USAA: kill your website to service customers

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This post comes to you live from the second annual Forrester Research Customer Experience Forum, held at the Grand Hyatt in New York. The theme of the event is creating breakthrough customer experiences. During one of the afternoon sessions, Principal Analyst Paul Hagen hosts a panel on trends in creating customer experiences. He is joined by Janice W. Brown, manager, channel strategy and orchestration, FedEx Services; Kathleen Cattrall, vice president, branded customer experience, Time Warner Cable; and Neff Hudson, assistant vice president, enterprise member experience, USAA. Here are a few highlights.

Paul sets the stage by discussing the obvious signs that companies are getting more sophisticated about serving customers, with nearly half of companies surveyed by Forrester having a chief customer experience officer in place. He asks each panelist to describe a breakthrough that has taken customer experience to a new level at each person’s company.

Time Warner Cable: “nowhere to go but up.” In Kathleen Cattrall’s words, ‘There is nowhere to go but up” at Time Warner Cable when it comes to improving the customer experience. She describes how improving the customer experience has meant being creative and resourceful without a clear corporate mandate from on high. She started by simply asking her customers what her company needed to do better, and she talked with competitors’ customers. Doing so gave her scores of ideas to improve service. With that information, she went on a road show with field service representatives to inspire them to improve. Her road workshops included people in finance and engineering, not just the obvious candidates who touch the customer — because she saw the need to show as many people as possible how their jobs affect the customer in some way. Months later, the vast majority of the people she visited in her road show are doing their jobs differently and realize how their roles touch the customer.

FedEx: an executive mandate to improve. Janice W. Brown indicates that FedEx saw a mandate to improve service after seeing a drop in satisfaction and loyalty numbers. In her case, she operated with an executive mandate. Her job has been to tackle thorny issues like getting more employees to be customer advocates and to work with executives to effect real cultural change. She has spent an entire year just putting into place a program for identifying how FedEx can improve across multiple channels, and the year ahead will be about enacting improvements across channels.

USAA: using mobile to improve customer service: Neff Hudson says USAA focuses on the “small stuff,” not breakthroughs. USAA focuses on customer problems that intersect with the company’s business challenges. For instance, USAA realized it needed to address the business challenge of enabling more customers to perform personal transactions even though USAA lacks branch outlets. So USAA created a program called Deposit@Mobile, which allows members to use scanners at home to deposit checks. Since August 2009, USAA has done $5 million in revenue via an iPhone and Android application.

And what should customer service professionals be doing to improve service?

Time Warner Cable: get customers involved in product development. Kathleen Cattrall: Embed customer-centric thinking into your product development. Time Warner is figuring out how to take customer feedback and improve product development through a company certification program that affects how company engineers do their jobs.

FedEx: listen and respond to customers via social media. Janice Brown says that FedEx is more actively listening to what customers say about its service and then responding. But FedEx is also mining customer insight for longer-term trends in how customers perceive FedEx, not just to put out immediate fires.

USAA: websites are dead. Neff Hudson: Your website is dead. If you are not in the process of deconstructing your website and distributing your service across multiple channels, you are way behind. Don’t build new destination sites to service customers. Distribute your service across Twitter, Facebook, mobile apps, and anywhere else your customer is. “I have spent my whole life building websites,” Neff concludes. “Now I’m learning how to take them apart”

What do you think? Is Neff exaggerating, or does the future of your customer service reside elsewhere than your website?

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