customer-centricity-croppedAs the role of the CIO continues to become more strategic in nature, it has also become increasingly customer-focused. CIOs and IT teams are expected to help the business to identify opportunities to remove friction from the customer experience and to help functional areas such as marketing and lines of business to forge deeper customer relationships by gaining a deeper understanding of customer preferences and behaviors.

Indeed, ‘digital vanguard CIOs’ – leaders who have advanced farther in the journey of incorporating technology into their digital business strategies than others - cite customers as one of their top business priorities (56%, just behind innovation at 57%), according to the 2018 Global CIO Survey from Deloitte Insights. 

“The first thing you need to understand is how to think like a customer – including their use and approach to products and services,” says Chris Boult, CIO at CEC Entertainment which operates Chuck E. Cheese’s family entertainment centers across the U.S. “This also involves understanding how the products and services work and identifying the pain points that customers may be experiencing that may be unbeknownst to the organization.”

Chris Boult is an Advisory Board member for HMG Strategy’s 2019 Dallas CIO Executive Leadership Summit and has been a past speaker at HMG Strategy events. 

Boult points to an adage that’s applied at CEC: If you’re not serving the guest, you need to be serving someone who is serving a guest. “What this translates into is happy employees equals happy customers,” says Boult. CEC has had great success with customer-facing employees such as call center agents who have transitioned into IT roles. He also has his direct reports and their managers work in Chuck E. Cheese stores each year to better understand the employee experience.

“My belief is that if you work on the service desk and you’re supporting a manager in a store, you have no idea of what pressures and challenges they’re facing in their roles if you haven’t been on the front line experiencing it,” says Boult.

Lead by example

CIOs can also lead by example on customer experience, including being an advocate for customers on social media that can set guidelines for IT staffers and other employees. “We can also foster the use of advanced analytics that look not only for demographics but additional measures that can be pulled that measure customer behaviors,” said Thomas J. Sweet, Vice President of IT Solutions at GM Financial. 

Sweet, who is also an Advisory Board member and a speaker for the upcoming Dallas summit, points to his experiences working at a mall in the late 1980s where ‘secret shoppers’ were used to identify and report on shortcomings in the customer experience, such as the failure of a retail associate to greet a customer that had entered a store.

“Hiring a third party under a similar approach can be used as a learning experience to ensure that there’s customer empathy and that everyone in the organization understands the customer’s pain,” adds Sweet.

CIOs, IT teams and company employees can deepen their understanding of the customer experience by placing themselves in the customer’s shoes. “At GM, we’re encouraged to buy GM cars,” says Sweet. “We go through a similar experience in buying GM cars, though we have to identify ourselves as GM employees. We follow the full process for buying a car, including all of the paperwork that needs to be filled out and we’re each able to see what that’s like and use that to improve the customer experience.”

To learn more about the upcoming 2019 Dallas CIO Executive Leadership Summit and to register for the event, click here.