Amazon Provides Best Technical Support

We examined the service and support delivered by the following technology providers:

  • Amazon (e.g., Kindle, Kindle Fire, Kindle Fire HD, Amazon Prime)
  • Apple (e.g., iPhone, iPad, iTunes, iCloud, MacBook)
  • Google (e.g., Search, Google Docs, Gmail, YouTube, Google Play, Google Drive)
  • Sony (e.g., PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4)
  • Microsoft (e.g., XBOX, WINDOWS, MSOffice, and Skype)
  • Nintendo (e.g., Wii, Wii U)
  • Samsung (e.g., Galaxy Phones, Galaxy Tablets, Galaxy Note)

We asked consumers who had recent service or support experience to rate those vendors in two areas:

  1. Thinking about your recent customer service or technical support experience from these companies, how would you rate the end-to-end experience from your first attempt to get help until your issue was resolved?
  2. How would you rate the overall quality of online resources provided by these companies for end user support (e.g., websites, chat, contact us, FAQs)?

As you can see in the graphic below, less than half of consumers rated any of the companies “excellent.” Some other tidbits:

  • Amazon.com is on top for end-to-end service as well as for its online resources.
  • Apple provides the second best end-to-end service, but the worst online resources.
  • Google is next to the bottom in both categories.
  • Microsoft is the lowest scoring for end-to-end service, but third from the bottom for its online resources.

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The bottom line: Consumers could use better support for their technology.

Report: State of Employee Engagement Activities, 2014

Purchase reportWe just published a Temkin Group report, State of Employee Engagement Activities, 2014. This is the second year that we’ve benchmarked the employee engagement efforts within large organizations. Here’s the executive summary:

Although engaged employees are a vital component of any successful organization, we have found that only 50% of employees at large organizations feel engaged. To understand how companies are working to improve these engagement levels, we surveyed executives from more than 200 large organizations. We found that frontline employees are the most engaged, and that while most firms do measure employee engagement, less than half prioritize taking actions based on the results. The lack of a clear employee engagement strategy contributes to the fact that only 19% of companies earned a strong or very strong score on the Temkin Group Employee Engagement Competency Assessment. Employee engagement leaders enjoy stronger financial results and deliver better customer experience than employee engagement laggards, and they also have more coordinated engagement activities, more empowered CX teams, and more committed executives. Compared to 2013, this year more companies have significant employee engagement activities, but overall these activities are performed less frequently. Use our assessment and data to benchmark your employee engagement competencies and maturity.

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Here are results from companies that completed Temkin Group’s Employee Engagement Competency and Maturity Assessment::

1407_EECompetencies

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The bottom line: Companies need to pay more attention to employee engagement

Comcast (and Telcos) Must Improve Horrific Customer Service

When Ryan Block tried to cancel his Comcast service, he ran into a customer interaction from hell. The call was so bad that he recorded part of it and posted it online. The insanity of the conversation has driven it viral.

My take: I don’t think that the problem is a mis-trained rep, which is what Comcast claimed in its official response. Block is one of many, many people who have suffered through painful interactions with Comcast. The company “earned” the bottom two spots in the 2014 Temkin Customer Service Ratings, falling well below 231 other organizations. This type of pervasive problem stems from systemic issues, not from how a specific rep behaves.

While Comcast is the worst offender, bad customer service is an epidemic across the entire telecom sector, especially in TV service and Internet service. So Comcast is merely the worst of a bad bunch.

1405_TCSR_IndustryThe problem with the firms in these industries is that most of them grew up with geographic monopoly power. Without any viable competitors, their operating cultures focused on exploiting customers, not on satisfying them. As competition increased, they reacted poorly by starting a frenzy to acquire new customers and then doing whatever they can to entrap those customers.

Here are three recommendations for the entire telecom industry:

  1. Reward customer loyalty, not disloyalty. Any company that provides better pricing and service for new customers than it does for existing customers is institutionalizing disloyalty. Stop this practice. Focus more on holding on to good, loyal customers than pining for new customers. Sales from new customers might decline in the short-run, but the increase in retention and word of mouth will improve the business in the long-run. This revised focus will align internal incentives with a focus on improving customer experience.
  2. Build CX competencies, not a new veneer. The experiences that customers see are a reflection of how the company operates. So improving and sustaining good customer experience will requires organizations to build four CX core competencies: Purposeful Leadership, Employee Engagement, Compelling Brand Values, and Customer Connectedness. Want to know how you’re company is doing? Complete Temkin Group’s CX Competency & Maturity Assessment and compare your results to our benchmark of large organizations.
  3. Benchmark yourself against CX leaders, not each other. If telecom companies compare themselves to each other, then they don’t look too bad. Comcast is only marginally worse than Time Warner Cable or Charter Communications. Stop fooling yourself. It’s not good enough to be better than your peers, they’re also pretty bad. Set your sites on delivering customer service like USAA and Amazon.com.

The bottom line: Telecom firms need to build loyalty, not acquire customers.

 

Nadella Pushes Microsoft to Rediscover Its Soul

In a letter to all Microsoft employees called Starting FY15 – Bold Ambition & Our Core, CEO Satya Nadella established a mandate and vision for significant change across the technology behemoth.

Microsoft has great assets, but it has not kept up with changes in how people use technology. The Redmond giant was becoming increasingly less relevant in a world where digital technology is becoming more relevant.

Microsoft has needed to change for a while. There’s a saying that the best time to plant a tree is ten years ago and the second best time is right now. Nadella has made it clear that Microsoft’s time for change is right now.

My take: First of all, it’s hard to talk about any large-scale culture change without recommending that people review our model called Employee-Engaging Transformation, which is built on five practices: Vision Translation, Persistent LeadershipActivated Middle ManagementGrassroots Mobilization and Captivating Communications.

EET2

We work with many of the world’s leading technology companies, so I could go on and on about what changes are necessary at Microsoft. But I’d rather examine broader lessons from Nadella’s letter. Here are some excerpts that I thought were particularly valuable to discuss:

“...in order to accelerate our innovation, we must rediscover our soul – our unique core

Successful companies almost always start with a strong raison d’être, but it can get lost as the company grows and the world changes (see my post on Starbucks). Without a “soul,” companies drift along as employees across the organization start operating in a disconnected way. This is where the brand comes in. Companies need to constantly refresh their brands and make sure that the brand drives decisions across the organization (see my post on Walmart).

More recently, we have described ourselves as a “devices and services” company. .. At our core, Microsoft is the productivity and platform company for the mobile-first and cloud-first world. We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

Our research shows that employees are more productive and engaged when they are inspired by their organization’s mission. Which one of these statements do you think is more inspiring: “We are the devices and service company” or “We will reinvent productivity to empower every person and every organization on the planet to do more and achieve more.”

“We will create more natural human-computing interfaces that empower all individuals.”

This is a comment about technology, but its also points to a broader commentary about making things easy to use. We have entered into a world where people have more options, more distraction, and less patience. Every organization needs to relentlessly focus on making their products, services, and processes easier for customers to use.

Obsessing over our customers is everybody’s job. I’m looking to the engineering teams to build the experiences our customers love.

What’s not to love about this excerpt. My customer experience manifesto (and Temkin Group, for that matter) is built on a fundamental belief that sustaining great customer experience is not about applying a veneer, but about building competencies across the entire organization that create great experiences for customers (see our four CX core competencies). Also, it’s interesting that Nadella used the word “love.” Experiences are made up of three component (functional, accessible, and emotional) and our Temkin Experience Ratings show that companies are weakest at driving the emotional component. To get people to “love” your company, I suggest applying what we call People-Centric Experience Design.

“I am committed to making Microsoft the best place for smart, curious, ambitious people to do their best work.”

One of the Six Laws of Customer Experience is that unengaged employees can’t create engaged customers. Any company looking to improve how it interacts with customers almost certainly needs to focus on its employees.

“We will be more effective in predicting and understanding what our customers need and more nimble in adjusting to information we get from the market.”

How companies use customer insights is changing rapidly. Technologies such as text analytics and predictive analytics are helping companies tap into more comprehensive and ongoing insights, rather than relying on periodic customer surveys. Ultimately, companies will need to reinvent their operating frameworks so that they can adjust more frequently to take advantage of these rapidly-flowing insights.

Nothing is off the table in how we think about shifting our culture to deliver on this core strategy.”

This type of statement only works if it’s backed up by clear actions that employees can observe. These “symbols” of change need to be clear departures from how the company operated in the past, and can include reorganizations, firings/hirings/promotions/demotions, killing projects, accelerating projects, etc.). Don’t just say change is coming, demonstrate it (see the 3 characteristics of transformational leaders).

“We must each have the courage to transform as individuals. We must ask ourselves, what idea can I bring to life? What insight can I illuminate? What individual life could I change? What customer can I delight? What new skill could I learn? What team could I help build? What orthodoxy should I question?”

The notion of a personal challenge is a great way to help employees think about how they can be (and must be) a part of the change. But the questions won’t be too powerful if they are just statements in a letter from the CEO. Use these questions as part of discussions across the organization and embed them into leadership training and competency models.

 The bottom line: Change isn’t easy, but Microsoft seems ready to give it a try.

CX Transformation Lacks Middle Manager Activation

In the Temkin Group report Introducing Employee-Engaging Transformation (EET), we defined five EET practices that companies must master if they want to successfully drive CX change across their organization::

  • Vision TranslationConnect Employees with the Vision. The organization clearly defines and conveys not only what the future state is, but why moving away from the current state is imperative for the organization, its employees, and its customers.
  • Persistent LeadershipAttack Ongoing Obstacles. Leaders realize that change is a long-term journey and commit to working together until the organization has fully embedded the transformation into its systems and processes.
  • Activated Middle Management: Enlist Key Influencers. Middle managers are invested in the transformation and understand their unique role in supporting their employees’ change journeys.
  • Grassroots MobilizationEmpower Employees to Change. Frontline employees operate in an environment where they help to shape and are enabled to deliver the change.
  • Captivating CommunicationsShare Impactful, Informative Messages. The organization shares information about the change through a variety of means that balance both the practical and the inspirational elements for each target audience.

The report includes an EET assessment, so we asked nearly 200 professionals from large organizations to answer the specific questions about Middle Management Activation. As you can see below, only about a third of companies effectively employe this practice when driving change.

1407_MiddleManagementActivation

The bottom line: Don’t forget to activate your middle managers!

 

5 Rules To Stop Employees From Gaming Your Feedback System

When an employee asks a customer to “give me a 10 on a survey or I’ll get fired,” can you really count on the accuracy of that customer’s rating? This may be an extreme example of “gaming feedback,” but many versions of this behavior occur all the time.

To keep gaming feedback in check, it’s important to be explicit with employees about what the company considers to be unacceptable behaviors. Here are five rules that you should strictly enforce with employees:

  1. Don’t mention or refer to a score. You can not ask a customer to give you a score or mention any possible option on the survey.
    • Example of bad behavior: “Let me know if you can’t give me an excellent on any of the questions.”
  2. Don’t mention specific survey questions. You can not tell a customer about a specific question that they will be asked as part of the survey.
    • Example of bad behavior: “You will be asked to rate me on my knowledge.”
  3. Don’t mention any consequences. You can’t tell a customer about the positive or negative consequences that you or the organization will have based on the feedback that the customer gives.
    • Example of bad behavior: “If you give us a low score, then we will not make our bonus.”
  4. Don’t say or imply that you will see their responses. You can’t let the customer know that you will see the specific information that they put in their feedback.
    • Example of bad behavior: “I look forward to reading your responses.”
  5. Don’t intimidate customers in any way. Any attempt to affect how customers will respond in their feedback, or keep them from completing the survey, whether implicitly or explicitly, is not allowed.
    • Example of bad behavior: “Let’s grab a Cubs game after you fill out the survey.”
    • Example of bad behavior: “Don’t bother filling out the survey, the company doesn’t look at them.”

Of course, keeping this bad behavior in check also requires the company to behave appropriately. The biggest mistake I see is tying too much compensation to a score. When you heavily incent a specific metric, employees will do whatever it takes to improve that metric,  including “gaming” the system. Think about it, the heavier the compensation, the more you are implicitly asking the employee to improve the score at any cost (see why Staples employees stopped selling computers).

So make sure that your incentives are focused on driving the behaviors that you want from employees, not specific outcomes like scores.

The bottom line: Use feedback primarily to improve, not to keep score.

Embrace Your Unalienable Right to Be Happy

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Happy July 4th!

While not everyone who reads my blog is celebrating a holiday today, I hope that everyone can embrace the sentiment described in the famous line above from the U.S. Declaration of Independence. If we look through the mindset of the time and replace “men” with “all people,” then this sentence is a powerful blueprint for our collective well-being.

It’s interesting that one of the three unalienable Rights that the founders of the country chose to highlight is the “pursuit of happiness.” As it turns out, happiness is also one of the three items that we’ve included in the Temkin Well-Being Index (along with healthiness and financial security). After a dip in 2013, the happiness level of U.S. consumers increased in 2014.

Here are some of my other posts about happiness:

The bottom line: Have a very happy July 4th!

 

Register for Temkin Group CX Workshop in Boston

WorkshopSignupButtonThere’s still room in Temkin Group’s hands-on workshop in Boston on July 31 & August 1. Learn how to drive CX transformation in your organization.

Report: Raising Customer-Centricity Across the B2B Enterprise

1404_B2B CX Case Studies_COVERWe just published a Temkin Group report, Raising Customer-Centricity Across the B2B Enterprise. The research provides in-depth case studies of five B2B firms. Here’s the executive summary:

Temkin Group research shows that good customer experience (CX) drives loyalty with business customers. These same business customers, influenced by their personal experiences as consumers, have raised their expectations in their business-to-business (B2B) relationships. While most large B2B organizations have a low level of CX maturity, our research shows that 56% of them have the goal of delivering industry-leading customer experience within three years. To understand how B2B organizations are improving their customer-centricity, we compiled case studies of five organizations that are raising the bar in CX: Ciena, Crowe Horwath, Fiserv, Genworth Financial, and Oracle. To assess your organization’s CX maturity, use Temkin Group’s Customer Experience Competency Assessment, and compare the results to data from other large B2B firms.

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The report provides 40 pages, including rich details on B2B CX and benchmark data to evaluate your B2B CX against other large organizations. Some of the data points in the report include:

  • 12% of large B2B organizations are in the highest two levels of CX maturity (out of six levels).
  • 8% of large B2B organizations have very good ratings in Compelling Brand Values, the lowest rated CX competency.
  • 79% of large B2B organizations identify “other competing priorities” as a key obstacle to CX success, compared with 65% of non-B2B firms.
  • 56% of large B2B organizations have a goal to be CX leaders in their industries within three years.

The five case studies go deep into how some great practices for infusing good CX across B2B organizations:

  • Ciena: When Ciena began its customer experience journey 18 months ago, it set out to “engage, inform, and transform” the organization. It started its journey by using deep customer insights to hone in on what matters most to customers and now focuses on strengthening its culture and continuously improving.
  • Crowe Horwath: As a professional services firm, Crowe’s employees are its customer experience. Therefore, Crowe focuses its efforts on capturing and sharing all client feedback with its employees, and it uses a variety of tactics to involve them in shaping its CX efforts.
  • Fiserv: While technology underpins the customer experience tools, analyses, and reporting that drive Fiserv’s CX efforts, the company also integrates a human element into its efforts by using employee coaching, performance management, and rewards and recognition programs to engage employees in their work.
  • Genworth Financial: The CX team at Genworth uses a combination of approaches—from customer journey mapping to service dashboards to innovation ideation—to involve employees across the organization in its customer experience efforts.
  • Oracle: Oracle continues to raise customer-centricity across its global footprint by listening, responding, and collaborating with customers to identify and take action on customer experience improvement opportunities.

The case studies highlight practices affecting all four customer experience core competencies:

1406_B2B4CXCompetencies

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The bottom line: B2B firms need to improve customer experience.

2014 Temkin Ratings: Benchmarking Consumer Relationships

Temkin Ratings website

We’ve been publishing the Temkin Ratings for four years. These ratings provide insights into how consumers evaluate their relationships with 100s of companies across multiple industries. In 2014, we examined 200+ companies across 19 industries based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers. You can view a sortable list of results on the Temkin Ratings website.

Here are my posts that summarize the results for all of the 2014 Temkin Ratings:

Check out Temkin Group’s Industry-Specific CX Research Page with links to many reports with benchmark data across industries.

The bottom line: How do your customers rate their relationship with you?

Data Snapshot: Social Media Benchmark, 2014

1406_DS_SocialMediaBenchmark2014_COVERWe just published a Temkin Group data snapshot, Social Media Benchmark, 2014This is the third year that we’ve published the benchmark that examines how much time U.S. consumers spend using different types of social media on computers and on mobile phones.

Here’s the executive summary:

In January 2014, we surveyed 10,000 U.S. consumers about how frequently they use social media on their computers and mobile phones, and we then compared these usage rates to analogous data we collected in January 2012 and January 2013. This analysis looks at the frequency with which consumers in different age groups use computers and mobile phones to access Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, and third-party rating sites. We also examine how usage rates vary by mobile phone type.

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Here’s an excerpt from one of the 14 charts in the data snapshot.

1406_SocialMediaAndMobile

Here are some additional findings from the research:

  • After a drop in daily Facebook usage on computers last year, U.S. consumers increased their daily use of Facebook, from 42.5% of the population in 2013 to 46.5% in 2014. The largest increase was with consumers between 55 and 64 years old. This group expanded its daily Facebook usage by nearly eight percentage points.
  • During the same time, daily usage of Facebook on mobile phones surged from 24.7% of U.S. consumers in 2013 to 29.3% this year. The largest growth, 10 percentage points, came from consumers who are between 18 and 34.
  • Daily usage on computers is as follows: 17.7% visit a company’s Facebook site, 13.4% read or update LinkedIn, 10.9% read or update Twitter, 9.8% read or update Google+, 8.3% read or update Pinterest, 7.7% read or update Tumblr, 6.5% read a review on a rating site like Yelp or TripAdvisor, and 5.7% write a review on a rating site like Yelp or TripAdvisor.
  • Daily activity on mobile devices is nearly as high as it is on computers for Facebook users under 24 years old, LinkedIn users under 45 years old, Twitter users under 35 years old, and users of review sites under 45 years old.
  • We examined the usage of social media on different mobile devices. iPhone users are the most frequent daily readers and updaters of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr. Blackberry users are the most frequent daily visitors of company Facebook pages, users of Google+, Tumblr (tied with iPhone), and ratings and review sites.

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The bottom line: Mobile social media is on the rise

Off Topic: Another Fun Trip to NYC

We’re just about to leave New York after an enjoyable long weekend. As always, the Big Apple was a fun spot to hang out for a few days. Here are some of my observations (and evaluations) from the trip:

  • A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder: Overrated. We were very excited to see this year’s Tony Award winner for best musical, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. It was a good show, with some good acting and clever staging. But it was not a great show, more of a slapstick comedy than a pure musical. It did not match up to previous Tony winners such as Book of Mormon, In the Heights, Once, Memphis, and Spring Awakenings. There weren’t any memorable musical numbers. Making matters worse, the Walter Kerr Theater was too warm and lacked sufficient air flow (at least in the front of the Mezzanine).
  • Violet: Bravo! We went to a matinee of the revival of the musical Violet. It was fabulous. Big, robust musical numbers with truly outstanding performances by Sutton Foster and Joshua Henry.
  • Pizza-Like Chicken Parmigiana: Awesome. We had several great meals during the visit. It turns out that two restaurants offered chicken parmigiana pounded out in a circle and served like a pizza (see pictures below). They were both excellent as were the restaurants. One was Trattoria Dell’Arte that also had great antipastos and extremely friendly service. The other restaurant was Quality Italian Steakhouse. It was an upscale restaurant which wasn’t as pricey as a typical NYC steakhouse. Everything was really good.
  • Breakfast at Norma’s: Pricey and Special. We spent our last morning having breakfast at Norma’s, at the Le Parker Meridien. We probably end up there every other year. It has a wide variety of unusual breakfasts that are all quite special. I ate my usual Egg White Frittata of Shrimp, which was fantastic. Of course, you can get indigestion if you spend too much time looking at the prices.
  • Meals with Cousins: Priceless. We had two really nice meals with cousins at very fun locations. Saturday brunch was at Maysville, a very cool restaurant and whiskey bar. My cousin is a whiskey expert who works at a sister restaurant, so it was fun to learn about the restaurant and the spirits. Make sure to get the truffles! Our second cousin get-together was at a Japanese BBQ, Gyu-Kaku. It was fun to order the meats and cook our collective dinner on the fire in the middle of the table. We ended the meal cooking s’mores.
  • The City That Never Sleeps: Overstated. Yes, NYC is vibrant almost all the time. It’s hard to walk along the sidewalks with so many people mulling around. But, when we were walking to breakfast at around 9:00 over the weekend, the streets were mostly empty. The Big Apple may not sleep at night, but it certainly catches some shuteye on weekend mornings.
  • Uber: Simplifying. It’s such a pleasure getting an UberX wherever you are in the city within minutes, without having to scream, whistle, and wave your hands like a maniac to hail a taxi. And I like not having to pay when you jump out of the car. There are Uber cars everywhere. If I was a NYC cabbie I’d hate Uber. But I’m not.

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USAA and Capital One 360 Top 2014 Temkin Web Experience Ratings

We just published the 2014 Temkin Web Experience Ratings, the fourth year of the ratings. It uses feedback from 10,000 U.S. consumers to rate 222 organizations across 19 industries.

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USAA’s banking business took the top spot and Capital One 360 (formerly ING Direct) earned the second highest rating in the 2014 Temkin Web Experience Ratings, which rates 222 companies across 19 industries. USAA’s insurance and credit card businesses tied for third place.Rounding out the top 13 companies in the ratings are Charles Schwab, Amazon.com, credit unions, TD Bank, U.S. Bank, Sheraton, Ace Hardware, eBay, and Nordstrom.

The award for delivering the worst web experience goes to Coventry Health Care, followed closely by Medicaid. Four of the bottom 14 organizations are health plans and three are TV service providers. The remaining companies in the bottom 14 of the Temkin Web Experience Ratings are Charter Communications, Comcast (TV service and Internet service), Dunkin’ Donuts, Time Warner Cable (TV service and Internet service), Jack in the Box, CareFirst, MetroPCS, Highmark, Adobe, and Wendy’s.

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Here’s how the industries compare with each other:

1406_TWER_Industries

The 2014 Temkin Web Experience Ratings shows that companies have made improvements in web experience between 2013 and 2014. Led by airlines, which increased by nearly 15 percentage points since last year, 17 of 19 industries improved. The two industries that earned lower ratings in 2014 are parcel delivery services and rental cars.

Nearly two-thirds of the 195 organizations that were in both the 2013 and 2014 Temkin Web Experience Ratings improved this year. On average, firms earned an increase of 3.2 percentage points. Eleven companies improved by more than 15 percentage points: Southwest Airlines, Health Net, United Airlines, PetSmart, AOL, Sony, Bright House Networks, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, Edward Jones, Cablevision, and AAA.

Six companies saw their Temkin Web Experience Ratings fall by 10 points or more between 2013 and 2014: Dunkin’ Donuts, Avis, Hertz, Jack in the Box, Dollar, and Blackboard.

1406_TWER_IncreaseDecrease

Methodology:

The data was collected from an online survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers during January 2014. Quotas were set to mirror the U.S. census data for age, income, gender, ethnicity, and geographic regions of the U.S. population.

Temkin Web Experience Ratings are based on asking consumers the following question about companies with whom they’ve had a customer service interaction during the previous 60 days: “Thinking back to your most recent interaction with the websites of these companies, how satisfied were you with the experience?” Potential responses range from 1= “very dissatisfied” to 7= “very satisfied.” Temkin Web Experience Ratings are calculated by taking the percentages of consumers who respond with a 6 or 7 and subtracting the percentage who respond with 1, 2, or 3.

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Temkin Ratings website
You can view a sortable list of results from the Temkin Web Experience Ratings as well as other ratings on the Temkin Ratings website.

 

Off Topic: Happy 100th To MIT Sloan School

Over the weekend, I went to Cambridge for my MIT Sloan School reunion and to celebrate 100 years of management education at MIT (which is called Course XV “15” at MIT). After 100 years of educating students, Sloan’s mission remains as compelling as ever:

To develop principled, innovative leaders who improve the world

I’d like to believe that I fit that description :-)

It was great seeing the magnificent upgrades to the campus. When I went to Sloan, our class of about 200 students spent most of our time hanging out in a couple of old buildings. Now the Sloan School has great new facilities and more than twice as many students. I hope the school continues to create the same sense of intimacy with students that we experienced.

It was also wonderful to see my SM ’89 classmates and to catch up on what’s changed over the previous five years. Overall, most people are doing quite well and seem pretty happy. Some are company leaders, others are entrepreneurs, many have kids around college age, and a few have even retired (thanks to the tech sector). Lots of different life stories.

As part of the 100th anniversary celebration, a few professors gave lectures. While Saturday morning classes aren’t really my thing, I went to see Erik Brynjolfsson discuss his book The Second Machine Age: Work, Progress, and Prosperity in a Time of Brilliant Technologies. Despite the early hour, I really enjoyed Erik’s speech. His main thesis is that the industrial age was built on physical power while the Second Machine Age (that we’re in right now) is built on mental power, which will use a lot of technology.

Erik showed how technology is quickly evolving to do things that only humans could do a few years ago. He had some interesting anecdotes about a number of cool new technologies such as Google’s driverless carBaxter robots, Lionbridge Translation, and IBM Watson. This was an interesting chart that shows how Watson learned how to play Jeopardy better than the best humans in only a few years (the dots represent performance of Jeopardy winners (humans) and the lines represent Watson’s performance at different points in time).

140607_WatsonJeopardyThis type of technology improvement represents a key driver in the Second Machine Age, where Erik expects to see capital continuing to replace labor.

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My Manifesto: Great Customer Experience Is Free

Here’s a replay of a post from July 2012 that was a replay of a post from September 2007 with a few updates. I thought it was still relevant and worthy of a re-replay…

Here’s my new quest: To dramatically increase the focus on customer experience within companies by getting everyone to understand that great customer experience is really good business.

Great customer experience is not only free, it is an honest-to-everything profit maker. In these days of “who knows what is going to happen to our business tomorrow” there aren’t many ways left to make a profit improvement. If you concentrate on improving customer experience, you can very likely increase your profits.

Good customer experience is an achievable, measureable, profitable entity that can be installed once you have commitment and understanding, and are prepared for hard work. But I’ve had a great many talks with sincere people who were clear that there was no way to attain great customer experience: “The engineers won’t cooperate.” “The salesman are untrainable as well as too shifty.” “Top management cannot be reached with such concepts.”

So how do I plan on igniting the great customer experience is free movement?

First, it is necessary to get top management, and therefore lower management, to consider customer experience a leading part of the operation, a part equal in importance to every other part. Second, I have to find a way to explain what customer experience is all about so that anyone can understand it and enthusiastically support it. And third, I have to get myself in a position where I have a platform to take on the world in behalf of customer experience.

That’s really what I believe, but I must confess that those aren’t all my words. Just about everything written after the first paragraph came directly from the book Quality Is Free: The Art of Making Quality Certain by Philip B. Crosby. I’ve made minor edits and changed references from “quality” to “customer experience,” but those are Crosby’s words from his book that was initially published in 1979.

Why did I “borrow” Crosby’s words? Because I see a lot of similarities between today’s need for customer experience improvements and the 1980’s quest for quality in the US. I was actually involved in the quality movement in the late 80’s and early 90’s — running quality circles, developing process maps, running workout sessions at GE, using fishbone diagrams, etc.

Here are 7 critical areas in which the great customer experience is free movement can learn from the quality is free movement:

  1. Nobody owns it (or the corollary, everybody owns it). In the early stages of the quality movement, companies put in place quality officers. Many of these execs failed because they were held accountable for quality metrics and, therefore, tried to push quality improvements across the company. The successful execs saw their role more as change facilitators — engaging the entire company in the quality movement. Today’s chief customer officers need to see transformation as their primary objective — and not take personal ownership for improvement in metrics like satisfaction and NetPromoter.  
  2. It requires cultural change. Many US companies in the 1980’s put quality circles in place to replicate what they saw happening in Japan. But the culture in many firms was dramatically different than within Japanese firms. So companies did not get much from these efforts, because they didn’t have the ingrained mechanisms for taking action based on recommendations from the quality circles. Discrete efforts need to be part of a larger, longer-term process for engraining the principles of good customer experience in the DNA of the company.
  3. It requires process change. Quality efforts of the 1980’s grew into the process reengineering fad of the 1990’s. As business guru and author Michael Hammer showcased in his 1994 book Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution, large-scale improvements within a company requires a change to its processes. That perspective remains as valid today as it was back then. Customer experience efforts, therefore, need to incorporate process reengineering techniques. That’s why these efforts must be directly connected to any Six Sigma or process change initiatives within the company.
  4. It requires discipline. Ad-hoc approaches can solve isolated problems, but systemic change requires a much more disciplined approach. That’s why the quality movement created tools and techniques — many of which are still used in corporate Six Sigma efforts. These new approaches were necessary to establish effective, repeatable, and scalable methods. A key portion of the effort was around training employees on how to use these new techniques. Customer experience efforts will also require training around new techniques. Here are a few posts that describe this type of discipline: Four Customer Experience Core Competencies, Customer Journey Mapping, and The Six Ds of a closed-loop VoC Program.
  5. Upstream issues cause downstream problems. This is a key understanding. The place where a problem is identified (a defective product, or a bad experience) is often not the place where systemic solutions need to occur. For instance, a problem with a computer may be caused by a faulty battery supplier and not the PC manufacturer. A bad experience at an airline ticket counter may be caused by ticketing business rules and not by the agent. So improvements need to encompass more than just front-line employees and customer-facing processes. Attacking upstream issues is part of moving from fluff to tough in your CX efforts.
  6. Employees are a key asset in the battle. The quality movement recognized that people involved with a process had a unique perspective for spotting problems and identifying potential solutions. So the many of the tools and techniques created during the quality movement tap into this important asset: Employees. Customer experience efforts need to systematically incorporate what front-line employees know about customer behavior, preferences, and problems as well as what other people in the organization know about processes that they are involved with. That’s why we’ve assembled a page of employee engagement resources.
  7. Executive involvement is essential. For all of the items listed above, improvements (in quality then and in customer experience now) require a concerted effort by the senior executive team. It can not be a secondary item on the list of priorities. Change is not easy. To ensure the corporate resolve and commitment to make the required changes, customer experience efforts need to be one of the company’s top efforts. Senior executives can’t just be “supportive,” they need to be truly committed to and involved with the effort. It may help to share our CX Reading List For Execs with your leaders.

Corporations removed major quality defects in the 80’s, re-engineered business processes in the 90’s, and now it’s time to take on the next big challenge for corporate America:  Customer experience.

It’s critically important, it’s broken, and fixing it can be very profitable. So don’t settle for the status quo! It’s up to you.

As Crosby said in his book:

You can do it too. All you have to do is take the time to understand the concepts, teach them to others, and keep the pressure on.

The bottom line: The great customer experience is free movement is underway. Join me!

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