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Why — and How — CIOs Support Customer Experience Programs

6 minute read
Myles Suer avatar
The starting point for winning at customer experience starts by plotting the customer journey, and more and more CIOs are getting it.

Excelling at customer experience (CX) is one of two paths forward in digital transformation. The starting point for winning at customer experience starts by plotting the customer journey.

And with this information in hand, the goal is to determine and then fix where there are friction points that prevent organizations from winning the hearts and minds of existing and future customers. But how do you manage this process effectively? This was the question posed to CIOs.

CIOs Believe in Customer Experience

Customer should always be a top priority for any business leader, and the CIO is no exception. I was honestly, positively surprised several years ago when CIOs told me they considered their businesses their customer. This is an important shift that occurred for IT leaders on the vanguard that achieved a seat at the business table. For this reason, I was not surprised that customer experience matters a lot to today’s CIO regardless of industry. Clearly, how much attention it receives is based upon resources, organizational needs, expectations and strategy.

Yet CIOs do believe, like Theodore Levitt in "Marketing Imagination," that the purpose of a business is “to create and keep a customer.”

“The customer should be at the heart of everything CIOs do — and for IT leaders," Quickbase CIO Deb Gildersleeve said. "Your role is to help figure out what technology transformation is needed to better serve customers.” Regardless of industry or company type, the goal should be to deliver more customer value faster and at a lower cost.

Obviously, the quality of experience an organization provides depends upon the company’s culture and processes. This determines whether CX is at the center of all work. Some organizations think CX first, others don’t really take it to heart. For example, Michigan State University CIO Melissa Woo said, “Improving stakeholder experience is baked into our organization’s mission/vision/values. However, changing the culture to reflect this takes time.”

Related Article: The Rise of the Customer-Centric CIO

Who Helps Map the Customer Journey and Customer Friction?

I was surprised there wasn’t a single answer to this question. I was expecting a typical answer to be enterprise architecture. Some CIOs claimed this would be done in the metaverse. Here, all business units would be able to contribute to the mapping based on their experience and customer feedback. However, most CIOs answered those who are responsible for making applications successful from a UX perspective.

“It’s a cross-functional effort with the big players being marketing, user experience and product," Gildersleeve, said. "Those three should have a continuous feedback loop to ensure the company is addressing the friction points. User experience can help map the journey; but pain points are often found by sales and customer success. Here, product teams should help create solutions. And marketing should identify the best ways to reach people in their journey.”

Clearly, organizations with a siloed operating models have bigger problems to solve. But to be clear, organizations that do it well seem to have CX embedded in many places of the organization, and as part of their business processes.

Related Article: How CIOs Define Innovative Customer Experience

Better Training and Process Improve the Customer Journey

Everything should start by putting the customer at the heart of what your organizations does. However, Analyst Dan Kirsch claimed that “many employees are so focused on the tactics of their job that they don't understand the overall business goals. Training must level set everyone on a department's, and the entire organization's, goals and missions, and then explain how everyone contributes.”

This means educating employees on the customer journey and its importance. Added to this is taking time to properly train the company. For each customer facing service or project, organizations need to listen and learn. T

Learning Opportunities

To contextualize learnings, it is important organizations learn that customers are continuously learning about other possibilities at the same time. What you want is to empower a service culture.

It is not surprising for this reason that Miami University CIO David Seidl, suggested, “IT leaders learn ways to engage and listen to customers and those that deal with them. In this process, CIOs need to train staff in things like design thinking, communications and listening techniques, etc. Then they need to create a culture where identifying and responding to customer needs is both prioritized and possible.”

Related Article: Why Are More CIOs Focusing on Customer Experience?

Where Can Better Technology Help?

It is critical that leaders understand where better technology can help improve the customer journey. CIOs suggest that technology and processes tend to have the most impact for customers in onboarding or the first year of usage. It is important to succeed here to gain market momentum. Organizations should strive to not underfund technology supporting these efforts.

University of California at Santa Barbara CIO Joe Sabado said, “Technology that reduces friction along the journey matters. For example, having them be asked the same things multiple times from different staff in the same organization, or delays in between the process, because they lack a central customer management system, is an area needing improvement. Self-service is another area.” For most organizations centralizing the customer management system and self-service can be transformational.

After human empathy and sympathy, what is needed is the ability for customer service representatives to follow up with context. Tools that automate how and when you should follow up and provide accurate context with the product and service are important.

I remember at one organization where I sat near the customer service representatives, conversations would become heated because the customer service representatives didn't know what products the customer owned and how they were configured. There are a lot of places for enterprises to do better, but a good area is to prioritize is providing tools that map the customer journey. Also important is being able to do quick surveys to gather information from the customer base and then analyze it.

Parting Words: Good News for CIOs With CX

CIOs clearly get and are involved in driving customer experience these days. And their teams are helping to work on the customer journey, which includes determining where friction exists and how to fix it. This is good news and shows that CIOs are ready to step up in their organizations.

About the author

Myles Suer

Myles Suer is the leading influencer of CIOs, according to Leadtail. He is the director of solutions marketing at Alation and also the facilitator of the #CIOChat.