As enterprise companies prioritize their digital transformation initiatives, improving the customer experience has become a top mandate for CIOs.
It's hardly surprising, then, that top-performing CIOs spend more time with customers, focus on innovation and do the work to enable core enterprise capabilities for both internal and external use, according to research conducted by Harvey Nash/KPMG and MIT's Center for Information Systems Research (MIT CISR).
"An important aspect of the CIO's role in cultivating a culture of customer centricity is to truly prioritize IT capabilities from a business perspective," said Steve Phillips, CIO at Alorica. Phillips, who will be participating in a panel discussion on 'Scaling the 7 C's: Customer Centricity from the Inside Out' at HMG Strategy's upcoming 2018 Southern California CIO Executive Leadership Summit on November 1 in Huntington Beach, is taking a multi-faceted approach to cultivating a culture of customer-centricity at Alorica.
"We are challenging the status quo to deliver innovative technologies that ensure world-class customer experiences at scale," said Phillips. "As CIO, I want to assess the IT team's capabilities and performance through the eyes of our customers - I measure system availability based on whether my systems are always on. I measure project delivery based on my team delivering new capabilities in line with customer expectations. And I measure customer satisfaction by asking open-ended questions about how well, or otherwise, my team is doing."
Moderating the panel discussion at the Southern California CIO Summit is Dan Roberts, President and CEO at Ouellette & Associates. Roberts brainstormed with HMG Strategy President and CEO Hunter Muller in conceiving the "7 C's" concept. The 7 C's represent customer centricity; culture; cultivate (including finding and retaining talent); courage; change; collaborate; and communicate.
On a more granular level, the common attributes of a customer-centric IT organization include those teams that are locked into moments of truth with customers, said Roberts. "Think about those moments we have with both internal and external customers," said Roberts. "The best customer-centric organizations will create journey maps, focus on critical moments of truth and deliver seamless, frictionless experiences."
Roberts points to Outback Steakhouse (owned by Bloomin' Brands) as an organization that has identified 60 moments of truths that arise with customers during their dining experiences. "If you can eliminate the friction points for any of these, such as the length of the wait time or the ability to pay your bill quickly so you don't feel like you're being held hostage, these are steps that can help bring customers back," said Roberts.
There are lessons that CIOs and their companies can learn from other customer-obsessed organizations such as Amazon. For instance, former SpaceX CIO Ken Venner points to how Amazon Founder, Chairman and CEO Jeff Bezos keeps one chair unoccupied during meetings to remind attendees that the seat is for the customer who may not be in the room but that everyone should be thinking about.
Meanwhile, the metrics that are tracked to gauge performance should be taken from the customer's lens and focused on those things that customers would care about, adds Venner.
Another part of the CIO's role in fostering a culture of customer centricity involves engaging both IT team members and other employees throughout the enterprise on the company's mission. "An effective workforce strategy for customer-centric leaders must include finding ways to engage and empower people throughout the organization to play their part in delivering outstanding business results," said Phillips.
"As CIOs and technology leaders who operate in an environment where technology is often thought of as the top priority, it's important not to lose sight of good leadership practices that can make all the difference. Key leadership practices that Phillips cites include:
- Provide clear line of sight for each employee on how he or she contributes to the success of the organization and its clients.
- Create an environment where individuals can be part of a team and influence operational excellence.
- Make available career development and progression opportunities.
- Ensure consistent, transparent and fair leadership.
- Deliver timely performance feedback and fair compensation plans to all employees.
CIOs and IT teams also must ensure that they're applying customer-centric practices not only with external customers but also with company employees that are customers of the IT team, notes Venner.
"Get out and talk with people and get a feeling for how well the IT team is engaged to help and support the company," said Venner. This includes creating IT services feedback/survey methods to hear from both employees and external customers about exceptional service experiences as well as moments where the service could be improved.
"Create processes to jump on and remedy events where customer service has been below expectations," said Venner.
Given the speed of change and disruption in the industry, CIOs also need to create what Roberts describes as a "culture of learning agility. "The half-life of a skill is 18 months today," said Roberts. "This suggests that, as a CIO, I need to create a culture of learning agility, where people are constantly learning, researching, studying and staying current on trends. People who do this are future-proofing their careers."
Another cultural aspect of fostering customer-centricity encompasses CIOs helping their teams to visualize and better anticipate where customer needs and expectations are heading. "Eighty percent of IT organizations are skating to where the puck was while roughly 20% are skating to where the puck is at the moment," said Roberts. "It's just a handful of companies that have cracked the code on skating to where the puck is going to be."
To learn more about the 2018 Southern California CIO Executive Leadership Summit and to register for the event, click here.