The CIO holds the keys to 'outside-in' play

Customer experience and thinking around the ‘customer journey’ may have traditionally been the purview of the marketing team but it's time the CIO stepped up to the plate.

It is no secret that customer expectations have changed dramatically. We now live in a customer-centric world, which demands 24/7 access to brands, and a fast and consistent level of service across a multitude of channels – both online and offline. At the same time, customers’ ability to express their dissatisfaction has exploded with the advent of social media and commercial review models. This means that now more than ever enterprises need to think and operate in an ‘outside-in’ model to succeed and stay competitive in the marketplace.

Being able to provide an engaging, satisfying and consistent experience across the entire customer journey, no matter the channel or time, has become critical to an organisations success.

Another key trend we are seeing emerge is that brands are increasingly being judged by what they do and not just what they says. In other words, the core of customer experience and perception is now rooted in execution.

Step forward the CIO.

Customer experience and thinking around the ‘customer journey’ may have traditionally been the purview of the marketing team, however the real power to change and ability to drive excellence lies with the CIO. This is because the systems and processes of a business underpin all elements of customer experience execution. Getting this right and being able to drive change through critical areas of the business is where today’s CIO steps up.

This is not necessarily an easy task. A CIO has to grapple with the legacy of older solutions and applications, the present burden of reliable and secure operations as well as future planning for current projects and strategic changes required by the business. When the IT budget is largely consumed with ‘keeping the lights on’, it is all the more critical to know and assess how the discretionary spend is applied to move forward.

There are four key areas where the CIO can lead the business in its ‘outside-in’ approach:

Understand layers of change

Not all elements of a business can (or should) change at the same speed. A general ledger will always do what it does and reliably so. However, how information flows and how order processing, sales and service fulfillment, and renewal pricing is managed will change more rapidly.

Customer engagement is the most dynamic area of a business and needs to adapt faster than the core systems of record. Change to core systems does not have to be treated like heart surgery or root canal treatment! Layering systems to support this pace of change while integrating and abstracting the core systems enables this approach and has been proven to be an effective approach to driving change while focusing on the customer.

Focus on journeys not transactions

Of course we must not forget that, over time, customers perform transactions, and getting a policy on to the admin system is a critical step. However, do not  forget that the customer is on a journey. Process and scenario thinking embraces this notion and provides key measures of success and goal definition, such as customer effort and convenience, that are not simply about data consistency.

Don’t allow silos

Silos are the sworn enemy of customer experience. Whether they are business department or system based silos, they all conspire to make the customer journey fragmented and painful.

One of the biggest divides is the gap between customer service and sales/marketing, and within that is another gap between eCommerce or digital solutions and ‘traditional’ back ends.

The CIO is well placed to drive cross-divisional unity through an organisation by determining and delivering cross-functional solutions that focus on the customer not the department.

Be Bold

Speed and agility require boldness. This includes boldness in selecting partners and vendors, which support your vision and can work with you over time. It includes boldness in learning to pilot solutions that solve tactical needs while opening up strategic doors – delivering a valuable part of the overall vision in three months - not three years.

This will require vision and boldness in execution. With that the CIO will not only support the business but act as the key catalyst and agent of change that is required to drive change.  

A CIO can see all parts of their enterprise’s execution and can grapple with it to deliver the outside-in approach that will engage customers and ensure both the success of the business and their own personal success as a CIO.

Brian Donn is Senior Vice President and General Manager APAC at KANA Software

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