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For Enlightened CIOs, the “I” Stands for Insight

Who’s the most important marketing person at your company? Your CMO? Someone on her team? Maybe your CEO? What about your CIO? While your Chief Information Officer isn’t likely to craft your next campaign, the impact he or she has on customer experience is becoming more direct and more critical every day.
shutterstock_234372760The reason is simple, and it has to do with insight. More and more, CIOs and their teams hold the keys to unlocking the customer understanding that designers and marketers crave. A convergence of trends — abundant customer data, demand for greater insight in defining and managing customer experiences and a growing need to empathize with a wider range of customers — are driving CIOs into the insights business. A question remains, however, in how effective marketing and IT teams will be in working together to uncover customer data and convert it into meaningful actions.
Insight into customer behavior is what separates good customer experiences from bad. Insight drives empathy, a raw ingredient in the effort to humanize technology and harness its brand-building potential. The astute use of customer insight is so vital that we include it as one of seven factors in Perficient’s CXIQ Assessment, our measure of an organization’s customer experience maturity. While every company offers its customers an experience, few understand what it takes to systematically turn customer insight into the superior experiences that lead to increased preference and loyalty.
It may seem counterintuitive but CIOs can be a powerful ally in helping to humanize the technologies that drive customer experiences. CMOs live in a world of messages, channels and touch points. CIOs are immersed in information and are experts at extracting and refining data. Now marketing and IT must come together to define the systems necessary for producing a holistic view of the customer, one that encompasses all points of engagement. This is especially true for incumbent brands that boast large customer bases and have the potential to mine them for insight into a broad range of challenges involving pricing, new market entry, product bundling, channel usage and more.
The notion that CMOs and CIOs must work together is not new. But while the message is familiar, there’s still work to be done to put these ideas into practice. A recent Forrester/Forbes Insights survey of more than 300 marketing and tech leaders shows that although progress has been made to bridge the gaps between marketing and IT priorities, there has been “virtually no progress in solving the problems that CMOs and CIOs face in turning large amounts of data into actionable customer insights.”
According to the report, customer-centric thinking has not permeated as deeply into most organizations as it must if real benefits are to be realized. Forrester’s Sheryl Pattak’s notes that “even though that trust is there, both parties have still not really let go to say, ‘OK, we need to build a tech agenda together that focuses on the customer.’ There’s still not that alignment around building around a customer,” she said. “They’re still not partnering to develop that strategy before allocating budget.” Pattak recommends clarifying roles and responsibilities, creating a data center of excellence and “tasking marketing with defining the questions to ask and tech management with ensuring that the right infrastructure is in place to answer those questions.”
Re-tooling a company to be fully customer-centric doesn’t happen overnight. But these steps are critical for any organization that’s engaged in customer experience planning, that’s looking to embark upon a digital transformation effort or is simply trying to create better brand experiences. It’s a new world — one that requires potent new partnerships within the company, as well as new ways of understanding customers from the outside in.

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David Stallsmith

David has expertise in applying user insight and design thinking methods to solve complex customer experience, marketing, and employee engagement challenges. He’s an accomplished strategist with extensive experience across a range of industries, notably branded manufacturing, technology, financial services, retail, and healthcare.

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