CIOs can support a better customer experience

The CIO role may not be customer-facing, but the IT organisation can do a lot in terms of better availability and management of customer data, to improve the customer experience, according to Graham Mansfield of Oracle

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CIOs can support a better customer experience The IT organisation can support the company as a whole to provide better customer experience, says Mansfield.
By  ITP.net Staff Writer Published  March 21, 2013

The CIO role may not be customer-facing, but the IT organisation can do a lot in terms of better availability and management of customer data, to improve the customer experience, according to Graham Mansfield of Oracle.

Oracle research has revealed that while many businesses are aware of the importance of customer service to their profitability, few have put in place formal customer experience initiatives. The global report, which surveyed 1,342 senior-level executives, showed that bad customer experience was costing most companies in terms of reduced sales and brand damage. Lack of money (31%), siloed organisations (25%), and difficulty tracking performance/customer feedback (24%) were cited as the biggest obstacles to delivering the best customer experience.

“The task of transforming a business into a customer-centric organisation is daunting, because it affects not only IT systems but also business systems and business culture,” said Graham Mansfield, senior director for CRM Solutions at Oracle. “Companies face a new wave of customer engagement and new third-tier technologies such as mobile, social and cloud computing.”

To manage this double onslaught Mansfield recommends five key actions:

1. Create a single instance of common customer data that can be accessed via all channels. A typical organisation interacts with customers through many channels, and  the same customer data should be available across the network. A symptom of the absence of this common data is a transaction that needs to have information entered more than once, for example during a customer call to a call centre, they may be required to enter their account number first through an  automated system and then provide it to a call centre agent. The automated system did not link to the call centre, which meant the agent did not know the account number even though it had been entered.

“Consistency of information is the very basic requirement for a good customer experience,” said Mansfield. “The more complex an IT infrastructure, the more difficult it is to achieve this consistency, and the more expensive it is to achieve this single view. That’s why Oracle advocates that companies adhere to standards-based systems. If you have disparate systems, don’t try to get a single view of the customer because it will be complex and expensive.”

2. Add to this the need to trust staff to manage customer information correctly and securely. Even if a company has a single view of the customer, not all the information is available at one time or in one place. Many times call centre agents tell callers that they don’t have access to all the customers’ information, and that they have to deal with a different department, call a different number, or come into the branch. Today’s customers want to contact a company once, and have their reason for calling resolved immediately.

3. The customer must be able to access and have information delivered to them in the format and channel they choose. Today’s customers want the same experience of a company irrespective of how they first engage with that company. They want to be able to see the same products and special offers online as in-store for example. In banking the same services and options need to be available via phone, internet or from the counter.

4. Optimise self-service for the customer. If they can serve themselves the way they want to, staff can be released from procedural activities and start adding value to the customer experience. This leads to companies thinking more about how they can empower their customers to help themselves to routine services.

5. All the above mean companies have to look at their business and create a new plan — a journey map that will get them from where they are today to where they would like to be. If they measure themselves according to what the customer wants rather than what they can supply, they are already well on the way to transforming their business into a customer-centric operation. In the past companies used IT to automate processes and make them compliant and efficient. Today IT needs to be used to manage more of the human element of a business and what the customer wants. Customer experience now dictates perceptions, and customer loyalty will be based on that perception. Customer experience is 100% integrated into the brand, and IT plays a significant role today in protecting that brand.

“Recognise today’s social environment and manage it,” Mansfield added. “If customers have complaints about your company they won’t tell you, they’ll tell their friends on social networks. If you don’t monitor this and respond you’re going to be out of control.”

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