For IT leaders, customer experience was already a hot topic, but the pandemic has amplified the importance of delivering a thoughtful and modern customer experience. Today's challenges bring into focus the attributes and hurdles that most directly tie to customer experience. In a nutshell, positive customer experience ties directly to revenue. Forrester, an independent research firm, found that 'companies with superior CX [customer experience] grew revenues five time faster on average than their competitors with inferior CX'.1 Companies strive to become customer-experience leaders over laggards. However, there are a number of hurdles that prevent this evolution, and it starts with IT.
Understanding IT hurdles
It is not as simple as to say, swap legacy technology for modern technology and the problem is solved. It goes much deeper. IT’s legacy challenges require a change to culture, technology, data and silos. Each of these must change in their own ways.
Evolution of legacy IT thinking is the first step in the journey. It is important for IT to become more engaged with their line-of-business counterparts to understand more intimately the nature of their business, how it operates, and how and where it engages with customers. Taking a customer-first mantra for IT paired with this core business understanding creates the foundation required by a customer centric- company.
Taking a customer-first mantra for IT paired with this core business understanding creates the foundation required by a customer-centric company.
Different parts of the company engage with customers, from marketing to sales to customer support and beyond. Each of these engagements provides an opportunity to create great customer experiences through the use of modern technology. Unfortunately, companies often rely on legacy technology that is limited in capability and flexibility. Eighty-one per cent of consumers will defect to another brand as a result of bad customer experiences.2 A fundamental change is required.
The power of IT paired with data
IT provides the single greatest opportunity for change with regard to customer experience. IT provides the core foundation that all good customer experiences are built upon.
Customer-experience leaders are striving for a ‘market of one’ and hyper-personalisation for customers. This only comes through the use of modern technology paired with relevant customer data that can constantly adapt to a customer’s needs. A company’s technology choices must do the same – and at the same pace.
The sheer rate of change and volume of data is increasing significantly over time. Consequently, the underlying technology that parses and leverages the onslaught of data must remain flexible and accommodating. In the case of customer experience, we need to consider ways to provide seamless experiences for customers based on the underlying data, as opposed to separate silos of data that are integrated.
The days of rigid, monolithic systems are behind us. Simply put, they are just not able to keep up or provide the business guidance that today’s data provides. Of equal importance is that they are not able to provide positive engagement opportunities for modern customer experiences.
Leaders who recognise this opportunity are able to capitalise on the modern, unified customer experience that CX leaders and customers alike are clamouring for.
In order to provide consistent experiences, a business needs a view across each place in which a customer engages with a company. IT is in a unique position to see across the different points where customers engage with an organisation. Leaders who recognise this opportunity are able to capitalise on the modern, unified customer experience that CX leaders and customers alike are clamouring for.
Enabling the modern customer-centric organisation
Aligning to a customer-centric organisation is critical for all parts of the company – including IT. Start by creating a culture that fully understands and embraces the customer. This goes hand in hand with the relationships between IT and non-IT organisations. Align to support employees who engage most directly with customers. Consider the technology that supports both customer-facing employees, as well as technology with which customers interface directly.
Keep an eye to the future and where customers may be headed. It will never be a point. It will be a journey that meanders along a circuitous path and is constantly evolving. The organisation, culture, technology and data need to adapt accordingly.
About the author
Tim M. Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor, AVOA
Tim Crawford is ranked as one of the top most influential CIOs and is quoted regularly in the Wall Street Journal, CIO.com, Forbes, SiliconAngle and TechTarget. Tim is a strategic CIO, executive coach and advisor who works with large global enterprise organisations across a number of industries, including financial services, healthcare, major airlines and high tech. Tim’s work differentiates and catapults organisations in transformative ways through the use of technology as a strategic lever. Tim takes a provocative, but pragmatic approach to the intersection of business and technology.
Tim has served as CIO and in other senior IT roles with global organisations such as Konica Minolta/All Covered, Stanford University, Knight-Ridder, Philips Electronics and National Semiconductor. He is a board advisor to Latent AI and a member of the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Network. Tim serves as host of the CIO In The Know and CxO In The Know podcasts. The weekly podcasts interview CIOs and top executives to discuss the top issues facing them today.
Tim holds an MBA in International Business, with Honours, from the Golden Gate University Ageno School of Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from Golden Gate University.