We may not remember every good customer experience we have, but we almost certainly remember the bad ones. And if we have a particular gripe with a business we have a multitude of channels through which to express our feelings.
Companies recognise the importance of the customer experience and spend a lot of time, effort and resources ensuring that their customers come away with smiles on their faces. The truth is that customers don’t just want a satisfactory experience when they interact with a business, they want a truly delightful service – one that goes the extra mile.
The customer experience starts the moment an individual finds out about a business. What starts out as a great first encounter should then continue into an effortless experience every time that person comes into contact with that brand. In the age of the always-connected customer, one bad experience has the power to seriously damage any brand. More than ever before, IT is impacting the customer experience and IT professionals need to start placing customers at the heart of their agenda and make the customer experience their number one priority.
So what can today’s IT departments do to improve the customer experience? Here are four suggestions:
1. Develop a service obsessed philosophy
Businesses need to realise that the delivery of customer experience is not just the domain of the marketing or HR department. A cross-company customer service mindset has to extend to each and every corner of a business. IT’s customer base doesn’t just include internal stakeholders looking for efficient systems, it also extends to external stakeholders looking for a truly efficient service.
Every IT department needs more than just a business enablement focus, it needs to concentrate on the technologies and systems that attract, assist and retain customers. Becoming customer-service obsessed gives technology management organisation not just the opportunity to deliver great customer journeys but also to influence the strategic direction of the business.
2. Drive business innovation through technology
The most successful of today’s businesses are those that push the boundaries of innovation and creativity. The IT department is central to this process, providing the overall architecture required to build and progress business strategy. Where there used to be a focus on individual systems, there now needs to be a more overarching technology strategy which allows numerous systems and technologies to work together, creating an integrated and effective service output. And IT has just as an important role to play as business objectives move from strategic to tactical.
3. Focus on collaboration and agility
In our age of mobility, technology is all about speed and efficiency. From an IT perspective, there is a need to reduce the speed of iterations of services and products – what once took months should now be taking weeks, if not days. Because the path to purchase has been so greatly altered, the way business divisions work together has had to change too. Marketing is one department developing closer ties with IT. The marketing function is reliant upon technology for its ability to price, innovate and communicate with customers, however this doesn’t always feature high enough on the IT agenda. The more collaborative the approach taken by IT, the greater the number of satisfied customers.
4. Demonstrate the value of IT
The customer experience manifests itself in a number of ways in a business. It can be seen in customer engagement, app downloads and search data, for example. IT professionals will make the connection between metrics such as these with brand awareness and lifetime customer value. The trick is to convey these links across the company as a whole. The more value is placed upon IT, the greater the buy-in from internal stakeholders and senior decision makers. This relies on the ability to apply analytics and big data to the wider business strategy. Once IT has identified itself as an area of value it will receive the credit it deserves for creating an effortlessly smooth customer experience.
It is time for the IT department to come out from the shadows and shine as the customer-service focused function it really is. Once greater emphasis has been placed on these areas, IT professionals can lead the way in creating a new and improved customer experience.
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