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

World Usability Day Shoutout To 25 Firms

In honor of World Usability Day (WUD) 2009, I’m publishing a second post today. As part of our annual Customer Experience Rankings, we get consumers to answer several questions about their experiences with companies. One of those questions is “How easy is it to work with this firm?

For our analysis, we take the percentage of consumers that say the company was easy to work with and subtract the percentage that say the company was difficult to work with. Using this net score, we ranked 113 companies. Here are the top 25 firms from last year’s rankings:

(Forrester) Top 25 Firms In Ease Of Use from 2008 CxPi

We just got the data back from our 2009 survey, so I am about to start the analysis for this year’s Customer Experience Index rankings. Look for the results in early December.

The bottom line: Every company should strive to be easier to work with.

Barnes & Noble Tops Retail Customer Experience List

As a part of my effort to examine the industry results from Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CxPi), I recently published a research report called Customer Experience Index 2008 Snapshot: Retail analyzing the 25 retailers in the rankings. Here are some of the findings:

  • Retailers did well. As a group, the retailers received a “good” rating of 81% and ended up taking 9 of the 10 top spots in the overall rankings. The industy had the second highest increase from last year’s rankings (behind only banks).
  • Books lead. Barnes & Noble replaced Costco at the top of the 2008 CxPi rankings, and the next two retailers near the top of the rankings were also booksellers: Borders and Amazon.com.
  • Electronics lag. The electronics retailers Best Buy, Circuit City, and Radio Shack ended up tied for next to last place in the retail list.
  • Depots disappoint. In many cases, retailers in the same sectors ended up with very similar CxPi scores. But there were a couple of notable exceptions: Staples ended up 9% higher than Office Depot, and Lowe’s ended up 5% higher than The Home Depot.
  • Barnes & Noble and Office Depot lead opposite trajectories. Comparing results from last year, Barnes & Noble showed the largest improvement while Office Depot had the largest decline.

The bottom line: Retailers are good, but could be much better.

Forrester’s 2008 Customer Experience Rankings

This is our second year publishing the CxPi. The 2008 CxPi ranks 114 firms across 12 industries: Airlines, Banks, Credit Card Providers, Health Plans, Hotels, Insurance Firms, Internet Service Providers, Investment Firms, PC Manufacturers, Retailers, TV Service Providers, and Wireless Phone Carriers.

The CxPi is based on consumer evaluations during October 2008 across three areas: 1) usefulness; 2) ease of use; and 3) enjoyability (see the methodology section below).

Here are the full 2008 CxPi rankings

Forrester's 2008 Customer Experience Rankings

Barnes & Noble took the top spot in the CxPi rankings, just barely beating out USAA’s credit card business. Borders, Amazon, and last year’s leader Costco round out the top five. At the other end of the spectrum, Charter Communications landed at the bottom of the CxPi rankings for the second year in a row. Here are some additional insights about the overall results:

  • Retailers take seven out of the top 10 spots. Last year, nine out of the top 10 firms were retailers. While retailers still dominate the top of the CxPi, three non retailers have cracked the top 10: USAA, Hampton Inn, and credit unions.
  • Healthcare and TVs dominate the bottom. The bottom 10 companies came from only four industries: four medical insurers (Medicaid, Blue Shield of California, Aetna, and Cigna), three TV service providers (Charter Communications, Time Warner, and Comcast), two ISPs (Charter Communications and Comcast), and one wireless carrier (Sprint). Charter Communications, Medicaid, Aetna, and Sprint were also on last year’s bottom 10 list.
  • Several banks made significant improvements. When we compared firms’ 2008 CxPi with last year’s results, we found that a number of companies that had improved. The three firms with double digit improvements were all banks (US Bancorp, SunTrust Bank, and Citibank) and six out of the top seven improvements were made by banks as well.

CxPi Results Across Industries

We also looked at the overall results for the 12 industries included in the CxPi.

Forrester's 2008 Customer Experience Index Results

The industry CxPi data shows that:

  • Retailers and hotels dominate. Two industries at the top of this year’s ratings, retailers and hotels, were the only industries to receive “good” average ratings. The two industries at the bottom of the list ended up with “very poor” CxPi ratings: health insurance plans and TV service providers.
  • Banks improved and TV service providers got worse. Comparing this year’s data with last year’s results, we found that four industries have improved while five had gotten worse. Banks made the largest improvement; increasing their average CxPi scores by 7%. The average CxPi scores for TV service providers, on the other hand, dropped by 7%.

The CxPi Methodology

This analysis was based on responses from 4,564 US consumers during October 2008. The Customer Experience Index (CxPi) was calculated as an average of the indices that came from consumer responses to the following three questions from an online survey:

  1. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how effective were they at meeting your needs? (“Usefulness” rating)
  2. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how easy was it to work with these firms? (“Ease Of Use” rating)
  3. Thinking about your recent interactions with these firms, how enjoyable were the interactions? (“Enjoyability” rating)

Consumers selected responses along a five-point scale – ranging from a very negative experience (1) to a very positive one (5). The individual indexes were calculated by taking the percentage of consumers who selected one of the top two boxes (4 or 5) and subtracting the percentage of consumers who selected the bottom two boxes (1 or 2).

In order to limit consumer feedback to organizations that consumers are familiar with, we only asked consumers about organizations that they’ve interacted with during the previous 90 days.

While we received feedback on many firms, the CxPi  only includes the 114 organizations that had at least 100 consumer responses.

The bottom line: There’s plenty of room to improve customer experience which will increase customer loyalty.

A Look Back At My First Year Of Blogging

1st Year Aniversary For Customer Experience Matters

Today is a big day. It’s exactly one year after my first post “Lessons Learned From 1,001 Web Site Reviews.”

It’s hard for me to believe that I’ve been doing this for a whole year. Or as the song from Rent goes, for five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes. But my measurement is not in daylight, sunsets, midnights, or cups of coffee. It’s in blog posts, 184 of them!

While blogging takes a ton of time (I’m constantly looking for interesting topics and drafting posts), it’s been a great experience. Why? Because of you! Readership continues to grow and this blog now has more than 10,000 visitors per month. So I want to say thank you to everyone who has been reading, linking to, writing about, and passing along my blog.

In honor of the 12 months of blogging, I’ve picked out 12 of my favorite posts (in no particular order):

  • Experience-Based Differentiation. This is the core idea which drives my research; it also  won the best research award at Forrester. Experience-Based Differentiation, or EBD as I fondly call it, is based on three principles: Obsess about customer needs, reinforce the brand with every interaction, and treat customer experience as a competency. This remains a powerful blueprint for customer experience excellence. If you’re interested in customer experience (who isn’t?!?), then you may want to use the EBD self-test as a starting point. You can also find many other posts about EBD on this blog.
  • My Manifesto: Great Customer Experience Is Free. This post summarizes my perspective on customer experience; it’s a lot like the quality problems of the 1980s. While customer experience is not an easy situation to deal with, it can DEFINITELY be improved with a systematic effort; it just takes discipline (see EBD above). There was also a follow-on to this post called Great Customer Experience Is Free, Part II.
  • Don’t Let Profits Replace Purpose. Companies need to make profits, but here’s the dilemma: if they just focus on making profits, then they lose sight of what makes them special. Firms that lack a strong raison d’être have a hard time aligning the efforts of their employees. In a related post, I discussed how Firms Need Some Soul Searching.
  • The Holy Grail: A Link Between Customer Experience And Loyalty. I’ve been hoping to do this for a while: use data to provide the connection between customer experience and loyalty. And I finally did it. My analysis shows a high degree of correlation across the 9 industries that I examined, with the the strongest linkage for banks. That finding fits nicely with an earlier post which said that banks need to prepare for customer experience wars.
  • Trend Watch 2008 Wrap-Up. I really enjoyed writing a series of posts over the New Years break that examined trends published in The Economist, The McKinsey Quarterly, Advertising Age, Business Week, and Trendswatch.com. While I discussed 52 trends across all of the posts, this wrap-up looked at 14 that covered 4 areas: Consumer needs, online opportunities, required skills, and strategy & culture. 
  • Learning From The Good Fortune Advice Of Others. Fortune Magazine published advice from 25 famous people, and I commented on 8 of them that I really liked. There was great advice from big names like HP’s CEO Mark Hurd, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger, and Ford’s CEO Alan Mulally. But my favorite person on the list is Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of Pepsico (who I found out about in a Time Magazine article). Her advice: “Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent.”  
  • Discussing Zappos’ Culture With Tony Hsieh. As a researcher, I get to interview a lot of people. But my discussion with Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos was really memorable. It started a few minutes before our call when Tony twittered that he was waking up early (7:00 AM on Memorial Day) and needed a Red Bull before he spoke with me. Tony was great and I’ve become an even bigger fan of Zappos after the call. I also wrotr about another CEO that really understands customer experience, Wachovia’s Ken Thompson.
  • JetBlue’s “Happy Jetting” Is More Than Empty Promises. After a series of posts that looked at companies trying to change their customer experience through advertising efforts (JP Morgan Chase, Circuit City, and John Hancock) it was great to see that JetBlue was engaging its employees in its Happy Jetting efforts. I also wrote about how Ford is starting to view employees as potential brand ambassadors
  • Forrester’s 2007 Customer Experience Rankings. We used responses from nearly 5,000 consumers to rate the customer experience of 112 US firms. Our customer experience index (CxPi) examined three areas:meeting customer needs, being easy to work with, and being enjoyable. The three organizations with the highest CxPi were Costco, Borders, and Barnes & Nobles. The bottom three: Charter Communications, Medicaid, and Cablevision.  
  • Amex CEO Gains Insights From Napoleon. Kenneth Chenault, Amex CEO, used a quote from Napoleon that I really liked: “The role of the leader is to define reality and give hope.” This gave me an opportunity to discuss key leadership attributes: Deal with the reality of the world, engage your employees, provide a clear vision, and maintain a sense of purpose. While I’m discussing quotes, I really liked this one from Mackey McDonald, Chairman of VF Corp: “We realized we didn’t have to come up with brilliant ideas – we needed brilliant ways of executing good ideas.” 
  • Mashup: Halloween + Red Sox + CxP. This was a unique opportunity for me to combine three of my favorite things: my family, Red Sox, and customer experience. We had a great interaction with Jason Varitek on Halloween that ended up with my kids getting his autograph. You can see where he signed my son’s World Series ticket in this post. In another mashup of my interests, I my posted about how The Colorado Rockies Embraces Its Guests.
  • The Best Of CxP Matters: Volume #1Volume #2, and Volume #3. It’s amazing how quickly time (and many blog posts) just flies by. That’s why I’ve been writing “The Best Of Customer Experience Matters” to summarize every 50 posts; they also give me a reason to reflect on what I’ve written. So I decided to bundle all three of these as one of my favorites. 

In case you’re interested, here are the 10 posts that have been read the most:

  1. Experience-Based Differentiation
  2. My Manifesto: Great Customer Experience is free
  3. Forrester’s 2007 Customer Experience Rankings
  4. USAA: A Positive Example Of Customer Experience
  5. Trend Watch #5: Trendwatch.com “8 Important consumer trends for 2008”
  6. Webkinz: An example of a disruptive customer experience strategy
  7. Five Disruptive Customer Experience Strategies
  8. Are you listening to the voice of the customer?
  9. Apple’s Truly Genius Service
  10. Trend Watch #4: Business Week “Innovation Predictions 2008″

The bottom line: If you’d like to celebrate this anniversary, send a link to this blog to five of your friends.

The Easiest Firms To Work With: Credit Unions And Borders

In previous posts, I looked at two elements of Forrester’s Customer Experience Index: enjoyability and usefulness. We used this index to rank the customer experience delivered by 112 firms across 9 industries. Now let’s look at how organizations were ranked in the final component of that index: ease of use.

Consumers felt that these organization were the easiest to work with:

Top 15 Firms That Are Easy To Work With

Not all of the 9 industries were represented in the top 15 above. Here are the firms that came out on the top of other industries (along with their overall ranking):

  • Investment firms: Edward Jones (21st overall)
  • TV service providers: DirecTV (59th overall)
  • Internet service porviders: Earthlink/MindSpring (43rd overall)
  • Medical insurers: Kaiser (89th overall)

The bottom line: “Computers shouldn’t be unusable. You don’t need to know how to work a telephone switch to make a phone call, or how to use the Hoover Dam to take a shower, or how to work a nuclear-power plant to turn on the lights.” (Scott McNealy)

The Most Enjoyable Firms: Borders And Old Navy

I recently ranked the customer experience of 112 US firms across 9 different industries using Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CxPi). The methodology incorporates consumer feedback in three areas: usefulness, ease of use, and enjoyability. While Costco and Borders came out on the top of the CxPi rankings, many people have asked about the sub-category leaders. I’ll start by looking at the firms that consumers feel are the most enjoyable:

15 Most Enjoyable Firms

Most of these firms are retailers, so not all of the 9 industries were represented in the top 15. Here are the leaders from other industries (along with their overall ranking):

  • Insurers: State Farm (22nd overall)
  • Wireless carriers: Virgin Mobile (36th overall)
  • Credit card issuers: Juniper Bank and American Express (tied for 38th overall)
  • Internet service providers: Bell South (42nd overall)
  • TV service providers: DirecTV (45th overall)
  • Medical insurers: Kaiser (81st overall)

The bottom line: “He who enjoys doing and enjoys what he has done is happy.” (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)

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