3 Ways CIOs Can Embrace Their Inner Chief Customer Officer

Digital systems play an increasingly vital role in keeping the customer happy today, and that’s shifting the information officer’s role.
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Any keen industry observer has seen the significant role digital technologies are playing in today’s customer experience initiatives. To help meet these demands, CIOs—the technology leaders driving digital transformation—are becoming integral players in enabling organizations to win hearts and minds in the era of customer centricity.

Former CIO of Dell Computer Jerry Gregoire prophesied the future of the CIO back in 1999, hence his famous quote, “The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.” At the time, however, no one could have foreseen technology’s pivotal role in helping companies take the hill and win the customer experience war. That role has accelerated especially over the past two years, as the pandemic has made customer retention paramount, with heightened risks of incumbents losing customers and revenue to competitors.

Leveraging technology to improve the customer experience is at the top of every boardroom agenda, and the CIO has a crucial seat at the table. CIOs have been laying the foundation for digital transformation for years, but today they need to lean in on digital-first strategies for winning customer experience—so much so, they may even be shapeshifting into the role of Chief Customer Officer.

The CIO Shift Key Drivers

Previously, the CIO role had very little to do with customer experience, existing as more of a support function for other areas of the business. Traditionally, it has been seen as a back-office role, in charge of corporate technology and overseeing IT staff.

Today, that focus has shifted, thanks to the pandemic’s acceleration of the progression of technology and the growing dependence on digital and subscription services. This is making the customer now intertwined with technology more than ever before, drawing the CIO even closer to their experience.

Digital systems are playing an increasingly vital role in keeping the customer happy. As a result, CIOs must transition seamlessly to take on a new expanded charter of Chief Customer Officer to help safeguard brand reputation and loyalty—essentially putting the customers’ needs first. A customer-centric CIO will focus on three critical areas to meet these new responsibilities: Ensuring Fit-for-Purpose Systems, Embracing New Technology and Creating a Unified Customer Journey.

Ensure Fit-For-Purpose Systems

Data-driven, high-definition customer experiences (HD-CX) are key to outperforming competitors. As such, a CIO should ensure that their company is moving away from outdated systems and keeping ahead of the curve.

Currently, most businesses have a fragmented, dated and distorted picture of their customers, affecting the level of service that they can deliver and severely impacting their ability to grow. To provide outstanding customer experiences, it’s critical to have systems in place that can support the full customer journey; however, many organizations are still working in silos that stifle growth and hinder the experience they want to achieve. The CIO must champion the alignment of technology to seamlessly support sales, marketing and customer service teams.

CIOs need to eliminate busy work for employees by letting CRM platforms do the work, ensuring their systems automatically capture data and present it in context to everyone who needs it to serve customers more effectively.

Embrace New Technology

HD-CX relies on a 360-degree view of the customer; to achieve this level of insight, a company must record every change in the customer journey to predict future outcomes reliably.

Artificial intelligence (AI), voice recognition and personalization are becoming indispensable to HD-CX. This means the CIO needs to become an evangelist of these tools to navigate their new customer-focused role. AI can deliver exceptional predictions, even with incomplete CRM data. Tapping vast external data to consider factors the limited CRM data doesn’t cover and surface insights that a company may not have known existed can achieve this. These unparalleled predictions allow businesses to make confident decisions and focus on the highest priority activities across marketing, sales, customer service and more.

Create a Unified Customer Journey

CIOs need to break down the departmental silo mentality to ensure a seamless user experience. The CIO plays a vital role in providing the infrastructure to ensure people, processes and data are all organized around serving customers.

Although aligning silos seems like an impossible job, an advanced CRM system can bridge the gap automatically and ensure no blind spots. By combining customer data and identifying and filling gaps, all while pairing it with the right technology, CIOs can obtain the intelligence they need to make strategic and tactical decisions.

Laying foundations like this and utilizing in-depth, cross-siloed customer data will enable the CIO to excel in this new aspect of their responsibilities, providing a clear and unified view of the customer without putting a lot of cost into the business.

The Winning Formula

In today’s dynamic and challenging business environment, it is critical that CIOs observe trends and embrace digital-first strategies to stay ahead of the competition to future-proof the business. Removing the administrative burden placed on teams, adopting technologies that make HD-CX possible and overcoming data silos are the critical steps in a seamless transition to becoming the Chief Customer Officer.

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