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Why the customer experience must be a top priority for IT teams

customer experience

Technology leaders and their teams are usually more tangentially associated with delivering great customer experience (CX). Contributing, yes, but not necessarily taking a central role in driving the customer experience.

The assumption is that marketing teams, led by the chief marketing officer or marketing director, would take the CX lead. Or, in some cases, a COO might take the lead for a friction-free customer experience.

However, the 2020 Acora UK CIO survey points to an interesting trend in the way that CIOs see their relationship with customer experience outcomes. More than a quarter of our respondents indicated that improving CX is the top priority for their teams. The CIO role may be associated with operational duties, but today’s technology teams are also closely involved in improving the customer experience.

Technology and the customer experience

In 2012, a Gartner analyst made a polarising prediction. The analyst suggested that CMOs would spend a larger proportion of business revenue on technology than the percentage of business revenue spent by IT departments. It turned out to be a prescient statement as a 2016 Gartner survey supported the prediction.

The Gartner findings underline how technology is increasingly central to attracting and retaining customers. It is backed by our own findings: CX is the new battleground for tech leaders. Intuitively, that does not come as a surprise: we’ve all noticed how, as customers, we increasingly sidestep the human element when interacting with an organisation. Instead, we interact with technology.

There are two key reasons why technology is becoming the predominant layer through which customers interact with providers. First, technology saves costs, which will always be a significant motivator. Next, technology also drives improved CX. Just consider shopping recommendations: no human can serve up relevant recommendations as fast as an AI-powered recommendation engine.

And, in the long run, improved CX supports the bottom line. That is why more and more organisations are judging performance through customer experience metrics. As business partners, CIOs must be highly in tune with their role in delivering a positive customer experience – by deploying the technology that drives CX.

Cutting edge tech supports CX

In a shift for today’s tech leaders, surveying the CX technology landscape and implementing cutting-edge, best-fit solutions in their organisation is now a top priority. But what do these solutions look like?

It starts with intelligent customer experiences. Esoteric computing fields such as AI (and its machine learning subset) have moved from the novel to the commonplace, and use cases continue to emerge. Which is why Gartner highlighted AI as the top CX trend in 2020. It’s easy to see why customers would appreciate a more intelligent, and more personalised response when dealing with a business. Tech teams must drive the technological change that delivers personalisation.

Tech leaders also need to ensure that their organisation offers integrated, omnichannel customer interactions. By fully harnessing the data that they already have companies can operate with a single view of the customer. They can do so seamlessly, across a growing number of interaction channels including chatbots, social, and voice assistants.

These are just two examples of how it is now the role of technology leaders to identify, propose, and implement game-changing solutions that build the customer experience. After all, improved CX delivers bottom-line benefits.

The employee experience is equally critical

In a 2019 survey about customer experience, PwC identified that employees’ technology experience is a critical element in driving improved CX. From a technology viewpoint, tech teams must understand that it’s not just the customer front-end that matters for CX.

Your colleagues must have an efficient, seamless experience with the technology that they rely on every day. Technology must never get in the way of serving customers, but in reality, many companies still operate with infrastructure that trips up the employee experience and, by consequence, the customer experience. Indeed, 6% of the CIOs we surveyed pointed to legacy technology as a concern.

2020’s rush to remote working pushed the relationship between technology, the employee experience, and CX to the foreground. Through the crisis, future-fit organisations effortlessly resumed serving customers, despite large-scale office closures. Others struggled to resume business as usual, frustrating their customers.

Organisations that stay at the cutting edge of technology also do a better job of attracting and retaining talent. Millennials, a group that Deloitte estimates will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025, are particularly demanding.

Millennials believe that the latest technology tools help them to perform better at work. Businesses that penny-pinch on technology risk driving away talent and tech leaders must raise that issue with fellow decision-makers.

Infrastructure and tech support still matters

The technology, CX relationship is shifting and becoming more intimate, but it does not mean that tech teams can ignore the essentials. Technology that is designed to deliver stellar CX can suddenly turn into a liability the moment it fails. For example, in 2019, one UK bank’s technology meltdown cost it £330m – and 80,000 customers.

So, while technology teams are now in a far closer relationship with the customer experience, tech teams should never lose sight of essentials. High up-time, and secure technology that works day in, day out.

Yet in an era of budget constraints finding the resources to maintain business as usual while also driving progress – including for the customer experience – can be challenging. Tech teams need to carefully weigh spend alternatives – and ensure that technology investments drive the customer experience.

Want to know how your peers spend their IT budgets? Read the complete 2020 CIO report from Acora here.

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