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Friday, January 28, 2011

Comparing Brands' Customer Experience
John Bernoff of Forrester presented a topline summary of his company’s most recent Customer Experience Index survey in the latest January 17 issue of AdAge.   As part of the study over 7,700 consumers were asked to rate 154 companies.  The resulting scores are based upon three questions: 1) How well did they meet your needs? 2) How easy were they to do business with?, and 3) How enjoyable were they to do business with?  The report rated just 6% of brands as “excellent”.  They were Borders, Barnes & Noble, Kohl’s, Costco, Amazon, JC Penney, Walgreens, Target, BJ’s Wholesale Club and USAA. 

Mr. Bernoff states that “the way you treat your customers-and the way they perceive you-makes all the difference in what they say to their friends”.  We have no disagreement with that except that of course that Forrester’s survey doesn’t appear to ask questions about what people say to friends, relatives, or  co-workers about a brand.  More importantly however, the mix of corporations that were rated as “excellent” by Forrester would suggest that their questions and their conclusion overlook a key consideration.

Consumer attitudes and behaviors are certainly in part driven by service, but they are also driven by a multitude of other experiential components including cost.  Customer retention, growth in share of wallet, and positive word of mouth are the outcome of conscious and sub-conscious calculations of total VALUE.  Forrester would be better served in prefacing their questions with “For the money” (e.g. “For the money, how well did they meet your needs?”).  Let’s face it, Costco and Kohl’s are fine stores, but checkout lines are typically long, and associates who can answer questions are in short supply.  That would not be acceptable at an upscale retailer like Whole Foods, but Costco and Kohl’s  are discounters and some consumers (even if not asked to do so) are weighing that factor into their response.

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