How to Develop an IT Strategy to Support Customer Experience

Managers need to consider which key interactions generate the most value for their customers.

by Christopher Sowa

Imagine a customer experience (CX) director is pleased that he recently implemented one of the latest SaaS solutions for sales force automation (SFA) and chat. In addition to padding his resume with new acronyms, he has enabled the members of his company’s sales force to enter contact information into a cloud-based environment and instant message (IM) amongst themselves. His company’s CX vision is complete...or is it?

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Somewhere along the way, many companies are losing track of the key customer processes that really alter a customer’s experience. Processes as basic as improved order management, enhanced fulfillment, more accurate/clear billing, and better maintenance have real return on investment (ROI)—yet they are often overlooked when companies think about CX.

According to Wikipedia, customer experience “is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their (sic) relationship with that supplier.” I would suggest organizations focus this view further by thinking about which key interactions generate the most value for their customers.

To illustrate the dangers our aforementioned CX director is experiencing, I once worked with a large organization that implemented a new sales force automation and chat system to enhance CX. Unfortunately, this system did not integrate with its order management system or product configuration system—two systems critical to this company’s customer experience. The lack of integration and consideration of the linkages between these systems resulted in many complaints that were well cataloged in the new CX solution; however, this did nothing to address the key problem they were trying to solve: their organization had a disconnected pre-sales and sales process. To address this customer challenge, it became necessary to replace this disconnected SAS solution with an integrated CX solution that connected these core processes. This integrated process allowed for more competitive pricing, faster onsite implementations and greater customer satisfaction.

To ensure a CX strategy is focused on the right requirements, I suggest IT and business executives focus on the following key steps:

  1. Start with understanding your customers’ key value drivers from their point of view (rather than thinking only of your internal process). All CX strategies should start with a focus on those three to five key customer value drivers that are critical to the business. Is order management key to the impact on the customer? Is receiving goods on time imperative? How can we create enough “wow!” in our customer processes that we can increase revenue, decrease customer churn, and increase margins through enhanced brand? For example, a large hospitality company might find that leveraging new mobility and customer analytics for its supply chain can help it ensure that its customers’ favorite drink and amenities are there when they arrive.
  2. Take the time to understand the impact of customer data and customer data orchestration. In many B2B businesses, it is important to not only have a single view of the customer across systems, but to understand customer relationship hierarchies. This allows an organization to capture information on a customer, understand multiple levels within an organization or a supply chain, and see how partners can be leveraged.
  3. Ensure connectivity of core customer processes and systems. For example, if an airline seeks to improve customer experience by providing meal preference options at check-in via mobile devices, it is critical that this information be connected to suppliers fulfilling the meal and to the flight attendants serving the meal.
  4. Secure your customer data privacy. In addition to meeting requirements about such things as in which country the data resides, it is important to control data access at a field level within the application and in a separate data environment that is not co-mingled with other customers’ data.
  5. Focus on securing customer processes and systems. A determined hacker can be difficult to deter from attacking customer data. Akin to the unlocked door on a home, weak customer data security can invite predators that perpetrate identity theft and fraud.
  6. Analyze customer data and enable actions to meet customer needs in real time. By monitoring customer feedback about your brand on the internet and creating real-time automated triggers for business process action, you can help your customers and best protect the corporate brand.
  7. Leverage engineered systems for both on-premise and cloud platforms to lower costs and enable faster uptake of new functionality. While hardware decisions were made on price alone in the past, a new savvy group of IT procurement professionals are looking to purchase the best integrated hardware to the task required at hand. For example, by leveraging engineered systems for applications, systems, and analytics, customers can improve speed/resilience of tier-one critical process and reduce costs. Also, due to the integrated nature of these systems, time for testing and upgrades is reduced up to 40 percent. It is also possible to provision new servers to scale environments up to 200 percent faster.

The lesson for IT and business executives is to be sure to keep core customer processes and customer interactions at the forefront when you are looking at the latest CX and social tools for CX. Only by viewing these core processes from your customers’ view of tangible value can CX be enhanced.

Christopher J. Sowa is vice president of Oracle Insight and co-head of Oracle’s Global Business Intelligence and Exalytics Strategy Pillar.

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