The CIO has a key role in disseminating relevant customer information and in maintaining multiple systems and customer information databases.
By Stephan Thun
With nearly 70 percent of new business generated–or at least influenced–through word of mouth, customer experience has become an increasingly important consideration for the majority of businesses.
Traditionally, the CMO (chief marketing officer) has taken the lead in planning and implementing customer-experience management programs. Yet in the age of the connected customer, when clients can share their experiences (good or bad), businesses are having to rethink their operations. Customer-centric organizations need continuous customer feedback in all areas of the business.
The CIO, previously predominantly responsible for day-to-day IT functionality, now has a key role in disseminating relevant customer information into all areas of the business and in leveraging and maintaining multiple systems and customer information databases. A recent survey by Gartner, for example, found that analytics and business intelligence, mobile technologies and customer relationship management are now in the CIO’s top 10 priorities.
The growth of technology and its influence on every aspect of a customer's life has brought about transformation in the field. Today's consumers share experiences through a variety of channels. Take, for example, the video of a delivery service employee tossing a monitor over a fence, which racked up 9.5 million views and counting on YouTube. People constantly communicate using their smartphones, via social media, instant messaging, emails and SMS. Gone are the days when the occasional overripe banana could be forgotten. If their experience is out of the ordinary, chances are consumers are going to let someone else know about it. Companies need to be much more aware of their customers’ experience–it is no longer an option to simply manage a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. customer complaint line.
Because of the evolution of big data and because the smartphone that is in the customer’s palm, the industry has demanded and developed technologies that were inconceivable just five years ago.
This is where the CIO plays a vital role.
The Role of the CIO in Customer Experience
Companies can now obtain customer feedback systemically and continuously, they can share the information across the organization in real time and provide the tools for immediate action –so they can respond to customers swiftly and when needed.
It is technology that shapes every touch point with the consumer. This can be directly through the customer using technology at a touch point–such as booking a hotel online. Or it can be indirectly through supporting employees engaging with the customer–such as systems which help retail employees locate in-store stock. Technologies are being developed which actively improve customers’ experience, such as Asics’ new interactive in-store system, dubbed the Product Advisor, which matches joggers with their perfect running shoe.
To implement an effective customer experience program, CIOs need to be involved in the process from the outset. The CIO needs to use his or her knowledge to help design a program that leverages customer information existing in multiple areas of the business in order to help the organization create a holistic view of the customer journey and enhance the understanding of each individual customer along the customer lifecycle. In doing so, the CIO is the enabler for the company to better understand how customers experience a brand at every touch point and support the analysis and synthesis of this data to detect trends and enable relevant individual interaction with the customer. Excellent customer experience is rooted in the synthesis of these crucial elements, along with the ability to distribute the information to key stakeholders in real time.
Much value is created when building a rich, intuitive, intelligent customer-experience management system and mining the data gleaned from these interactions for critical insights into trends. Enriching CRM systems with customer feedback data allows for more relevant individual interaction with each customer, and CIOs can help transform their organizations into customer-driven businesses.
What Is the Future for CIOs in Customer Experience?
It’s very likely customer feedback measurement will turn into actionable customer experience management tools. This means more companies continuously will engage with customers throughout the customer lifecycle, and through relevant dialogues and personal action, as opposed to a one-way collection of feedback, which is then only used in aggregate to change processes slowly.
Companies are expected to act swiftly and more personally to customer feedback provided through multiple channels. Companies will integrate their customer data and operational data to make better and more customer-driven decisions. Expect to see smarter supply chains that factor buying behavior and other conditions (such as the weather) into their algorithms to make forecasting easier and help companies plan with improved accuracy.
Expect the inclusion of data that is passively collected, such as seeing and sensing without customers providing direct feedback, by using media such as facial detection, mood recognition and attention scanners.
Ultimately, this future is here and now. Companies that don’t embrace the opportunities afforded by new technology will be left behind. And CIOs need to jump in at the deep end. Those who do will help their companies prosper by keeping more customers loyal, winning more customers and increasing customer profitability.
Stephan Thun, the CEO of MaritzCX Europe, looks after the business in Europe and Asia, with multiple offices in Germany, the United Kingdom and China. Stephan worked as a marketing consultant before he founded Basis-Kontakt, a market research agency that was acquired by Maritz Holdings in 2000.