

Mr. Verklin says that online is making TV raise it’s game. Really? Well I’m glad something is helping at least lift the bar off the ground. Network TV programming, and with it advertising, has been in a downward spiral for years, driven by decades of inertia. A personal note here. I don’t despise television programming. On the contrary, I think there’s lots of good stuff out there, and I realize I am no longer the target.

It was a healthy discussion and I was quickly transported back to 1976 and the film Network where Howard Beale, a lunatic news anchor had this to say about television.

We deal in illusion, man! None of it’s true. But you people sit there—all of you—day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds. We’re all you know. You’re beginning to believe this illusion we’re spinning here. You’re beginning to think the tube is reality and your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you. You dress like the tube, you eat like the tube, you raise your children like the tube, you think like the tube. This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God’s name you people are the real thing! We’re the illusions. So turn off this goddam set! Turn it off right now. Turn it off and leave it off. Turn it off right now, right in the middle of this sentence I’m speaking now…

I plan on following Howard Beale’s advice, but will watch the progress of Canoe Ventures closely.

Photo: Steve A Furman. Quote from Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay Network

Last and Final from the Forrester Consumer Forum 2008

Wagons west

As mentioned in the last episode, this post will skip the Forrester speakers and customer presentations and cover one of the “outsiders.” Forrester always places a strong speaker at the end of the second day in an attempt to help keep their attendees on site. It usually thins out anyway, but for those who stay they are richly rewarded. The forum theme was Keeping Ahead of Tomorrow’s Customer. You can catch up on my first two installments here and here.

The forum keynotes closed with the animated Paco Underhill, an environmental psychologist and founder of Envirosell, a firm that specializes in studying how people interact with retail and service environments. He is also the author of Why we Buy and Call of the Mall. He had very few slides, instead he told his story using actual footage captured while in the field. His talk, Shopping as the Dipstick of Social Change, was more like being in a meeting with him vs. listening to a presentation. Of all the sessions I attended, I took more notes in this one than any other by a factor of at least 3. Here are some of my favorite sound bites.

  • The world is designed by men but experienced by women. The men should ask the question, what makes my product or service female friendly?
  • Do you feel more time poor or money poor? Most answer time poor.
  • Online is about saving time.
  • As you design something think about how someone will use it the 12th time just as much as you think about how they will use it the first time.
  • Run your company like a global firm, but relate on a local level.
  • Convergence is the collision of online, mobile and bricks & mortar.
  • Shopping will transform more in the next 10 years than it has in the previous 50.
  • The best technology is the least technology.
  • Tech needs must be better engaged with culture needs
  • Stop thinking sitting down (meetings, excel, word, PPT)
  • The word for the 20th century was strategy, in the 21st century it will be tactics. Get a tactical grasp on your strategy.
  • Amenability is linked to profitability.
  • Health care is the only growth industry we have today.
Paco Underhill on stage

He showed clip after clip of how humans shop and voice tracked how that behavior was a barometer for a social change taking place across the globe. He didn’t neatly tie up the loose ends in a nice tidy Forrester-style theme, but he accomplished something just as important. He got me to think and think deeply about many of the things I have been working on.

A few weeks ago one of my agency partners came to town for a typical meeting. She was not on the iPhone train yet, and watched me use mine. I let her make a call and as she put it to her ear the first thing she said was, “How do I look?” What an insight I had. Cell phone stores should put up mirrors right by the phone displays. Their sales would go up. It underscored what Mr. Underhill had been saying. A man asks himself a very different question when he tries out a technology device. And sure enough Paco mentioned that phone retailers should have mirrors by their displays. Once again, great minds think alike ;).

He also put forth his hypothesis of why Social Media has grown so quickly. It is in large part do to the number of consumers who reside in the suburbs and live a much more lonely existence vs. their urban counterparts.

In summary the big ideas I took away from the forum were:

  • Tune into your online customer
  • Create value by making change
  • Nail down a multi-customer point of view
  • Empower your customers by embracing Social Media
  • Challenge your current organizational structure to prepare for the customer of tomorrow

There were some very helpful take aways for for all of us as we work to weather the current economic climate, Thanks Forrester for another helpful forum.

Forrester Consumer Forum 2008: Consumer Driven Eco-systems – Second of Three

You can read my first post on the Forrester Consumer Forum, which provides set-up here.

Alamo Relief in the Gaylord Texan
Alamo Relief in the Gaylord Texan

These forums are usually a great mix of analyst insights, customers talking about how they face and solve real business problems and “outsiders” as I affectionately call them. That is academics, consultants or futurists. The customer speakers were a bit of a mixed bag, but both outsiders were well worth the trip. And since Forrester already gets so much ink, I have decided to devote the last two posts on this Forum roundup (we’re in Texas remember) to these externals.

First Patricia Seybold, Founder and CEO of the Patricia Seybold Group. Her topic was Outside Innovation: Profiting from Consumer-Driven Ecosystems. I had the distinct pleasure of sitting next to her at dinner the evening after her talk, which provided me with greater texture into her thought process. I will try and insert some of that bonus material into my post. Ms. Seybold defines a Customer-Centric Ecosystem as:

A business network that’s aligned to help customers get things done.

It can be formal, informal, organic, dynamic or loosely coupled. This is a pretty blank canvas for sure, but then she expands it further by saying it should be aligned around customers’ outcomes and ideal experiences, and provide real time, real world, objective feedback. Where to begin?

Fortunately she had some examples (not case studies, sorry Forrester, these are externals) of companies that have done this successfully. She cited a Staples example where they cut time consumers have to wait to get their rebate check. Staples had to convince the manufacturers that this would be good for them as well as the customer. The result, happier customers and more sales.

Another example was Lego’s Mindstorms program. They give kids a chance to compete in a series of problem solving exercises under pressure. They work on the problem, build it and test it. They are purposefully not given enough resources, but are encouraged to work in the real world trial and error (sound familiar?) environment. Involving kids is always a stroke of genius. Have you ever given a child a digital camera? You get the most interesting shots or footage. It’s a winner all around. The kids get to rise to the challenge, the adults get to help them and the sponsors build brand loyalty and get to foster new talent for the future. The only nervous group were the actual Lego engineers.

But the real clincher was Ms. Seybold’s involvement with a small village in Kagadi Uganda. She has visited there several times and helped them create the village they wanted. Her framework for advancement is:

  • Vision
  • Current Reality
  • Gap
  • Structural Tension
  • Belief
  • Decide
  • Commit/Act

She employed this process in this village. The residents had to decide what they wanted and then work to get it. They worked on agriculture, outreach programs across the area, set-up a community radio station and educated their girls to be change agents. They also employed a two-generation education program where parents would come in and learn alongside their children.

Ms. Seybold’s approach is to address goals and identify the key moments of truth, which means when partner success aligns with customer success. All of this with the objective of getting things done.

Key sound bites for me were “embed your echo-system experience into your products.” This is a very different way of thinking. Then evolve it via customer pull vs. marketing push. That’s the tough one for most firms to understand.

Patricia Seybold Group
© 2008 Patricia Seybold Group

At dinner I learned of her interest and training in comparative literature, which made perfect sense to me, as she is a storyteller and weaves the great human themes into her keen sense of business. If you think this approach can be applied in your company, look her up.

Forrester Consumer Forum 2008: Maslow is Dead – First in a Series

I attended the Forrester Consumer Forum in Dallas earlier this week. It was my 16th Forrester event which speaks volumes about how I respect the company, value their people and study their work. It’s a day and a half of data, insights and big thinking with a sprinkling of small track sessions scaled down to snack size bites. They are also the consummate hosts. This year’s anthem was Keeping Ahead of Tomorrow’s Customers. An interesting theme, since most of the attendees (including me) were dialing back growth to match a briskly receding consumer. But Forrester did a great job at keeping things upbeat while recognizing the current economic climate and giving us some weapons we could take back and use.

One of the things that has been missing for me during the big top presentations as of late has been bold predictions. The research is still top notch, the analysts are smart, “wicked smart” as Carrie Johnson would say in her Boston accent, and they are frequently ahead of almost everyone. But some of the edge has dulled. I entered the main ballroom wondering if I would get something provocative, forward looking and passionate. My take? I got more stick your neck out than usual, and I was really excited about it.

James McQuivey, Ph.D. began with a talk called Satisfy Consumers for the Next Decade (and Beyond). He brought long lost relatives to life on the stage in an effective manner illustrating his story about why some consumers adopt early, and others late. His theme was: People share a set of universal needs. Satisfy those needs and you will win. He was really getting me to lean in until… Until he trashed Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He said.

Maslow’s needs are not ordered, not orderly, and in fact they’re messy.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - Graphic: Wikipedia

As I said, I was looking for provocative statements and guts, and I got both. As a formally trained psychologist I take umbrage to disparaging Maslow. He had sound methods and studied some of the most actualized people he could find to help him create this classic pyramid. I don’t claim it’s perfect, that would not be remotely possible in psychology. But it is a storied framework that has stood the test of time and is to be respected. I don’t believe Maslow intended his concepts to be the basis for business sales, but Mr. McQuivey made a strong case for how the current social media trend should cause us to rethink many things. He then laid out his own take at people’s universal needs.

  • Connection
  • Uniqueness
  • Comfort
  • Variety

According to Mr. McQuivey, everyone has all four, but they vary in importance by individual, can shift over time due to changing circumstances and people will ultimately trade off one need against another. These are interesting to ponder and even more so as he lays them out in a Needs Profile designed to help marketers target consumers better.

Forrester Research
Copyright © 2008 Forrester Research

He built his next section on the idea of a Convenience Quotient that can be found in research released earlier in the year. A Convenience Quotient (CQ) tells you how you compare with competitors as well as with other ways to meet the same needs. It applies to products as well as services.

I went from upset to inquisitive to interested by the time he wrapped up. At a high level it made sense, but I didn’t really know how to reliably arrive at a CQ for any of my products or services. Seemed very manufacturing focused. Will need to go back and ponder some more. Perhaps I’ll give him a call.

The event was held at the Gaylord Texan. Essentially it was like being in The Truman Show. A space the size of a city block enclosed in glass and steel. It looked more like a movie set than a resort. Perfectly manicured and very comfortable. We affectionately began calling it “The Bubble.”

Fellow Tweets Amy & Jayne
Tweeters Amy & Jayne

P.S. I attended my first TweetUp in Dallas. It was really a fantastic experience. Twitters send out Tweets and before you know it over 50 people descended on a BBQ restaurant in Grapevine, TX. All kinds of genuine, creative and fun people. Everyone is relaxed and talking about social media, politics, their start up efforts, etc. I felt so comfortable. You can get a better feel for what a TweetUp is by watching this video shot by Top Tweet and an amazing Forresterite Jeremiah Owyang. Check out his insightful and content packed blog here.

More to come on the Forrester Consumer Forum.

Forrester Finance Forum 2008 – Last of Three Posts

Customer Expectations During the Online Application Process

This post closes out my series on the Forrester Finance Forum held in New York City on June 23rd and 24th, 2008. You can read part one here and part two here. I always walk away from a Forrester Forum with a rich list of insights. If I were to stop and try to characterize one benefit that attending a Forrester Forums gives me, its energize me to challenge the status quo.

Photo Credit: Steve A Furman

Brad Strothkamp, principal analyst at Forrester, presented Mastering Web Sales by Focusing on Shoppers’ Expectations on the second day. The stats are interesting and compelling. 40MM consumers applied for a financial service product online in 2007, and 50% of them were applying online for the first time. That’s significant, because most of us who design online applications do so with deep knowledge of financial products and how the systems work. We are also keenly aware of what we want as a business, which influences how applications are designed and coded. We are too close and too knowledgable. Consumers are seeing our application designs for the first time. Brad’s presentation caused me to step back.

He talked about how there are many missed opportunities, and if we got even a little bit better, we would be richly rewarded. His stats say that consumers appear to be happier applying by phone or in person vs. the web, despite all the work and time that has been put into creating online applications. We in financial services want everyone to apply online, but of course the reality is not everyone will. Consistent and systematic improvement is the goal.

I have seen a statistic from Jupiter Research that states, 50% of consumers who start an online financial services application have no intention of completing it. They are there to shop or learn more about products. I didn’t see this referenced in Brad’s presentation. I wonder if Forrester has come across this, if it was taken into account, and what they would say about it. Forrester takes questions on 3 x 5 cards that are passed to analysts during the talks. Questions are then asked in the room at the end of each session. I submitted this question, but it wasn’t asked.

Consumers have a set of expectations they carry across all channels. Clarity, anonymity (only give as much personal information as is absolutely necessary) and speed. But they hold the web to a higher standard. Convenience (can I do it all online?) and the desire to not be pressured score high with prospects. The online process must of course be simple, secure and transparent throughout. And consumers want a safety valve if things go wrong, meaning human assistance immediately. Firms need to balance having a lower cost for taking the online application with offering human help in case it’s needed. This is a maximize sales at the lowest cost problem that needs to be explored through testing.

Brad spent his time on human reported behavior as well as presenting some good and not so good real life examples that drove the point home. He did not touch on application form design, but design is critical to getting someone to the finish line. There are oh so many ways to design a form, but there are clear best practices. Here is a short slide show that offers some. Coupling Brad’s insights with web form best practices would be a winner.

I was a little surprised Brad didn’t address a growing trend on the part of consumers to consult the social sphere of information before completing a transaction. Clearly his focus was on the application process, but there is a very complex set of interactions now at play immediately prior to and perhaps even during this moment of truth. That would be the social community. Consumers trust companies less and their peers more. The traditional marketing funnel is losing power. I’ve heard Forrester talk about this, but was it wasn’t brought out here, probably due to keeping the talk focused.

I am seeing a lot of evidence that consumers research on company sites, then pause their shopping to consult the social sphere of information. Who else has this product? What are they saying about it? If it passes the test, a consumer will possibly return to the company site and proceed through the sales funnel.

Once they come back to the site, the basic requirement seems to be speed, as 46% of consumers expect to complete the application in 10 minutes or less. People want to do everything fast, even when it comes to complicated or critical financial transactions. And of course FI’s want it to happen fast as well. Convenience is not a feature of the channel, it’s an assumption, and more importantly, 57% of consumers expect to be using the product in 24 hours or less. Instant gratification for an instant society.

Financial services products have become very much a commodity over the last few years, which makes it more difficult for firms to find meaningful differentiators. Each company copies the other as competition for the credit worthy or wealthy has become fierce. We all chase the same customers for the most part, which elevates the application process to an extremely significant moment of truth.

One thing that is critical to remember to get dead on right is the product page. Although consumers say they want speed, they want the right product even more. This is where your product page comes in. It’s got to work hard and deliver on the key features of your product and why it’s better. No one is applying for anything without looking at the product page. Get it right.

Looking forward to the Forrester Consumer Forum in the fall.

Forrester Finance Forum 2008 – Second of Three

Is Net Promoter Score the Holy Grail?

Second in a three part series of observations from the annual Forrester Finance Forum, How to Deliver Great Customer Experiences, held in New York June 23rd and 24th. Go here to read part one.

Photo Credit: Steve A Furman

Bill Doyle, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester, was very clear and consistent in his refrain about creating great customer experiences, “Easy to say, hard to do.” This simple phrase is at once a mantra and a warning. In financial services mahogany suites around the world the following response to creating great customer experiences can frequently be heard, “We already do that.” This is where the warning makes its entrance. Unless your firm has a customer experience executive that is fully engaged and integrated across the firm and understands that customer experience is everyone’s job, then you probably have a ways to go.

Ask those quick responders how they know. What are their metrics? Do they have them for each channel? Do they have them when customers are using multiple channels for the same transaction? Are the channels weighted? What is the weighting? Do they understand which channels are used by which customer segments? Ask them to show you their benchmarks. Are the benchmarks moving in lock-step with business results? And my personal favorite, where’s the customer experience roadmap that shows customer value, channel usage, level of interactivity, all correlated to likelihood to recommend?

One of the biggest challenges is getting people to understand and share a common vocabulary about customer experience. The next is to recognize it when they see it. Obstacles to delivering great experiences are not new.

  • Silos (yes, still siloed)
  • Department goals not aligned (often not even shared)
  • Consumers use multiple channels (well, you made them available, what did you think was going to happen?)
  • Technology infrastructure is not designed to allow data to flow freely across channels (no comment)
  • Business strategy changes (need to close the quarter)
  • External forces create surprise (economy, consumer confidence)

These are massive problems that cannot be easily solved. Forrester poured the forum foundation by demonstrating that a great customer experience does indeed drive positive business results. Fred Reichheld, founder of Bain & Company and author of The Loyalty Effect and Loyalty Rules spoke about his groundbreaking Net Promoter Score framework, in a talk entitled Winning the Loyalty of Financial Services Consumers.

Photo Credit: Fred Reichheld by Steve A Furman

For 30 years, Mr. Reichheld has studied customer loyalty and has arrived at a simple, highly supported hypothesis that loyalty transforms economics. He has a loyalty chain slide to help companies understand the components of loyalty.

Slide: Fred Reichheld

The Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures customer satisfaction. They are questions asked via phone or online after an engagement with the company. Customers that turn in scores 9-10 are bucketed as promoters. Scores 7-8 are categorized as passives. Detractors weighed in between 0 and 6. Throw out the number of passives, subtract your detractors from your promoters and you’ve got your NPS.

Slide: Fred Reichheld

Mr. Reichheld was informative, engaging and humorous. He told a personal experience he had with a rental car company. On a recent trip he returned the car 45 minutes late. The check-in attendant regrettably informed him that he would have to add half of a daily rate to the bill. Then there was the gasoline fee at three times retail price (that’s something like $12 per gallon). Mr. Reichheld protested, but to no avail. The attendant responded that he should have purchased the protection plan. “Protection plan,” said Fred. “Is this a rental car business or organized crime?” The attendant had the nerve to ask for a top 2 box satisfaction score. We’ve all been there.

Apple was referenced as a regular user of NPS. I made a purchase at my local Apple store yesterday. They hate cash registers and so my purchase was done in the middle of the store by a clerk tapping on a wireless device. My receipt was emailed to me. Here’s the email that has a link to the online satisfaction survey (also a great way to collect email addresses).

Here’s the entry page to the survey web site.

When a 10 comes in the employee of the Apple store is celebrated. When a detractor score comes in the store manager makes an outbound call to find out why. I was a promoter in this instance, but made a very detailed suggestion about store layout. In my opinion, the side shelving units are too close to the walls and there is not enough room to inspect the products and have someone walk behind you. The current floor plan hides a significant amount of SKUs. I provided them a detailed description of how they should reconfigure the layout into a series of V shapes. It would be visually more interesting and direct customers to walk in an interlacing fashion through the store. They could also improve their signage. I know I’m a pain, but I spent 9 years as the general manager of a retail bookstore chain. Retail is customer experience design.

Forrester analysts are sharp, and always make it look easy. Maybe too easy. But inside corporate America it needs nurturing and a fact-based approach. Of course getting NPS deployed needs support from the very top; everything does. Just prior to Fred, Walt Bettinger II, President and COO of Charles Schwab & Co. presented. He employed NPS and made some tough decisions to try and get their business back on track. Walt was pitch perfect in his delivery and obviously was the guy Schwab needed to pull this off. It seems to have worked, but they were in crisis. What if your business is not in crisis? What if you hear everyone around you say, “We already deliver a great customer experience?” It’s much tougher. Forrester should tackle that topic next.

In closing remarks, Fred offered some thoughts on how to get champions for adoption.

  • Explain that it’s your reputation on the line. It’s your name. Ask, “What do you want to be known for?”
  • NPS is still somewhat soft, but is gaining traction. Lots of case studies and blog entries can be found at netpromoter.com.
  • It is more psychological and sociological in nature, but these are converging with business facts thanks to the rise of social media.
  • You can’t improve your entire book of business with NPS. Look at profitability (vertical) and NPS (horizontal) together. Like everything, prioritize what you work on.
  • B2B firms have adopted NPS at a faster rate than B2C.
  • It requires a rethinking of the entire channel relationship with your customers.

My take is that Fred’s really on to something. After all here’s a brilliant man who has put 30 years of his life into one thing. Improving customer experience requires more than one strategy, and this one appears to be close to the tipping point. The meteoric growth of the online social community just might push it over.

P.S. The photo of the New York Times building (first photo above) was taken from a taxi. I immediately had a spontaneous urge to scale the building. Fortunately my agency partners were with me and kept me in the cab. Thanks Heather and Frank.

CEO Follows Advice of Deity, Decides to Blog

Part II from the Forrester Marketing Forum held in Los Angeles, April 7-9, 2008. Part I, Understanding Customer Engagement is here.

Forrester’s CEO, George Colony led off the second day with a talk entitled Confessions of a CEO Blogger. As he tells the story, he had a dream some years ago in which a deity-like voice spoke to him and said, “start blogging.” He ignored it (not a surprise for a CEO). But with all the fuss and hype blogging is getting these days he started to feel like it might be the right time. After all, two of his top analysts, Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff just published a book called Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. Personally I think he was a little worried about disregarding divine direction.

 George’s confessions are.

  1. No one is reading my blog.
  2. What do you mean once a week? I’ve got a company to run.
  3. Why does blog technology suck?
  4. It’s like speaking into a dark room and not getting any response.
  5. Where’s the money in this thing?

During his presentation he asked one of his analysts and respected blogger, Jeremiah Owyang, to take the mic and explain why he should give away his intellectual property for free on a blog. Jeremiah responded by saying that he thought of his blog as if it was a restaurant. He gives away the appetizers, but hopes people will come in and order the main meal. Obviously George wonders that his business, which is all about research and analysis, might lose monetary value through social networking. Certainly he gets paid to think about these things, and this concern is probably at the heart of why more CEO’s don’t blog.

George gets it, has a great sense of humor, and a sharp mind as you can read for yourself on his blog here. Please read so he doesn’t stop writing. Despite running a big, intellectual organization he is well grounded. A project manager partner of mine attended some Forrester sessions on Monday and then sat next to George at dinner. The report was he went out of his way asking people what they wanted to get out of the forum, and made everyone feel comfortable. When my colleague spoke up, he took a to do note. Impressive.