The Age of the Customer – Interview with Kerry Bodine about her new book Outside In

The age of the customer

Following on from my recent interview, Retailers and their customers – what’s now and what’s next – Interview with Ian McGarrigle of the World Retail Congress, today I’m very excited to share with you an interview that I recently conducted with Kerry Bodine, vice president and principal analyst in Forrester’s customer experience research practice, about her new book: Outside In: The Power of Putting Customers at the Center of Your Business.

This interview makes up number twenty-seven in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that I think that you will find interesting and helpful in growing your businesses.

Outside In book_3d

Below are highlights from our interview:

  • Kerry through her work with Forrester helps clients create the business case for customer experience and also provides them with the tools to achieve improvements.
  • Outside In was co-written with her colleague, Harley Manning, and was published on August 18th.
  • It is culmination of 14 years worth of research into customer experience at Forrester
  • We are now in The Age of the Customer and have been for the last couple of years.
  • This has been driven by economic factors and changes in technology.
  • Technology, distribution channels and manufacturing are not going away but they are no longer a source of competitive advantage.
  • Add into that technology changes that have shifted the power into the hands of consumers
  • The culmination of all of these factors is what is bringing customer experience to the fore.
  • The creation of great customer experiences will be the only way that a company will be able to create competitive advantage and sustain it for decades to come.
  • The book contains two main frameworks to help firms understand and get to grips with their customer experience efforts:
  • The customer experience eco-system help organisations map out all of the complex relationships that exist both inside and outside of their organisations.
  • The customer experience maturity model lays six disciplines that companies need to truly maximise the potential that is customer experience. The six disciplines are:
    • Customer experience strategy
    • Customer understanding
    • Design
    • Measurement
    • Governance
    • Culture
  • Frameworks are great for helping both companies starting out on their customer experience journey or to help guide and assess more established efforts.
  • If you had invested in the Forrester’s Customer Experience Index Leaders over 2007-2011 you would have made a 22.5% cumulative return versus a 1.3% loss if you had invested in a S&P 500 Index tracker fund or a 46.3% loss if you had invested in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index Laggards over the same period.
  • It makes intuitive sense that customers are going to reward businesses that deliver great customer experiences but it’s also interesting that markets and investors are going to reward businesses that deliver great customer experiences as well.
  • The Culture discipline in the customer experience maturity model speaks to measuring the level of employee engagement that an organisation has to enable it to deliver great experiences.
  • Hiring the right people is a key part of that and there is a case study in the book about Office Depot who realised that their hiring profile had changed over the years and they were hiring too many people that were task focused and not comfortable working with and talking to customers. They then changed their hiring profile to attract and hire more customer friendly people and that was a key step to turning around their customer experience.


About Kerry (from her Forrester bio page)

Kerry is a vice president and principal analyst in Forrester’s customer experience research practice and leads Forrester’s research on customer experience design. She taps into her past work as both a design practitioner and leader to help Forrester clients develop empathy for customer needs and co-create experiences that make their customers happy. She’s also the creative force behind the customer experience ecosystem, a framework that helps companies diagnose and fix customer problems at their roots.

Kerry’s research, analysis, and opinions appear frequently on sites like Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, and Advertising Age. She contributes a regular column and sits on the advisory board for Touchpoint, the journal published by the Service Design Network. An accomplished and frequently requested speaker, Kerry has keynoted major conferences on customer experience, design, and marketing around the globe.

In previous roles, Kerry has led consumer research teams; guided the design of websites, mobile apps, and branded social networks; designed interfaces for robots and wearable devices; and, in 1995, developed a social shopping prototype for AT&T Bell Labs. She has also completed stints as both a management consultant and an advertising executive.

Kerry holds a master’s degree in human-computer interaction from Carnegie Mellon University and an undergraduate degree in cognitive science and psychology from Indiana University.

You can check out the book website: OutsideIn (which has got all sorts of other stuff on there), connect with Kerry on Twitter (@kerrybodine) and check out her Customer Experience Blog too.

14 comments On The Age of the Customer – Interview with Kerry Bodine about her new book Outside In

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  • Hello Adrian
    Thanks for sharing this information. I have been following the work of Forrester (Kerry and Harley) and they have interesting insights to share.

    I cannot help but ask how it is that we are in the age of the customer yet only a handful of organisations (Amazon, SouthWest, Zappos, USAA, giffgaff..) are held up as role models. Put differently, how is it that the vast majority of companies are doing well without paying much attention to ‘We are in the age of the customer’?

    I look forward to hearing your point of view.


    • Hi Maz,
      I’ve asked Kerry to comment on this too. From my perspective, I believe that referring to the Age of the Customer is about a shift, a shift in power and influence, that is taking place around us. Not all companies or organisations will be part of that shift or will respond to it. The companies that you refer to are the leading lights and early adopters and it will take time for others to follow. But, not all will choose to follow and some will continue on their current path with many organisations protected and still operating under manufacturing/industrial age assumptions.


      • Adrian, I love the diagram at the top

        I can’t help but think that they add to one another, if you are good at manufacturing, and distribution and information then you stand a chance at being good with the customer, but if you can’t cut all 3 of those you never will be

        Not that those will make you successful, they are just entry criteria


        • Hi James,
          That’s a great point. I also think it’s about learning and adapting to changes in our environment. Evolution if you like.


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  • Hi Adrian,

    Thanks for sharing these very insightful highlights from your interview.

    I was particularly interested in reading Kerry’s thoughts on creating great customer experiences being the only way that a company will be able to create competitive advantage and sustain it for decades to come.

    There is much talk nowadays about the necessity of true customer engagement, but most companies are still engaging with strings attached, ie, we’ll engage with you as long as you complete our call to action or make your way through our entire sales funnel.

    So it makes sense that the handful of companies who are realizing they should put the customer’s needs first and conversions right behind that, will see long term success.

    • Hi Jake,
      You make a great point and one that many firms are guilty of. We only have to reflect on relationships in other parts of our lives to see that relationships with strings or conditions attached are not healthy or sustainable.


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  • Hey! Fantastic blog! I happen to be a daily visitor to your site (somewhat more like addict ) of this website. Just wanted to say I appreciate your blogs and am looking forward for more!

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