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Five key skills for modern CIOs to master in the CX revolution

By Sanjeev Jain, CIO-EMEA, Verizon.

Traditionally businesses would compete on the basis of price and value for money, but fast forward to 2018 and customer experience has become a main factor.

Today’s consumers are digitally savvy and demand a seamless experience when parting with their money. To meet this demand companies are investing heavily in new technologies such as big data, AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning to improve their ability to deliver the experiences customers expect.

New technology is shaping customer experience (CX) in ways that were unimaginable a few years ago. As a result, the role of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) is also undergoing big changes. An imperative for any CIO now also includes driving customer experience (CX) through technology investments. Instead of focusing on the insular ways of old, CIOs should understand the drivers of digital transformation and work across all departments to lead a company’s digital CX strategies.

The rapid evolution of digital CX
Picture this scenario; say you invite your colleagues over for dinner and you decide to purchase ingredients online. One supermarket lets you place orders directly through a smartphone app. A second store allows you to do the same, but also additionally analyses your last purchase and predicts exactly what you need. A third supermarket does all these things, but also guarantees delivery within a one-hour timeframe. Which supermarket will win your hard-earned money?

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Consumer choice often comes down to a few minutes saved. The smallest delay or out-dated choices tends to be associated with a poor customer experience. A positive digital CX needs to be delivered across multiple channels and devices so customers can make purchases how and when they please, convenience is king. New technologies make it possible to create a personalised customer self-service experience that provides unlimited access, speed and convenience. With the next wave of new technologies already entering the market - Blockchain, artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G networks - CX will become an even stronger competitive differentiator. 

How can CIOs embrace digital CX?
In a world of ground-breaking CX, both the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) and CIO need to jointly answer the question: why should consumers choose our brand?  Today’s CIOs should be fully engaged in the end-to-end process and stay at the forefront of technological innovation to produce a truly customer focused approach.
Here are five key skills and strategies today’s CIOs need to master.

1. Integrating Customer Experience within IT 
The IT department is sometimes unfortunately seen as the lone wolf amongst the other parts of the business.  This culture is being forced to change. CIOs need to train their teams on contemporary skills that include CX concepts, consumer data analytics and communication so they can connect with business leaders on their terms. Likewise, CIOs should realign metrics to measure business outcomes against company objectives. Staying aligned with the business will enable stakeholders to stay focused on common CX objectives and drive a culture of internal collaboration.

2. Building a strong rapport with your CMO
More investments are being prioritised by the CMO because businesses tend to lean more on marketing campaigns that deliver successful transformation results and enable growth. As a result, CIOs need to be investing in customer experience improvements which will help achieve the business’ priorities. CIOs have to adapt quickly and modify their approach from a traditional enterprise resource planning (ERP) delivery model to a strategy that is more agile and contemporary, where CX improvements can be implemented quickly. The relationships between functional leaders and CMOs are more relevant today than ever before because the ability for all leaders to communicate in business terms enables all areas to deliver accelerated business outcomes.

3. Understand the customer journey
Customers should be at the heart and soul of every business  strategy. The best way of focusing on the customer is by envisioning their desired outcome (or customer experience) and working backwards to create a solution. No one knows the business process better than the IT team does—they designed, architected, built and now support it. Being agile by continuously working to understand the customer journey and responding with relevant solutions allows businesses to connect directly with customers and solicit honest feedback when new digital CX initiatives are rolled out.

4. Leverage big data and AI
CIOs need to take full advantage of the wealth of data available to them, especially as innovations such as the IoT are set to significantly increase the volume and variety available to them. The rise of innovative technologies such as AI will help organisations to make sense of this data and develop actionable insights from it. Never rely on preconceived notions of who your customers are—their expectations are constantly evolving, and your technology needs to evolve with them.

5. Build an experienced team
The secret mantra to succeed in business is to surround yourself with smart people. This means networking with other CIOs and technology executives who are paving the way in CX innovation, to share knowledge and learn from each other’s successes. The transformation we experience in the world around is not about how well we manage each touch point but instead working together to transform the way we are serving our customers.

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