5 Things CIOs Need to Know About CX

CX (or customer experience) has become critically important to doing business. If you're not already checking in with how your customer sees your business, it's time to start.

1. Engage your customers. Bruce Temkin, managing partner of the Temkin Group, a customer experience (CX) research and consulting company, says companies need to reach out to customers through varied channels: "Listen in on calls, read feedback from surveys, and learn how to integrate this into the development of IT," he says. AT&T did this when it revamped its CX in retail stores. "We had customers provide direct feedback about the technology," says CIO Thaddeus Arroyo, whose team also learned from videos of customers interacting with sales reps.

2. Hire key players. Temkin says more companies are adding a chief experience officer to head up CX initiatives. "It's an important executive for the CIO to partner with," he says. And CX should affect other hiring decisions too. "CIOs need to have more key players focused on understanding how customers interact with the business," he says. Kyle McNabb, VP and practice leader at Forrester Research, adds that this talent should be in-house. "If they've relied on outsourcing, they need to bring it back." He also says it's worthwhile to train business analysts to be process- and customer-centric.

3. Do more with analytics. Ideally, you'll know your customer so well that you can predict what they'll do next. "With predictive analytics, we can understand across 100 different elements why customers give [satisfaction] scores," says Temkin. Companies need to be present where customers are, including on social media. Dell, for example, has added 3,500 social media employees to handle the 25,000 comments it gets per day. Temkin says it's crucial to analyze this data and get back to customers through social media channels.

4. Keep technology simple. Temkin says complex technology can hurt your CX strategy and be a major turnoff. "If you don't make it usable, you're throwing away your entire investment," says Temkin. AT&T's CIO Arroyo agrees customers want technology to work immediately and without instructions. "You don't want surprises."

5. Happy customers may be your ROI. Customer loyalty is the ultimate goal of CX strategies, but it's also one of the toughest to achieve, says Temkin. CIOs have to get the executive team on board before making a significant CX investment. "The biggest challenge is getting the organization to make trade-offs between short-term financial goals and long-term customer-loyalty goals," Temkin says. Arroyo says the investment has been worth it at AT&T. "Customer satisfaction has improved across the board," he says. "We've even exceeded expectations, to be more effective [at] selling."

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