I regularly find myself saying that many organisations are still grappling with understanding the fact that their Customers have always had an Experience with them! Some argue that Customer Experience has existed in the world of business for years and years. However, in the interactions I have had with businesses in multiple sectors all over the world, Customer Experience (CX) is still largely a relatively new business concept! As the business world adjusts to the fact that it needs to have a better understanding of the way it interacts with customers, some organisational functions or departments have adapted better than others.
Customer Service professionals have flown the CX flag for a very long time. Even though they may not have used the language of CX that we are seeing adopted more widely today, all those working in the world of customer service have been trying to do the right thing for customers and employees for decades. That is why there are senior leaders who exist who still believe that Customer Experience IS Customer Service. They believe that it is the responsibility of the customer service function to improve CX.
Whilst Customer Service is a vital cog in improving CX, it is just one of many cogs that all connect together to make the seamless machine that delivers the customer journey. CX is the responsibility of ALL functions – everyone has a part to play – even support functions such as HR, Finance, and IT.
However, it is still arguable that some organisational functions think/believe that CX is 'nothing to do with them'. One such function that still appears to be absent from the plethora of Customer Journey mapping workshops being conducted all over the world......is IT. We live in a world where CX has suddenly become visible because of the mid blowing changes in technology that have made it essential for businesses to make it easier for customers to interact with them. Yet whilst this is true, many businesses have technology that was designed and implemented long before the Smartphone even existed.
Before CX started to increase in prominence, almost every business in the world designed its IT systems to meet the needs of the organisation. Designed to fulfill a series of business processes, most of them were designed without any understanding of the customer journey - without knowing that the customer journey even existed. That is why all too often, IT systems DO NOT align with what the customer experiences - hence, both the employee and customer experiences are severely compromised.
That is why the CIO has as essential a role to play in improving CX as the COO, the CFO, the CMO, or the CEO. It is the role of the CIO to understand how technology can help IMPROVE CX - from what it is today, to what it needs to be in the future, whilst enabling the organisation to fulfill its needs more cost-effectively. It is about continuous improvement of legacy systems whilst understanding what is required to make it easier for employees to fulfill the CX. Any CIO who does not understand or recognise this is one who is very likely to be investing significant sums of money in systems that may help their business, but may well NOT help the customer.
I believe that in order to embed CX into an organisation, it is important to understand the fundamental ‘layers’ that must ALIGN together to effectively deliver the proposition of the business. The first layer is the Customer Journey(s). To be customer-centric, an organisation must be clear on both the Customer Journey in its current state and what the journey should become in the future. Once the journey is known, it is then necessary to understand how business processes align with the journey…. Or not as the case may be. Are their gaps? Do processes cross over each other? Do you know how capable your business processes are in delivering the journey? Do you have clear ownership across the business for the processes that deliver the customer journey?
Once you have alignment between process and the customer journey, it is then possible to add the third layer – technology. How do your existing systems – hardware and software enable business processes to deliver the customer journey – both in its current form and in the future?
As I have already said, it is rare to see these layers aligned together. As you can see, the CIO has an enormous part to play in connecting the dots…..in ensuring the cogs of the CX machine fit together. So the next time you suspect a CIO or IT Director not understanding the role they have to play in CX – get them to read this!