June 22, 2011

Customer experience is a matter of aligning functionality across platforms, providing a simple platform for customers to engage, using customer data intelligently and generally making the customer feel respected.

Such were the themes Wednesday morning at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum 2011, a two-day conference in New York focused on the concept of building strategy around the concept customer experience. While what I saw wasn't explicitly related to banking or IT, the executives who presented at the conference discussed topics that should be familiar to most in the industry - think web design, IVR, data management and the overall hope that, no matter what channel a customer chooses to interact with a company, the experience is consistent, simple, effective and designed to give the customer the sense that their business is valued.

Some examples include American Express' Jim Bush, EVP, World Service, who says customers should expect the same functionality and service whether they access services online or over the phone. Or Toronto-based Porter Airlines, whose CEO Robert Dulce stresses differentiation on service - not only do customers want to save time and have access to a simple solution for their needs, but they should also be treated with dignity, respect and recognition. David Gentry, general manager, customer relations, Nikon, spoke to the idea of simplicity as well, saying that, if you have to teach your grandma how to find information on your website or how to navigate an IVR, then you're doing it wrong. He also supported the idea that a retail marketing website live in the customer relations department, as it is closest to the client and can serve them better.

Altogether it's interesting to see how leaders across different industries seem to be consistent in the idea that customers should have a consistent experience, that they should feel like the company "knows" them and treats them with respect and that, ultimately, loyalty comes through the feeling that the customer can get what they need when they need it.

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