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Business leaders often define customer centricity as “making decisions with the customer in mind.” But thoughts of the customer alone aren’t enough to truly transform customer experience. 

Transformation requires coordinating three important functions, which together support customer experiences: First, you need to capture and organize customer data. Second, you need to develop meaningful insights from that data. Third, you need to use those insights to make decisions. More simply, you need to integrate technology and data, analytics and insight, and business strategy (or in our vernacular, Geek, Nerd, Suit). Together, these three important functions support customer experiences.

Most companies have these three functions, yet many are still operating in an environment where the partnership between them isn’t fully formed. This usually happens for one of three reasons: 1. they have different definitions of the customer, 2. they have different objectives or 3. they have different approaches to problem solving. Before we look at the solutions those problems, let’s start by reflecting on the objectives of each function.

3 Necessary Functions for Great CX

All good customer experiences start with the foundation of an integrated data and interaction infrastructure that makes every experience feel the same, no matter the type of interaction. This experience design depends on programmers, engineers and system architects (the Geeks) who turn business needs into technical requirements and determine how the entire ecosystem of applications and data will interoperate.

After the customer technology and data architecture is set, the analysts and researchers (the Nerds) can get to work. This group is responsible for providing the insights that determine what matters to customers and what motivates their behavior. With this group’s input, customer experience decisions get made on facts rather than feelings.

Finally, there are the strategists, product managers and experience designers (the Suits) who decide what to do. They have to develop an end-to-end knowledge of the current customer experience so they can create and gain support for a compelling customer vision. Most importantly, they have to maintain a healthy respect for the technology and data that support the customer experience and for the data scientists who bring them insight.

Related Article: The Path to Customer Centricity Lies in Dismantling Data Silos

How to Meld Technology, Analysis and Strategy

So how do you overcome the three barriers to a true partnership between technology, analysis and strategy?

Problem: Different Definitions of the Customer

Functions often define their customers in internal terms. Which team is going to use my technology? Which function asked for some data? Which leader wants me to take a specific action? These internal teams are all customers, but they are secondary to the end-user of your product or service. Even groups who are thinking externally may have different perceptions of who they are serving (e.g., the tech-savvy customer who wants advanced features or the mass market customer who wants technical support).

Solution: Create a Universal Definition of the Customer

Everyone in an organization should have a universal definition of your customer, and this definition should be multi-faceted. There isn’t an “average” customer of any product or service, but rather similar groups of customers within the customer base. It’s up to the technologists to make sure customer data is aggregated for analysis, and the analysts to turn that raw data into a consumable set of intuitive segments or personas that everyone in the company can align to.

Problem: Different Objectives

In many organizations, each function has their own set of objectives. Geeks are often held to standards relating to implementations of technology within a certain time and budget. Nerds are often measured by number of models or reports generated, and Suits are the ones typically held to the fire for achieving bottom line revenue growth. The reality is it’s not a clear handoff from one to another. The bottom line results that the Suit “captures” are critically dependent on technology and insight development.

Solution: Create a Single Set of Objectives

Alignment toward the same goals removes a common source of conflict and fosters cooperation from the start. One company added universal performance metrics tied to customer-centric goals (e.g., retention and net promoter scores) that can only be achieved when everyone works together. Marketing is no longer solely accountable for customer conversion. I can’t tell you the difference this type of goal-setting made when someone complained that a bug on the website was making it difficult for customers to complete online purchases.

Related Article: Want to Be Customer Centric? Engage Your Employees

Problem: Different Approaches to Problem Solving

When challenged, technologists naturally look to technology solutions, analysts look to models and analysis, and marketers look toward visionary strategies and experience modifications. If you asked them how to address a customer challenge (e.g., how to improve a loyalty program), you might get three very different proposals. Geeks might suggest an update to the program mobile app. Nerds might conduct some analysis that tells you to modify the lowest rated program benefits. Suits might come back with a vision for a new campaign with a more emotional appeal. These may all make sense, but it can be hard to prioritize them against one another.

Solution: Play to the Strengths of Those Different Approaches

The good thing is that different approaches actually fuel the success of most customer-centric initiatives. You need all three groups’ perspectives to come up with a truly effective plan. However, it doesn’t work if they’re all being built in parallel swim lanes. They need to be integrated from the start. If the Nerds know what problems exist in the current program, Suits and Geeks can join forces to find ways via either technology or experience to make them better. An integrated plan is more efficient and more effective.

The most important thing to remember is that however you staff your teams, you need all three functions. The customer sits inside that triangle, and like a triangle, each function equally bears the force of the weight to deliver the best experience possible.