Great customer experience is an elusive goal

Many companies talk about it but few deliver, a Forrester study found

Every company says it wants to provide a top-notch customer experience; how many actually do is another matter.

To wit: Although improving the customer experience is a strategic priority at a full 73 percent of businesses surveyed for a new Forrester Research report released Monday, only 1 percent of companies currently deliver an excellent experience, the study found.

That's a problem, Forrester says, because customer experience (sometimes called CX) has become a more strategic imperative than ever.

"Growth is now the top priority for business leaders, and to achieve that you have to improve customer experience," said Kyle McNabb, a vice president of research strategy with Forrester. "Traditionally we've all worked toward metrics like ROI, but now the metric is impact on experience."

Using a new CX Index tool it developed with such needs in mind, Forrester surveyed some 46,000 consumers to understand the experiences provided by roughly 300 large U.S. brands across 17 industries.

Financial services firms and digital-only retailers were the leaders of the pack. At the other end of the spectrum were health insurers, TV service providers, Internet service providers and the federal government. Broken down by brand, insurance and financial services firm USAA ranked at the top of the list, followed by brands including Amazon.com, Charles Schwab, Discover, Edward Jones, Etsy, JetBlue Airways, Lexus, Newegg, QVC and Zappos.com.

Emotion was the top factor affecting loyalty in nearly every industry, Forrester found.

"Making customers feel valued is the holy grail of CX emotions," said Megan Burns, a principal analyst with Forrester. In fact, customer-experience leaders made customers feel valued almost twice as often as laggards did, Burns said.

The new focus on CX means a whole new set of challenges for IT leaders, McNabb said.

"It reshapes what tech professionals have to do in terms of planning their work, developing skill sets and delivering to a new set of expectations," he said. "Increasingly, tech leaders need to find a way to justify projects in terms of their impact on experience."

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