The State Of Customer Experience, 2010

My recent research about what companies are doing in customer experience is a bit like a state of the union address. So I decided to frame my findings by “borrowing” snippets from a couple of presidential speeches:

The spirit that has sustained this nation [of customer experience change agents] for more than two centuries lives on in you, its people… But a new year has come. A new decade stretches before us. We don’t quit. I don’t quit.” (President Obama, 2010 State of The Union Address)

We can go forward with confidence, because the State of our Union [of customer experience change agents] is strong, our cause in the world is right, and tonight that cause goes on.” (President Bush, 2007 State Of The Union Address)

The research I mentioned is a new report called The State Of Customer Experience, 2010 which examines survey responses from 141 executives from large North American firms. Here are some of the findings from the research:

  • 90% of respondents think that customer experience is very important or critical to their 2010 strategy.
  • 80% want to use customer experience as a form of differentiation.

  • Only 11% have a “very disciplined” approach to customer experience.
  • 62% have some form of a voice of the customer (VoC) program.
  • Lack of customer experience strategy is the number one obstacle; lack of budget (last year’s top obstacle) dropped significantly as an issue.
  • When asked to rate their effectiveness meeting customer needs, they gave themselves the lowest marks for getting customer service online and the highest marks for buying products in a store.
  • Less than one-third of respondents believe that their company exhibits these customer experience competencies:
    • The quality of interactions with target customers is closely monitored.
    • Employees across the company are recognized and rewarded for improving the experience.
    • Decision-making processes systematically incorporate the needs of target customers.
    • Employees across the company share a consistent and vivid image of target customers.
  • The competencies with the most improvements from last year all have to do with focusing on the brand:
    • Employees fully understand the key attributes of our brand.
    • Our company’s brand drives how we design customer experiences.
    • The attributes of our company’s brand are well-defined.
  • 49% of respondents have a senior executive in charge of customer experience efforts. Firms with customer experience leaders are:
    • More ambitious about differentiating with customer experience.
    • More active with efforts like voice of the customer programs.
    • Less encumbered by every obstacle except one: Lack of funding.
    • More mature in all 12 customer experience competencies.

The bottom line: We have a lot to do in 2010!

About Bruce Temkin, CCXP
I'm an experience (XM) management catalyst; helping organizations improve results by engaging the hearts and minds of their employees, customers, and partners. I enjoy researching and speaking about these topics. I lead the Qualtrics XM Institute, which is the world's best job. We're igniting a global community of XM Professionals who are inspired and empowered to radically improve the human experience. To achieve this goal, my team focuses on thought leadership, training, and community building. My work is driven by a set of fundamental beliefs: 1) Everything starts and ends with human beings, so you need to understand how people think, feel, and behave; 2) XM is a discipline that needs to be woven throughout an organization's entire operating fabric; and 3) Building the XM discipline requires a combination of culture, competency, and technology.

14 Responses to The State Of Customer Experience, 2010

  1. It is very interesting shift in attitudes from the past, however I still see a lot of a “check list” approach on the “ground” and very little strategic thinking. Too much of “We want to monitor what people say about us on Twitter” without planning what exactly they are going to do with this “knowledge” and how they are going to utilize it in their business practices. I wrote about it in

  2. Aldi Armia says:

    Customer experience may sound like a given – everybody should know that by now. But in reality, it is very difficult to crack! As a former Citibank-er, I can tell you how much training had been given to employees about the topic, how many memos had gone out to underline the importance of customer experience to all staff, however very little was accomplished. Companies should really listen more to their customers rather than relying so much on statistics and expert opinions. Also, good experience is not about having a good process – it’s always about delivering what customers really want.

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  5. Robert Bacal says:

    Let me offer a wee hint about this “research” and similar stuff like it including the Forester work. Survey based research tells us almost nothing about the realities of the situation.

    If you invest in the findings as literal, you will almost always go wrong. Seriously.

    The only research that truly means something is research that taps into behavior.

    And, on another point. What idiot surveyed 141 executives and had the lack of brains to call this State of Customer Experience.

    …errr…like if you want to know the state of customer experience, who do you ask? Let me see. Customers right.

    I’m at

  6. Bruce Temkin says:

    Gregory and Aldi: Yes, customer experience is often not given the attention it needs; cookie-cutter approaches won’t work. I spend a lot of time with executive teams trying to get the appropriate level of commitment — which is required from the beginning.

    Robert: Glad to hear what you have to say, but there’s no need to be nasty. As you can probably tell from this blog, I do a ton of customer-based research, and even included some of that in the actual research report. But I agree with your overall position, the report might actually have been better named “The State Of Customer Experience Management.”

  7. Steve Bell says:

    Seems the lack of a “very disciplined approach” is closely correlated to “lack of a strategy”. To crack this customer experience nut requires an end-to-end perspective. Unfortunately organizations often tend to take on customer experience issues from piecemeal (tactical) perspective, focusing on individual channels in isolation for example. It is encouraging to see that about half of organizations now have an executive in charge of customer experience efforts – that’s a pretty critical prerequisite to having an overall stragegy and discipline. Also encouraging to see that some budget may be freeing up in 2010!

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  9. Bruce–

    Sorry to respond so late to this article, but I have been thinking a lot about its implications. In my working with companies, I have found many many that want to differentiate based on service…mostly because they have already lost on price and product differentiation. Most companies can come up with a list of happy customers, so it is often easy for them to say “we need to get more of these and we will be a leader.” That leads to memos and sloganeering about the importance of customer service. It may lead to a new training session for call center reps or literature filled with client testimonials for salespeople.

    What I have not seen is a true commitment to align the entire company around the Customer. That only 11% of firms have a disciplined approach to the customer experience means that they are not serious about achieving premier service levels, and ultimately will not get premier service levels. That is like Walmart deciding to move its corporate headquarters to mid-town Manhattan. It just doesn’t align.

    To those 11%, congratulations, because at least you have begun the true process, and can begin to eat the lunch of those other service pretenders!

    By the way, great blog….my favorite on everything customer!

    • Aldi Armia says:

      Christopher, I share a similar experience and I think you got it right on the spot! As Bruce pointed out also, commitment from management is very essential, however organization alignment holds the very key to achieve good results. What I think is somewhat of a drawback is today’s management puts focus too much on short term gains, at the cost of service excellence. Don’t get me wrong, bottom lines are the life lines of all businesses, but one must not forget about company sustainability, which can only be accomplished by keeping customers happy at all times! I’m just not bought on the idea of pushing myriad of products down customers’ throats hoping they’ll have enough air to breath…for another product down the line.

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  12. Meerika says:

    Nice post. I also recently read about how Banque Accord is leveraging the virtual agent technology for enhanced customer self support.

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