Sam’s Club and Amazon.com Lead Retail Industry in 2014 Temkin Experience Ratings

We recently released the 2014 Temkin Experience Ratings that ranks the customer experience of 268 companies across 19 industries based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers.

Sam’s Club and Amazon.com continue their reign as the highest-rated retailers for the third straight year, each earning an “excellent” rating. Sam’s Club narrowly beat out Amazon.com for the top spot, receiving an 81% rating and an overall rank of 8th out of 268 companies across 19 industries. With ratings of 79% each, Costco, PetSmart, Ace Hardware, and BJ’s Wholesale Club also earned high marks from customers. At the other end of the spectrum, RadioShack and Foot Locker tied for last place among 45 retailers. This is the fourth straight year that RadioShack has been at the bottom of the industry.

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Here are some additional findings from the retail industry: Read more of this post

Report: What Happens After a Good or Bad Experience, 2014

1402_WhatHappensAfterGoodBadExperiences_COVERWe just published a Temkin Group report, What Happens After a Good or Bad Experience, 2014. The report, which includes 19 data charts, examines which companies and industries provide the most bad experiences, what impact those experiences have on spending, and how the negative impacts of bad experiences can be mitigated by good service recovery. The report also examines how consumers share their good and bad experiences with companies as well as with other people. Here’s the executive summary:

To understand the effect of good and bad experiences, we asked 10,000 U.S. consumers about their recent interactions with 268 companies across 19 industries. Results show that Internet services and TV services are the industries most likely to deliver a bad experience to their customers, while grocery chains are the least likely to. At the company level, Scottrade had the smallest percentage of customers reporting a recent bad experience with the company and Time Warner Cable had the highest. More than half of the customers who encountered a bad experience at a fast food chain, credit card issuer, grocery store, or hotel either decreased their spending with the company or stopped altogether. However, our data shows that a good service recovery effort can help mitigate a bad experience. Unfortunately, many firms—especially in the banking, Internet services, and TV services sectors—aren’t very good at service recovery. In addition to the consequences of bad interactions, we also examined which channels customers use to share their good and bad experiences and how these changed across age groups. We then compared these results to survey responses from the past two years. We also uncovered a negative bias inherent in how customers provide feedback. ING Direct, Residence Inn, and Fairfield Inn have the most negative bias in the feedback they receive directly from customers, while Hy-Vee and Hyundai have the most negative bias on Facebook. 

Click link to see full list of industries and companies covered in this report (.pdf).

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One of the most interesting analyses in the report is the look at how service recovery after a bad experience affects the spending pattern of consumers. Here’s a summary of one of the charts showing just how important it is for a company to recover well after making a mistake:

1402_EconomicsOfServiceRecovery

Here are some other insights from the research:

  • Sixteen percent of consumers who have interacted with TV service and Internet service providers report having a bad experience over the previous six months. Next on the list are wireless carriers, with 12% of their customers reporting a bad experience. At the other end of the spectrum, only 3% of consumers report a bad experience with grocery chains and 4% report having a bad experience with fast food chains.
  • The five companies with the most customers reporting bad experiences are Time Warner Cable (25%), Motel 6 (22%), Coventry Health Care (21%), and Comcast (21%). There were 10 companies with only 1% or less of their customers reporting bad experiences: Scottrade, Chick-fil-A, H.E.B., Whole Foods, ShopRite, ING Direct, Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, Vanguard, and True Value.
  • More than one-quarter of consumers who have a bad experience stop spending with computer makers, car rental agencies, credit card issuers, hotel chains, and software companies. The impact of bad experiences is less costly for parcel delivery services, wireless carriers, health plans, TV service providers, Internet service providers, and grocery chains, as less than 15% of their customers with bad experience stopped spending.
  • The industries that are the best at responding to a bad experience are investment firms, major appliances, retailers, and car rental agencies. The industries that are the worst at responding to a bad experience are TV service providers, wireless carriers, Internet service providers, parcel delivery services, and health plans.
  • Thirty-two percent of consumers give feedback directly to companies after a very bad experience and 23% give feedback after a very good experience.
  • Overall, 25- to 34-year-olds are the most likely to share feedback about their experiences. After a good experience 57% tell a friend directly, 28% share on Facebook, and 18% put a comment or rating on a review site. After a bad experience, 60% tell a friend directly, 31% share on Facebook, and 20% write a review.

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The bottom line: Make sure to recover quickly after a bad experience

Sam’s Club and Amazon.com Lead Retail Industry in 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings

We recently released the 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings that ranks the customer experience of 246 companies across 19 industries based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers. Here are highlights from the retail industry:

  • The average industry rating increased from 71% in 2012 to 74% in 2013.
  • Sixteen of the 24 retailers that were in both the 2012 and 2013 ratings showed improvement.
  • Three of the top 10 companies across all industries are retailers: Amazon.com and Sam’s Club (tied for #5 overall), and Ace Hardware (#7 overall). Sam’s Club was the leader in 2012 Temkin Experience Ratings and Amazon.com led in 2011.
  • Radio Shack is the lowest-rated retailer for the third consecutive year and 191st overall in 2013. The retailer is also the lowest scoring across all three underlying components, functional, accessible, and emotional.
  • Amazon.com and Costco are the top rated in the functional component, Ace Hardware is the top rated in the accessible component, and Nordstrom is the top in the emotional component.
  • Office Depot (increase of 11 percentage points) and Barnes & Noble (increase of eight percentage points) made the largest improvements in the industry from 2012.
  • JCPenney (decrease of six percentage points), Sam’s Club (decrease of four percentage points), and Lowe’s (decrease of four percentage points) had the largest declines from 2012.
  • Here’s a link to industry results from the 2012 ratings.

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Report: 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings

Temkin Ratings website

2013TemkinExperienceRatings_Cover

We published the 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings. The report analyzes feedback from 10,000 U.S. consumers to rate 246 organizations across 19 industries. Congratulations to the top firms in this year’s ratings: Publix, Trader Joe’s, Aldi, Chick-fil-A, Amazon.com, and Sam’s Club.

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You can also download the data for $395.

The Temkin Experience Ratings are based on evaluating three elements of experience:

  1. Functional: How well do experiences meet customers’ needs?
  2. Accessible: How easy is it for customers to do what they want to do?
  3. Emotional: How do customers feel about the experiences?

Here are the top and bottom companies in the ratings:

2013TER_BestWorstHere’s how the industries compare with each other:

(NOTE: We have published posts on the detailed results for all 19 industries)

2013TER_IndustriesHere are the companies that are leaders and laggards across the 19 industries:

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In this year’s ratings, 37% of companies earned “good” or “excellent” scores, while 28% are rated as “poor” or ”very poor.” Companies with at least a “good” rating grew by nine-percentage points since 2012 and by 21-points since 2011. Of the 203 companies that are included in both the 2012 and 2013 Temkin Experience Ratings, 57% firms had at least a modest increase. The companies that made the largest improvement over 2012 are Citibank, TriCare, TD Ameritrade, Office Depot, EarthLink, Hardees, and Regions Bank.

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Get the Data

Do you want to see all of the data? You can purchase an excel spreadsheet for $395…

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To view all of our ratings (experience, loyalty, trust, forgiveness, customer service, and web experience), visit the Temkin Ratings website

Temkin Ratings website

The bottom line: Customer experience is improving, but there’s still a long way to go

Companies Don’t Earn The Loyalty Their CX Deserves

Our report The ROI of Customer Experience shows that customer experience is highly correlated to loyalty. The research analyzed the relationship between Temkin Loyalty Ratings and Temkin Experience Ratings (TER) for 206 U.S. companies.

After analyzing the connection between these ratings, we found that some companies seem to have higher loyalty levels than they seem to deserve based on their customer experience while others have lower loyalty levels.

Using that dataset, I compared actual loyalty levels with projected loyalty levels. How? By plugging each company’s experience rating into our regression model to identify what their loyalty rating should be (normalized to their industry average) based on its TER and compared that projected rating with its actual loyalty rating. In the chart below you can see the companies with the largest positive and negative variances from the model’s projections.

The companies with loyalty levels the most above the projections are USAA, Highmark, Medicaid, credit unions, and TriCare. The companies that fall the most below the projections are T-Mobile, BMW, Bosch, AT&T, and Alamo.

Let’s examine USAA as an example. Since it has very high experience ratings compared with its industry peers, our model projects that its loyalty ratings should be at the high end of banks, credit card issuers, and insurance carriers. This analysis shows that USAA’s actual loyalty levels are higher than expected, even after factoring in its wonderful customer experience.

So what?!? There’s nothing inherently good or bad with being above or below the projected loyalty level. There’s no reason to expect companies to fall directly on their projected loyalty levels.

What’s interesting about this analysis is not what’s good or bad, but WHY are some companies so far away from the projected levels. This is where I’ll leave the data behind and offer my interpretation about WHY some companies have higher than projected loyalty while others have lower than projected loyalty:

  • Product fit. CX is not the only component of customer value. Companies that have tailored their products and services to better meet customers’needs (like USAA and TriCare) have an even better loyalty level than their CX would suggest. If companies have a poor product offering, then their loyalty may be lower than projected (this may explain Sears and DHL).
  • Product quality. If companies have quality problems with their offerings, then they would have lower loyalty levels than their CX deserve (this may explain AT&T, T-Mobile, and Alamo).
  • Service expectations. Companies that have premium status (BMW cars and Bosch appliances) often elicit higher expectations from customers, so they don’t earn the loyalty that their CX would suggest and have to work harder.
  • Trapped customers. In industries where customers have a hard time switching, a bad experience may not lead to the loyalty decline anticipated by the model; the same type of situation would occur if a company is harder to move away from than it’s competitors (this may explain Medicaid, Medicare, MSN, and EarthLink).
  • Commoditization. In industries that have a lot of pricing comparisons, customers may overly focus on price and not award good customer experience with the level of loyalty that the model projects (this may explain Alamo). It can also push consumers that have poor experience to more quickly leave a company for its competitor (this may explain DHL).
  • Substitutions. In sitations where customers don’t have a lot of clear alternatives, they will be more loyal to a company than the model suggests (this may explain eBay). A company that relies on self-service may be seen as easier to move from than a company that forms more personal connections with customers (this may explain E*TRADE).
  • Emotionality. Sometimes customers develop a strong affinity for a brand that increases loyalty and dampens the negative effect of any poor experiences (this may explain Southwest Airlines and Apple).

These items cover three broad topics: offerings, competitive environment and customer expectations. What do you think causes companies to earn more or less loyalty than their customer experience seems to deserve?

The bottom line: CX is correlated to loyalty, but other things matter as well

Report: Net Promoter Score Benchmark Study, 2012

We just published a Temkin Group report, Net Promoter Score Benchmark Study, 2012. It provides NPS data on 175 U.S. companies across 19 industries. Here’s the executive summary:

USAA took the top two spots for its banking and insurance businesses while HSBC came in at the bottom for banking and credit cards. Our analysis of differences across consumer demographic segments showed that NPS tends to go up with age, doesn’t vary much by income levels, and is often highest with Asians. We also asked consumers what would make them more likely to recommend the companies and found that promoters are more likely to select lower prices and detractors are more likely to select better customer service. While there is some debate about the efficacy of NPS, our analysis shows that promoters are much more likely than detractors to purchase more in the future across all industries. To help you implement a successful NPS program, we’ve included eight tips such as don’t believe in an “ultimate question” and use control charts, not pinpointed goals. The industries included in this report are airlines, auto dealers, banks, computer makers, credit card issuers, fast food chains, grocery chains, health plans, hotel chains, insurance carriers, Internet service providers, investment firms, major appliance makers, parcel delivery services, rental car agencies, retailers, software firms, TV service providers, and wireless carriers.

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(includes the data)

The industries included in this report are airlines, auto dealers, banks, computer makers, credit card issuers, fast food chains, grocery chains, health plans, hotel chains, insurance carriers, Internet service providers, investment firms, major appliance makers, parcel delivery services, rental car agencies, retailers, software firms, TV service providers, and wireless carriers.

The report contains the following components:

  • NPS for 175 companies across 19 industries
  • NPS differences based on age, income, and ethnicity of consumers
  • Improvement areas selected by promoters and detractors by industry
  • Connection between NPS and future purchases by industry
  • Eight tips for implementing a successful NPS program

Figure1Figure4

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(Includes the data)

The bottom line:  Companies need to give customers a reason to recommend them

2012 Temkin Web Experience Ratings

Temkin Group has just released the 2012
We introduced the Temkin Web Experience Ratings last year. The 2012 Web Experience Ratings include 159 companies from 18 industries and is based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers.

Congratulations to the top firms in this year’s ratings: Amazon, credit unions, USAA, PNC, Southwest Airlines, eBay, Sam’s Club, ShopRite, JCPenney, and ING Direct. Of course, not every company has earned good web experience, especially the companies at the bottom of the 2012 ratings:  Charter Communications, Humana, Qwest, Cigna, Time Warner Cable, Anthem, Road Runner, Medicare, Blue Shield of CA, and TracFone.

We also  examined industry averages and found that banks and investment firms have earned the highest Temkin Web Experience Ratings followed by hotel chains and retailers. But consumers gave very low ratings to Internet service providers, health plans, and TV service providers.

The research also examines how individual companies are rated relative to their industry peers. The following 11 firms outscored their industry average Temkin Web Experience Ratings by 10 percentage points or more: Kaiser Permanente, Amazon, ShopRite, Southwest Airlines, USAA, Starbucks, H.E.B., Publix, credit unions, Marriott, and Apple.

The following 15 companies fell 10 percentage points or more below their industry averages: Wells Fargo Advisors, AAA, Charter Communications, Delta Airlines, Citibank, Bank of America, Humana, TracFone, Qwest, Old Navy, U.S. Airways, Rite Aid, Kohl’s, Kmart, and Charter Communications.

Temkin Group also analyzed changes from the 2011 Temkin Web Experience Ratings. Led by TV service providers and insurance carriers 11 of the 12 industries that were in both the 2011 and 2012 ratings improved since last year.

Seventy-two percent of companies that were in the 2011 and 2012 Temkin Web Experience Ratings showed improvement. Led by Comcast (Internet and TV service), Allstate, AOL, Charter Communications, Toshiba, and Sam’s Club, 20 companies improved by 10 percentage points or more between 2011 and 2012. Only three companies­— Kohl’s, TracFone, and Rite Aid—declined by 10 percentage points or more during that timeframe.

Do you want to see the data? Go to the Temkin Ratings website where you can sort through all of the results for free. You can even purchase the underlying data if you want to get more access.

The bottom line: Web experience is not good enough for how important it is

2012 Temkin Trust Ratings

Temkin Group has just released the 2012

We introduced the Temkin Trust Ratings last year to gauge which companies are earning this important element of loyalty. The 2012 Temkin Trust Ratings include 206 companies from 18 industries and is based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers.

Congratulations to the top firms in this year’s ratings: USAA, credit unions, H.E.B., Publix, Chick-fil-A, Sam’s Club, Hy-Vee and BMW. Of course, not every company has earned such a high degree of trust with their customers, especially the companies at the bottom of the 2012 ratings: Charter Communications, Citigroup, Bank of America, HSBC, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, and Qwest.

We also examined industry averages and found that grocery chains have earned the most trust from consumers followed by investment firms, retailers, and parcel delivery services. But consumers do not trust TV service providers, Internet service providers, or credit card issuers.

We examined how individual companies are rated relative to their industry peers. Twenty-one companies are 10 or more percentage points above their industry averages. The ones that are farthest out in front: USAA (34 above credit cards), credit unions (30 above banks), USAA (28 above banks), USAA (22 above insurers), and PNC (21 above banks).

Twenty-nine companies are at least 10 percentage points behind their industry averages. Here are the ones that fall the farthest behind: Bank of America (23 behind banks), Citibank (22 behind banks), Super 8 (19 behind hotels), Charter Communications (18 behind TV service providers),  Days Inn (18 behind hotels), and Citigroup (18 behind credit card issuers).

We also analyzed changes from the 2011 Temkin Trust Ratings. The research shows that consumers are more trusting this year than they were last year. Led by computer makers and insurance carriers, all 12 industries that were in both the 2011 and 2012 Temkin Trust Ratings showed improvement.

Fifty-two of the 139 companies that were in the 2011 and 2012 Temkin Trust Ratings earned double-digit improvements and six companies improved by more than 20 percentage points: USAA, PNC, Lenovo, credit unions, U.S. Bank, and HSBC. Seventeen companies lost ground over the last year with the biggest drops coming for Cox Communications, Bank of America, Citigroup, Edward Jones, TriCare, and Costco.

Do you want to see the data? Go to the Temkin Ratings website where you can sort through all of the results for free. You can even purchase the underlying data if you want to get more access.

The bottom line: It’s hard to succeed without your customers’ trust

2012 Temkin Forgiveness Ratings

Temkin Group has just released the 2012
Every company makes mistakes now and then, but how willing are customers to forgive the company when it happens? Forgiveness is a valuable asset that companies earn by consistently meeting customers’ needs.

We introduced the Temkin Forgiveness Ratings last year to gauge which companies are earning this important element of loyalty. The 2012 Temkin Forgiveness Ratings include 206 companies from 18 industries and is based on a survey of 10,000 U.S. consumers.

Congratulations to the top firms in this year’s ratings: USAA, Hyatt, credit unions, H.E.B., Hy-Vee, Dollar Rent A Car, Chick-fil-A, PublixCostco, and Amazon.com. Of course, not every company enjoys such a high degree of forgiveness from their customers, especially the companies at the bottom of the 2012 ratings: Citigroup, Charter Communications, HSBCChrysler dealers, EarthLink, Bank of America, Comcast, Quest, and US Airways.

We also examined industry averages and found that grocery chains have earned the most forgiveness from consumers followed by retailers, appliance makers, and parcel delivery services. But consumers are not very likely to forgive mistakes by credit card issuers, Internet service providers, and TV service providers.

We examined how individual companies are rated relative to their industry peers. USAA holds the top two spots, outpacing its credit card and banking peers by more than 30 percentage points. USAA also outpaces the insurance industry by more than 20 percentage points. Credit unions, Hyatt, US Cellular, Dollar Rent A Car, Chick-fil-A, and Bright House Networks are also more than 15 percentage points above their industry averages. Five companies fall 15 or more percentage points below their industry’s average Temkin Forgiveness Ratings: Chrysler dealers, Citigroup, Travelers, Charter Communications, and RadioShack.

We also analyzed changes from the 2011 Temkin Forgiveness Ratings. The research shows that consumers are more forgiving this year than they were last year. Led by banks and insurance carriers, all 12 industries that were in both the 2011 and 2012 Temkin Forgiveness Ratings showed improvement.
Sixty-eight of the 139 companies that were in the 2011 and 2012 Temkin Forgiveness Ratings earned double-digit improvements and four companies improved by more than 25 percentage points: TD Ameritrade, Lenovo, USAA, and credit unions. Ten companies lost ground over the last year with the biggest drops coming for Citigroup, Continental Airlines, Travelers, Sears, Holiday Inn Express, and The Hartford.

Do you want to see the data? Go to the Temkin Ratings website where you can sort through all of the results for free. You can even purchase the underlying data if you want to get more access.

The bottom line: To err is possible, to earn forgiveness is divine

Sam’s Club and Amazon Deliver Best Customer Experience in Retail

This post examines the 24 retailers included in the 2012 Temkin Experience Ratings.

Sam’s Club was the top rated company across all industries and only one of eight organizations with an “excellent” rating. Five other retailers were in the top 20 positions in the overall rankings: Amazon.com (#10), Target (#14), Walgreens (#14), BJs Wholesale Club (#18), and Lowe’s (#18).

The retail industry received the third highest average customer experience rating, falling only behind grocery chains and fast food restaurants. Despite the strong performance of the industry, one retailer, RadioShack, earned a “poor” rating while seven other retailers at the bottom of the list received “okay” ratings: Office Depot, eBay, Barnes & Noble, Sears, Kmart, Best Buy, and Macy’s. The remaining retailers earned “good” ratings.

While most industries showed improvement between 2011 and 2012, retailers were one of four industries that registered a slight decline. Sam’s Club and Toys “R” Us are the only two retailers with more than a five-point increase in their ratings between 2011 and 2012. Kohl’s and Costco are the only two retailers with more than a five-point decrease in their ratings between 2011 and 2012.

Do you want to see the data? Go to the Temkin Ratings website where you can sort through all of the results for free. You can even purchase the underlying data if you want to get more access.

The bottom line: There’s a wide gap between good and bad in retail CX

Amazon.com Leads, RadioShack Lags Retail Customer Experience

In the 2011 Temkin Experience Ratings, we examined the customer experience across 12 industries. Retail is the highest rated industry with an average rating of “good.” Here are the results for all 27 retailers that we rated…

As you can see, Amazon.com and Kohl’s are the only retailers with “excellent” ratings. At the other end of the spectrum, RadioShack is the only retailer with a “poor” rating. There are some interesting differences on the list:

  • Gap can learn from its much higher scoring “sister brand” Old Navy
  • Costco, Sam’s Club, and BJs Wholesale all score highly
  • Walgreens outpaces Rite Aid and CVS
  • Kohl’s has a five point gap over Target
  • Lowe’s has a six point gap over Home Depot 
  • Wal-Mart has a six point gap over Kmart

Let’s take a look at the three components of the Temkin Experience Ratings…

Costco and Amazon.com are the top retailers when it comes to the functional element of experience while Kohl’s  is the top-performing retailer when it comes to accessible experience. Best Buy falls below the good line for “functional” experience while Gap and Radio Shack fall below the good line for “functional” and “accessible” experience. All three of those laggards also score poorly when it comes to “emotional” experience.

The bottom line: Not all retailers are created equal

Barnes & Noble Leads Retailers In Customer Experience

My research plan for Forrester’s 2010 Customer Experience Index (CxPi) includes an analysis of all 14 industries in the rankings. I recently published the retail analysis which examines the 25 retailers (out of 133 total companies) in the CxPi. Here are the overall results: 

As a group, the retailers did quite well; grabbing 12 out of the top 20 spots in the rankings. Retailers also showed a modest improvement over the 2008 CxPi. Here are some insights from looking at the retail results:

  • The best retail customer experience. At the top of the list, 7 retailers ended up with “excellent” ratings: Barnes & Noble, Amazon.com, Kohl’s, JCPenney, Macy’s, BJs Wholesale Club, and Costco Wholesale.
  • The worst retail customer experience. At the bottom of the list, 2 retailers ended up with “okay” ratings: Office Depot and Marshalls.
  • Best Buy & Macy’s got better. When we compared the 2010 results with those of the 2008 CxPi, we found that nine retailers improved. Best Buy and Macy’s made the largest gains. Going in the other direction, Toys “R” Us, Old Navy, Borders, and Staples had the largest declines.
  • Wal-Mart and  Office Depot aren’t enjoyable. The CxPi contains three underlying components: 1) meeting needs, 2) being easy to work with, and 3) enjoyability. There were only 2 ratings that fell below “okay” in any of those three areas: Both Wal-Mart and Office Depot received “poor” ratings for “enjoyability.”
  • iTunes is most difficult to work with. 24 of the retailers received “good” or “excellent” ratings in the second area, being easy to work with. The lone exception: Apple iTunes received only an “okay” rating.

The bottom line: Retailers are good, but not great in customer experience

Customer Experiences Need Work Across Channels

Earlier this year, we published a report called Best And Worst Of Cross-Channel Design, 2009 that examined results from our expert review of 16 companies across four industries: Online travel agencies, auto insurers, footwear manufacturers, and discount retailers. We examined scenarios that included interactions online, with call centers, via email, and through IVR systems. The evaluations also looked at transitions across channels.

Here are the overall results from that analysis.

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As you can see, none of the 16 firms ended up with a passing score. Here were the highest scoring firm in each area:

  • Web site: Expedia
  • IVR: Nike
  • Phone agents: Orbitz and priceline.com
  • Email: Nike
  • Channel transitions: Expedia, Geico, and New Balance 

The cross-channel reviews graded experience across 57 criteria. More than 12 of the 16 companies failed these nine criteria:

  • Is text legible? (Web Site)
  • Is the task flow efficient (Web Site)
  • Is essential content available where needed? (Web Site)
  • Can the user complete her goals in all required channels? (Channel Transitions)
  • Are keyword-based searches comprehensive and precise? (Web Site)
  • Does the system provide essential content? (IVR)
  • Does the site help users avoid and recover from errors? (Web Site)
  • Does the site present privacy and security policies in context? (Web Site)
  • Do menu categories immediately expose or describe their subcategories? (Web Site)

The bottom line: There’s a lot of room for improvement

Layaways Cater To Changing Consumer Needs

Just like the economic downturn in the 1790s gave rise to potatoes as a staple in European diets, the current economic environment will push consumers to find new ways to meet their needs. In some cases, they may revive old fashion practices like buying products on layaway.

With the current tight credit market, consumers are increasingly using layaway to buy their products over time. So kudos to Kmart (and Sears), which is one of the few retailers that still has a layaway program. Here are some of the details about the Kmart program that I found on its Website:

  • A Layaway contract is eight weeks.
  • The Service Fee on all new Layaway contracts is $5.
  • The Cancellation Fee on all new Layaway contracts is $10.
  • The Service Fee plus Cancellation Fee, or 10% down payment (whichever is greater)
  • The bi-weekly payment schedule for all new Layaway contracts is 25% of the original balance due.
  • Layaway merchandise will be returned to stock seven (7) days after a missed payment.

My take: Companies need to look for opportunities like layaway to meet consumers’ shifting needs. But that doesn’t mean that all retailers should start layaway programs. As with any new program, you need to understand the needs and desires of your target customers. If they are likely to use layaway and you can develop an effective program, then it might make sense.

The bottom line: Look for new (or old) ways to meet shifting customer needs.

The Best And Worst Of Cross-Channel Design

We just completed a pretty extensive evaluation of the cross channel experiences of the following 16 large companies:

  • Airlines: American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines, United Air Lines
  • Banks: Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wachovia, Wells Fargo
  • Department stores: JC Penney, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears
  • Mp3 manufacturers: Apple, Creative, iRiver, Sony

The research used Forrester’s Cross-Channel Review methodology (which is a form of an expert reveiw) to grade the experiences across 57 criteria. The analysis looked at interactions via the Web, email, IVR, phone agent, as well as cross-channel transitions.

Here are some of the findings from the research:

  • None of the 16 companies received a passing score [+57 or higher].
  • Airlines received the highest average score [-8] and MP3 manufacturers the lowest [-29].
  • Delta received the highest score and iRiver received the lowest score.
  • There were 4 criteria that all of the companies failed:
    • “Is text legible?” (Web Site)
    • “Can customers get a confirmation of their phone conversation in another channel?” (Phone Agent)
    • “Can the user complete her goals in all required channels?” (Channel Transition)
    • “Can the user control how he interacts with the company?” (Channel Transition)
  • Results differed across the channels we evaluated:
    • Web Site: Delta was best; Sony was worst
    • IVR: American Airlines was best; iRiver, JC Penney, Southwest Airlines were worst
    • Phone agents: American Airlines was best; JC Penney was worst
    • Email: Sears, Creative were best; Southwest Airlines, Apple, iRiver were worst
    • Channel transitions: Macy’s was best; JPMorgan Chase, American Airlines were worst

I need to give a shout out to the Adele Sage, Vidya Drego, and Andrew McInnes who did most of the hard work on the research.

The bottom line: It’s not all bad news; firms that make improvements can really differentiate themselves.

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