This morning we released the latest version of an annual client favorite: “How Companies Improved Their CXi Scores, 2013.”

As we do each year, we compiled a list of brands whose scores went up five or more points in our Customer Experience Index over the past year (in this case, between 2012 and 2013). We asked CX leaders from those brands if they’d be willing to tell us what they did to drive those improvements. Finally, we synthesized their answers into a list of best practices that others can learn from.

As you’d expect, we heard about a host of projects designed to boost the three aspects of customer experience quality. Here’s just a sampling of what we uncovered:

  • Meets needs. Marriott used one of my favorite qualitative research techniques — diary studies — to understand exactly when its guests would need a mobile device during their travels. The firm identified roughly 300 user needs that a mobile device could fill, prioritized them, and is using the resulting hierarchy as a road map for future investment.
  • Easy. Vanguard and Progressive were just two of the brands that said they upgraded website designs to make it easier for customers to get the information they need online.
  • Enjoyable. Days Inns trained more than 20,000 employees on how to make hotel guests feel welcomed.

What really stood out this year, though, was the extent to which companies are adopting the practices that characterize a disciplined approach to customer experience. Some firms got a boost from implementing foundational CX practices like measuring customer experience quality and setting up a governing body (often a steering committee) to review and prioritize the issues that data brings out. Others, however, are moving into the more advanced stages of their path to customer experience maturity. For example:

  • CX leaders at AT&T Mobility worked with the finance department to build a valuation model for customer experience that the company's chief financial officer (CFO) has now certified.
  • Vanguard made strides in multiple disciplines, including culture, by doing things like changing the way it hires for client-facing positions.
  • Sears got its employees working toward the same goal with a clear, research-based customer experience strategy.

For more detail on these and other examples, check out the full report, or join me in New York City at Forrester's Customer Experience Forum East, June 25-26.

And if you want to take a deep dive into one brand’s story, we’ve got something new this year. We’ve invited Nicole Westenberger, Sears Holdings divisional vice president, to join us for a Webinar on May 28th at 1 p.m. EDT. I’ll kick the webinar off with an overview of this year’s report and then ask Nicole to share more detail on what Sears has done to improve its customer experience. We’ll wrap things up with some Q&A, time permitting. This is the first time I’ve invited one of the firms from our research to join me on a Webinar, so I’m excited to see how it goes. I hope you can join us!