IT Innovations That Generate Revenue and Get You More Customers

Best Buy, Hilton Hotels and Washington Mutual dug into their data and revamped their business processes to empower customers and increase sales. Here's how they did it.

The accepted wisdom of the Internet is that customers want what they want, the way they want it, when they want it. And, judging by our CIO 100 honorees, helping your customers do just that produces business benefits that go directly to the bottom line. So how do you make that happen? How do you empower your customer? And how do you prevent your own business processes from getting in the way?

There are, according to our honoree CIOs, three key steps. First, find out everything you can about the customer. Then, build a system that anticipates his every wish. Finally, step back, get your own business processes out of the way and let him do his thing.

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CIO 100: IT Innovation

Quiz: Are You Innovative?

100 Innovative Projects

How to Build Innovative I.T.

A bank, a retail giant and a hotel chain tried to perfect the customer experience and received 2007 CIO 100 Awards in the process. For Washington Mutual bank (WaMu), listening to customer demand for faster, easier access to their accounts resulted in a new process that eliminated the need for anyone to ever set foot inside the bank. At Best Buy, focusing on customers meant developing a way to increase sales of in-demand products by making them more visible to the consumer. Hilton Hotels developed a system to give customers more options for reserving rooms by improving its online booking channel. By listening to its customers, by figuring out how innovations to existing technologies could meet their needs and by constantly asking how IT can improve existing business processes, the CIOs of all three companies created systems that generated organic and significant competitive advantage.

Washington Mutual: No More Banker’s Hours

Online banking isn’t unique to Washington Mutual. What is new is the fact that WaMu customers who want to open new checking accounts with the Seattle-based consumer and small business bank (which has $312 billion in assets) don’t have to get up from their computer to do so. What’s more, if a new customer wants to open an account, he doesn’t have to visit a WaMu branch and, in many cases, will never have to.

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Deb Horvath, CIO of Washington Mutual

Customers want convenience, ease of use and speed from a banking application. “That’s the key,” says Deb Horvath, CIO of Washington Mutual. For WaMu, delivering a better product more simply has meant putting the process largely into the hands of the customer. But doing so presented a challenge. In order for its CIO 100 Award-winning Instant Checking system to work, WaMu had to figure out a way to remove signature cards (used to validate transactions) from the process. The bank’s solution was to capture a digital image of the customer’s signature through the first check posted to his account, and copy that image into a signature-archiving system. The project’s success hinged on WaMu’s ability to convince regulators that such a method could adequately replace traditional signature cards. WaMu IT worked with legal, compliance and other parts of the business before getting the OK and rolling it out to customers this year.

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