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An Open Letter to My Friends in IT

Shawn Phillips Shawn Phillips 11/20/2020

Dear IT colleagues,

This is our time to shine. As the world changes rapidly, your company is looking to you to deliver the digital transformations necessary to support a new reality for your customers. Those digital adoption goals set for 2025? They’ve been moved up to 2021. With urgency.

This year has shown us that a successful customer experience requires technology. There simply aren’t any projects to deliver an improved journey that can afford to overlook IT. Heart of the Customer’s research this year has also shown this to be a key differentiator for market leaders, who utilize more kinds of technology than their peers.

Back in March, I argued that CX leaders such as Chief Customer Officers (CCOs) should come from IT. Our research confirms this, too. The companies we found to be able to drive customer-focused change all have one thing in common – they take advantage of technology to drive that change. Time and time again we heard that leaders started out as software engineers or that they used to implement IT projects for major consulting companies.

Conquering silos

Our research also revealed siloed efforts to be one of the biggest barriers to success. But in IT, you’re involved in driving improvements in each and every silo in the company. As a result, you also have contacts throughout the entire organization. You have implemented the CRM and the ERP and the support center software. You control the pricing and transportation systems.

IT is the one department that drives improvements in all of those silos. So now is the time for you to tie all of those silos together and build a better customer experience.

Make the leap from implementing systems to driving strategic customer focused change by getting to know the leader of your CX department. They have been doing the work, listening to customers, and finding out what’s most important to them.

The CX department has likely identified those Moments of Truth that matter most to your customers, typically by mapping the customer journey, and ideated on the future-state journey they would like to create.

But they can’t bring all their ideas to fruition without you. By developing relationships within the CX department, you will be the first to know what needs to be done. For example, you can help CX craft the business case, the ROI, and the timeline to get crucial changes into production.

Turn the tables

Instead of just fulfilling requests and from one department or another, you can get included in strategic projects that affect the company across silos and lead the digital transformation. The CX team might even let you take credit for the business results. (But of course, sharing the credit is the best practice!)

Another thing you can do is to become familiar with the technologies that have grown up over the last few years, all of which enable an outside-in customer focus. They almost never require a rip-and-replace of current systems, and they work across silos to tie the data together and provide a view of the customer as the driver of your business. The top five are:

  • Customer Journey Mapping Software
  • Voice of the Customer platforms
  • Customer Data Platforms with Advanced Analytics
  • Journey Orchestration Tools
  • Customer Communications Management Software

Customer journey mapping software

CJM software provides the foundation for prioritizing key initiatives and focusing on what changes are being made. It allows you to take the static, point-in-time journey maps your CX department has made and turn them into live representations of the journey at any point. It also allows you to help design the future state and track your progress against your key KPI/ROI goals.

Voice of the customer platforms

VoC platforms help companies listen to what their customers are saying and feeling. It never ceases to amaze us at Heart of the Customer how many companies still design products and services without talking with customers. We have found that companies that only use internal resources to figure out the customer journey typically miss 70% of the Moments of Truth, those critical interactions that have the biggest impact on the customer’s perception of the experience.

A complete listening platform will also have a built-in closed loop solution. If you hear from a customer having an issue, you need a way to reach out and help them. Listening without taking action frustrates customers and makes them less receptive to other messaging you might send.

Customer data platforms

Data platforms that have analytics capabilities are different than standard business intelligence (BI) systems. They relate operational data to the customer, not the other way around. Combining customer information from across all silos (Sales, Marketing, Digital, Support, Operations), they relate that data in one place. This allows them to use their machine learning models to predict churn, customer lifetime value, and the next best action.

Listening without taking action frustrates customers and makes them less receptive to other messaging you might send.

In the years before I started at Heart of the Customer, I tackled a couple of major BI initiatives. In one company, we identified hundreds of different metrics across silos, each of which had various dimensions. The customer had less than 20 total data points.

On another project, the customer data was added at the end of the project as an afterthought. With that kind of design, you would never be able to take advantage of the AI tools readily available to retain customers and extend their adoption of your products or services. CDP platforms allow you to use your data to get to the metrics that matter most in growing your company via CX.

Journey orchestration platforms

Orchestration platforms are at the top of the value chain. These platforms brings together all of the other solutions and automate improvements to the customer journey.

Take a major electrics component supplier, for example. Just 4% of the electricians trying to sign up to resell completed the process. The supplier used analytics to see that many of the people signing up to sell their products got stopped in a particular stage.

They used orchestration to try various strategies and ended up finding out that the link to sign up lasted 24 hours…but busy electricians needed longer than that to respond. They updated their process accordingly and that one small orchestration change moved the needle from 4% signing up to 28%. This produced millions in additional revenue over the next few years. Not too shabby.

Others have used orchestration to determine what message to send (or not  to send) and via what channel to send it. For example, it might be wise to suppress marketing messages when a customer has an open support ticket. Orchestration also allows automation based on when people do things and what they fail to do, such as downloading an app to their phone or funding a new bank account.

Customer communication management systems

Customer communication management systems (CCM) manage and automate communications from companies to customers. From the best brands, customers have come to expect (if not demand) clear communication with the right message, at the right time, on the right channel.

When it does not come out that way, customers get frustrated. Customers don’t think they should have to be financial advisors to read their own statements. Or insurance adjusters to understand how their policies work. They don’t want an 80-page prospectus in the mail when they can read and print a four-page PDF with their account information.

CCMs provide two main benefits: they get customers the information they need, while also streamlining the operation and costs associated with highly regulated communications. For example, financial companies and insurers are required to send out hundreds of millions of pages of documentation each year. CMMs deliver documents based on user preference and cost, for a better experience that also saves millions of dollars in printing costs and hours of employee time, since they would no longer need to manually create documents.

The future is now

There you have it, my IT friends. Your goals should be clear. Digital adoption is here, now, and you will be required to deliver projects that can transform your company. Everything will go through you – and you are the only department that can get it done.

Use this power responsibly. Contact your CX department and find out what customers are saying that you should focus on. Then link all the silos together by applying customer-focused solutions.

As part of our research into the current state of CX as a discipline, Heart of the Customer also interviewed more than 100 CX pros over the course of this year. We found that those with friends in IT drove the most business value.

Be that friend and you will have the ability to increase the value of your company…and your value to the company.

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