How CIOs & CMOs can help customers the most during a crisis



For many consumers, providing data to brands often feels like a one-way street. The brand gets the benefit, and the customer gets the spam. It’s time to change this.

As these difficult times persist, brands need to alter the equation and focus on using the information they’ve gathered to deliver valuable experiences to customers in a manner that creates delight.

The current pandemic crisis provides an opportunity for new thinking and actions. For many organizations, creative collaboration between the CMO and CIO can identify new ways to enhance customer-facing systems to provide more direct benefit. The key is to start with the objective of solving customer issues or problems in the shortest amount of time.

One example, particularly germane at a time when many essential supplies are scarce, is to link an organization’s supplier database with customer inquiry systems to provide more options for sourcing hard-to-find goods. This doesn’t require a brand to lose control over the customer; the best approach is to use this linkage to provide accurate or more comprehensive information about inventory or supply and when it might become available.

...creative collaboration between the CMO and CIO can identify new ways to enhance customer-facing systems...

A related idea is to improve proactive notifications, so that customers are kept up to date when goods they’ve looked for without luck are back in stock. Linking inventory databases and customer browsing history should provide the foundation for such capabilities. The payoff could be significant. Many brands are experiencing wide swings in product availability, and customers feel that unless they’re lucky enough to stumble upon that brief moment when inventory is available, they’ll miss out. This isn’t a good feeling. People value fairness, and customers will feel they’ve been treated fairly if availability is shared with everyone who has been looking for a product at the same time. The brand might have only limited stock that it can easily sell with no effort on its part, but it’s a win if even those customers who aren’t among the lucky few can make a purchase. They’ll believe that they’ve been treated well and given information that is normally impossible to dig up.

Another service that the CIO and CMO can jointly deliver to benefit customers who are adjusting to today’s “new normal” is to provide more information about how to efficiently use the products that the brand sells—knowledge that could even make the product better for the customer. For example, as bleach became hard to find but essential for disinfecting surfaces, one chain sent an email to its loyalty-card customers explaining how water combined with liquid pool chlorine could serve as a bleach substitute.

The real value of CIO/CMO collaboration is that it joins the two people in the organization who have the broadest understanding of what data exists and how it can be integrated to provide customers with a better experience—and a little less aggravation in today’s troubled times.