March Issue

Customers Should Be at the Center of the CIO's Agenda

CIOs should focus on systems that deliver a great customer experience at every interaction, according to Forrester Research analysts

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These days, the only source of competitive advantage is an obsession with understanding, interacting with, and serving today's empowered customers. Leading companies like Amazon.com, Macy's and Marriott are shifting their budgets, people and business structures toward customer knowledge, relationships and actions.

Most of your business peers already know this: In our survey of 2,958 global business leaders, 74 percent of the respondents identified improving the customer experience as a high or critical priority in the next 12 months.

The good news? Customers are top of mind for business leaders. The bad news? Less than 50 percent of those polled said they trust the CIO and the IT team to deploy the systems necessary to improve the customer experience.

You need to understand which technologies best support customer-obsessed competitive advantage and then map those to the customer life cycle—the phases that a customer passes through in the course of an ongoing relationship with your company. These technologies fall into two categories:

A next-generation CRM portfolio that supports continuous customer relationships. This includes systems for marketing, sales and fulfillment, customer service and product innovation.

An engagement platform to deliver unified customer experiences. Your customers expect cohesive experiences for every contact with the company—from the mobile app to the contact center.

Want to see this in practice? Take a look at Home Depot and Hilton Worldwide, which are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to redefine customer engagement and increase customer loyalty. Look at Rolls-Royce, which digitized its products to redefine customer value, or Macy's and USAA, which have transformed their marketing and product strategies to focus on customers.

Customer obsession is easy to talk about but hard to do. It requires embracing the technologies that make customer obsession real and actionable. If you're standing on the sidelines waiting, now is the time to get in the game.

Kyle McNabb and Sharyn Leaver are vice presidents at Forrester Research.

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