For years, CIOs have ranked the importance of aligning IT with the business as their top strategic goal. And while business alignment hasn't necessarily diminished in importance, many forward-thinking IT leaders are pushing the ball forward.
For instance, according to a new study by Yankee Group, 82 percent of 100 CIOs and CTOs from companies with 500 to 10,000 employees ranked improving customer experience as their top strategic priority.
The findings underscore how CIOs and other business leaders are becoming increasingly customer focused, and for good reason. As the economy continues to gain strength, companies are looking to add customers and increase revenues.
But as companies look to grow their customer bases, it's also critical for companies to focus on retaining their highest-value existing customers. Unfortunately, decision-makers too often overlook this critical foundation to business expansion in their zeal to add new customers and grow the business. By focusing too much on new customer acquisition, executives run the risk of overlooking the needs of their most profitable customers, thus jeopardizing an otherwise stable component of growth.
As such, as CIOs and other decision-makers develop strategies aimed at improving customer experience, it's critical for them to consider the needs of not only their most ideal prospects but also the best customers they already have. By ignoring the needs of incumbent customers, companies run the risk of having their best patrons abandon them, sometimes as a result of reacting to competitive offers. When that happens, new customer acquisitions and resulting revenue growth is offset by customer defection.
Another recommendation for improving customer experience for existing customers and prospects is by drawing upon technologies and techniques aimed at eliciting customer feedback. Voice of the Customer (VoC), enterprise feedback management, and other types of programs can be extremely effective for gathering and acting on insights from customers about their attitudes, preferences, and needs.
Listening to customers and then responding to their feedback demonstrates to customers that companies truly care about what they have to say and that customers' opinions matter to them. In turn, customers will be more likely to trust those companies that are responsive to their needs. Not only will customers be more apt to remain a customer and increase their own long-term value, they're also more likely to recommend the company and its products and brands to family and friends.
CIOs can also improve customer experience by acting as a liaison between different channel owners (email, voice, retail, online, mobile, etc.) to ensure that customers are receiving consistent experiences across all channels. One of the main reasons customers view companies as being disjointed is that they often receive different experiences from one channel to the next. Meanwhile, as customers move from one channel to the next, as they often do, their interactions in the previous channel aren't remembered.
That's often because integration between different channels is weak or non-existent. Therefore, when a customer calls a contact center to complain about problems they experienced on a company's web site or in another channel, they become frustrated when a customer agent isn't able to identify and follow the customer's full string of interactions. The customer experience is further soured if they have to repeat information they've already shared.
Part of the problem is that channel owners and their teams are incented to provide customers with the best possible experiences within their respective channels but not for optimizing the cross-channel experience. Research has shown that high-value customers often use multiple channels. CIOs can and should work with channel owners and corporate executives to ensure that incentives and compensation are properly aligned for providing customers with consistent experiences across all channels and that channels themselves are properly integrated.