IT leaders now hold the key to great customer experience, says Mark Hurst. But they often lack the knowledge to use it successfully.
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In recent years as IT has permeated almost every aspect of business and society, CIOs have played an increasingly critical role in customer engagement. From mobile apps and websites to internal services and applications, IT leaders now often find themselves in the business of creating the primary interface between their organization and the customer/user/citizen that comes into contact with its systems.
And that, argues Mark Hurst in I-CIO’s exclusive video interview, means CIOs should never be detached from the customers they ultimately serve.
“CIOs need to think about the many layers they have between themselves and the customer who is using their technology, and try to minimize that distance,” says the business author and president of customer experience consultancy Creative Good. Customer surveys and even specific focus groups are simply blunt instruments, he says. These tools typically tell organizations what customers say they want, when actually what organizations should be after is knowledge of what customers need (especially when, in fast-moving areas, individuals might not even realize what they need).
Whether they are designing services for online or in-store shoppers, citizens using government services or business unit heads, Hurst advocates that IT teams should be “getting out in the field and directly observe — only then do they get a first-hand understanding of the customer experience they’re creating.”
Indeed, he argues, innovation within organizations should not be measured in the eyes of its creators but by those it benefits. “Give customers a place in the innovation process,” he counsels. “You can’t simply create something new and radical and cool-looking and call it ‘innovative’. That in itself is not an innovation. Innovation is something that benefits somebody else.”
And in a digital age, IT leaders are pivotal in ensuring that innovation turns into success. “CIOs are, by definition, now working with things that really affect people’s lives on a day-to-day basis,” he says. So they need to “take the first step, get in front of customers and then work backwards to build the technology to serve customers better. Think about that customer experience and how you can use available technology to deliver great customer experience.”
• Mark Hurst’s latest book Customers Included (co-authored with Phil Terry) is out now.