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Business Technology, IT and The Cloud: the Nexus of the Customer Experience

December 15, 2014

Walking through Boston’s historic Faneuil Hall you’ll still find “Cheers” tchotchkes, harkening back to the popular 1980s television show. Cheers, the bar where everyone knows your name, often began an episode with one of the regulars walking through the door as everyone there chimed in, “Hi Norm.”  For Norm, played by George Wendt, Cheers was more of a home than a home-away-from-home. You could say that Cheers presented Norm with an engaging customer experience on multiple levels, enough so to keep him coming back for 11 seasons.

Creating and sustaining an engaging a customer experience (CX) as rewarding and sticky as Cheers was for Norm is a focus of much attention, investment and innovation lately. Customers rule, and convincing them to frequent your establishment instead of any of a thousand other watering holes requires not only technology, but attitude, training, processes, multi-touch content, coordination, collaboration and, above all, cross-organizational strategy. Wherever your customers are, regardless of whatever communications means is available to them at that moment, is when your company’s door opens and you say, Hi Norm.

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As suggested, CX building is not a technology challenge. It’s an organizational challenge. The catalysts may be consumer mobility, social media and ever-shifting expectations and preferences. However, getting in tune with customers requires people, process and technology, internally and across a company’s ecosystem, working in purposeful harmony. Stakes are getting higher. Eighty-five percent of purchases will be influenced by some sort of digital experience – kiosks, tablet, smart phones, digital signage – in 2015, up from 40 percent this year, according to Gartner.

Technology is essential, of course. It’s the means through which customer-touch programs – sales, marketing, service desk, tech support, billing, continuing communications – reach their intended targets.  Customer strategist Esteban Kolsky wrote in a blog recently that technology is an aid in virtually all actions undertaken for customer experience projects. “It is an ancillary item that improves the odds and outcomes of the solution, but is never the solution. That is what technology can do for customer experience.”

As such, the CIO has an essential role to play, not only as a technologist but also as the champion of strategic alignment between business and IT agendas. This is especially true since many of the means and tools to create the CX program will be developed and delivered through the cloud.

According to Forrester Research, Inc., the cloud provides the speed and agility needed for the CX ecosystem: it lowers the business costs of experimentation, enabling business technology innovation and mitigating the consequences of failure. And, it accelerates delivery of these tested innovations.

“Technology grounds your customer experience (CX) ecosystem. It’s embedded in your products; it facilitates customer understanding; it enhances your channels; and it empowers your employees. But rigid technologies prevent ecosystems from being responsive to evolving business and customer needs. Enter the cloud.” (1)

Experimentation in the cloud may generate faster ways to get more actionable information into the hands of customer-facing employees. Or, it could results in the development of methods for efficient interaction with and service delivery from partners/suppliers who can affect the customer satisfaction may be needed. Making rapid course corrections driven by market research, Big Data analytics or social media trends can be road-tested before they are launched into your production cloud.

The purpose of all this is to bring together all the people, resources and technologies to ultimately give customers what they want, when they want it and how they want it — and to do that better than your competition does. Better yet, knowing your customer so well that you can anticipate their wants and needs can make the CX experience even more successful and long-lasting. It’s like having a beer set up on the bar for Norm before he sits down.

(1)Forrester Research, Inc. “Want To Improve Your Customer Experience? Turn To The Cloud: Cloud Technologies Provide Employees, Partners, And Customers With The Agility They Need,” by TJ Keitt, with John Dalton and Curt Nichols

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