This week Forrester wrapped up another excellent Customer Experience (CX) Forum in New York City, drawing together some of the best CX practitioners and brands in world. There were plenty of exciting stories about brands old and new, big and small embracing the fact that customers are empowered now like never before. Here are a few takeaways that we thought were important.

Emotion is the key to effective Customer Experiences

Like it or not, we're not as rational as we'd like to think when we make decisions or form lasting impressions. It turns out that emotion plays as much if not more into our behavior and perception of a brand experience. Key to capitalizing on this is finding the most emotional points of a customer's experience with your brand and work on solving pain points there. One bad moment can quickly overshadow an otherwise positive customer experience. But don't try to solve all the problems at once. Start with the pain points that give your customers the most trouble and then move onto opportunities for surprise and delight.

Ethnography, the newest, oldest, most important CX activity

Key to knowing what changes to make is understanding the customer's perspective. Forrester has long been a great advocate of Journey Maps as a best practice for understanding a customer's perspective on brand experience, but to do this you need to gather reliable data from the customer. To this end, there was a great deal of attention paid this year to ethnography and field studies. Ethnography is not a new activity, though, its probably one of the most foundational and formative activities in our discipline. The new attention to this kind of research is exciting because of how beneficial it can be. Field studies involve going to your customers and observing them in their spaces. This kind of feedback can't be found in a survey or a focus group, you have to leave your cubicle and go talk to people. You'll find this kind of work to be fun and enlightening. Get educated on how to do this kind of research if you haven't done it before and then try it out.

Disruption is the new norm: someone is going to "uber" your industry

As we acquire new customer insights, develop new technologies, and take advantage of cross-industry trends, innovation is occurring at a faster and faster pace. The question is not if an innovation will disrupt your industry, but when. Key to getting ahead of this and innovating proactively is empowering people within your organization to experiment and challenge long-standing conventions. Don't change just for change's sake either, but use customer insight to prioritize change that will have the most positive impact on your customers' brand experience.

Future State Journey Mapping is a great practical tool for this. As mentioned above, many organizations have adopted Journey Mapping in the last several years, but most focus their analysis on current state processes. With a few tweaks, Journey Maps can be a means to capture customer peer into the future and design new, innovative customer experiences that have the potential to create exponential value for your brand or organization.

Along the way, watch out for, and in fact expect, the naysayers who will inevitably question any change to the status quo. Politics and territorialism can absolutely kill CX innovation in your company. Employees who guard their territory to the detriment of the innovation in the larger organization may find there's nothing left to defend in the not-to-distant future. All one needs to do is look at the turnover in the Fortune 500 between 20 years ago, 10 years ago, and today to see that big companies don't stay big if they can't keep up with innovation.

Employees are critical to the Customer Experience

More and more research is pointing to employee buy-in and training as being critical to successfully implementing effective Customer Experiences in the enterprise or government arenas. Leaders can make decisions to prioritize CX and put the customer first, but your employees, especially your front-line employees, are the critical implementers of that vision. Investing in customer experience means investing in your employees and making sure they share your vision for innovation and change.

Companies recognize the value of CX but, many times, have trouble implementing it

Forrester does a great job of finding and telling stories about brands that have bought into the value of Customer Experience and are implementing it successfully. But a subtext of the conference was that this isn't everyone's experience implementing effective CX practices. Myriad challenges accompany attempts to re-orient large organizations, especially successful ones, to recognize the newfound power of the customer and design experiences accordingly. Leadership buy-in and bringing on talent, either as employees or finding outside partners, who have seen good CX implemented elsewhere is key to gaining traction in organizations where these concepts are new.

Those are just a few things we took away from this year's Forrester CX Forum. We'd love to hear your thoughts so please connect with us at the contact information below. See you next year at the Forum!