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How can CIOs and customer experience leaders work collaboratively to improve CX?


Customer experience programme maturity is hard to obtain, and many layers require technology. Yet two-thirds of today's CIOs/CTOs have limited involvement in CX. 

20th Feb 2023

In a post I wrote years ago, I posited there were three keys to a successful customer experience transformation:

  1. Understanding customers and making them the central focus in the organisation;
  2. Aligning the CX vision across the organisation and ensuring the customer experience function was centralised within the organisation to drive successful CX programmes; and
  3. Putting a framework in place for the organisation to make it easy for employees to advocate on the benefits of CX.  

The intersection of all three of these points - and the glue that keeps CX on message and builds and sustains CX momentum - is technology.

CX technology is huge and is growing

IDC estimated that global CX technology spending would reach $641B in 2022. But what about 2023 and beyond? Metrigy, in it’s 2023 Technology Spending Outlook global research study, found that almost two-thirds of its study respondents plan to increase CX technology spending by an average of 24%.  

Artificial intelligence (AI), alone, has been fuelling much of this growth. 52% of companies accelerated their AI adoption plans because of the COVID crisis, according to PwC. And 86% said that AI is becoming a “mainstream technology” at their company. Harris Poll found that 55% of companies reported they accelerated their AI strategy in 2020 due to COVID and 67% expected it to further accelerate their AI strategy in 2021 and beyond. As businesses attempt to solve staffing shortages, drive employee productivity and become more predictive, proactive and transition to more customer self-service, AI will continue to rise.

But we can’t view CX technology lightly. For CX technology to be an effective driver of customer outcomes and corporate growth, it certainly can’t be done in a vacuum. 

And now with an uncertain global economy as a reality for most of us, it is making everyone – consumers and organisations – rethink how they are spending. Thus, it is vital that CX programmes deliver value and continue to improve to drive even more value. 

The customer-centric CIO

Enter the customer-centric chief information officer (CIO) / chief technology officer (CTO).

Gartner projected that by 2022, over two-thirds of CX projects would use IT. 

In addition, according to Foundry’s State of the CIO Study 2023, over 50% of IT leaders said they expect their involvement in CX to increase. But the rub is that a third ignore or avoid involvement in CX, while another third only take a supportive role. 

There is a reason most CIOs are not great at CX.

The CIO role has traditionally been put in place to develop and lead an organisation’s technology strategy. That’s why the majority of CIOs continue to be hired from roles in infrastructure, or some form of application or digital development. They manage an organisation’s infrastructure, assess existing processes and direct the executive team on best processes, recommend upgrades and new applications, and contribute revenue-generating and cost-reducing ideas. And the role has now evolved to driving innovation and digital transformation. 

The truth is CIOs must ramp up to CX quickly.

In a CIO priorities report by Adobe, Cynthia Stoddard, senior vice president and CIO at Adobe remarked that since COVID-19, CIOs have been able to improve digital CX but it has become more complex and they need to think about “integrated tools and frameworks necessary to help their organisations effectively capture customer data, convert that data into valuable insights, and utilise those insights to shape a personalised and enhanced customer experience.”

In this same report, about 97% of CIOs said they are even more focused on CX since the pandemic.

CIOs are recognising that as customer preferences are continuously evolving, they must collaborate with the CX team to analyse these preferences and evolve accordingly to deliver the experience that customers want. After all, it is also on the CIO’s shoulder to help scale CX.

That’s when the CX leader can become a trusted partner to the CIO. CIOs learn that silos must come down and digital transformation means the organisation must act as one, where all teams align to consistently drive customer outcomes and corporate growth. As a result, they know how to standardise and normalise data across systems to deliver a 360-degree view of the customer. 

This is why IT must be a CX partner at the onset – to understand the customer priorities, align those priorities with IT resources, and ensure IT is involved in customer metrics and continuously improving CX. 

Once the CIO understands that team alignment is what drives customer success and corporate success, they want to create relationships with not only CX, but other teams that touch the customer. And these CIOs will want to look for the right infrastructure to drive CX in the short-term and the long term, not only for customers but to innovate the company to be able to differentiate it from the rest. 

The CX leader needs to become tech-savvy 

The flip side of this is that the CX leader, too, knows digital experiences are becoming more complex. They also know that CX technology is becoming a key driver of CX maturity. 

CX has been stuck in the lower levels of maturity for years. In XM Institute’s State of B2B CX Maturity 2022, it found only 2% had reached the embedded phase, but more than three-quarters were still stuck in the investigate or initiate phase.  

The embedded phase is where the entire organisation is aligned on CX, CX impact is required criteria for project funding and budget requests, and CX is the basis for an organisation’s differentiation.

CX maturity is hard to obtain. 

There are so many layers to CX maturity that require technology:

  • The customer understanding component, where building the right Voice of the Customer programme is key to this understanding.
  • The CX strategy component where CX leaders not only must communicate this strategy to executives in a way meaningful to them to buy into CX but they also have to justify funding for the programme.
  • The CX design component where journey maps, the customer voice, and data must join to depict an accurate customer experience  and where opportunities for improvement are identified.
  • The customer-centric culture building component where all teams must align their mindset and behaviours to CX.
  • And the CX management piece where CX leaders must take on governance and metrics to ensure that CX is sustainable through continuous improvement. This includes the ability to predict and be proactive, create an omnichannel experience to drive better customer engagement, and introduce revenue-building and cost-cutting emerging technologies such as AI.

Again, it is technology that binds CX to enable a one organisation methodology to build and execute a consistent experience that customers want.

But because CX leaders know CX maturity is hard at best, they have the arduous task of navigating through all the technology and applications to drive this maturity. Changing customer expectations is driving a rapid change in technology. So much so that CX teams are finding it difficult to keep up with the myriad of application and technology choices, and to be able to select the best solutions for their customers and their organisation. 

CX leaders must partner with the CIO/CTO to help them ramp up their technology skills. 

The CTO can help CX leaders leverage the right technologies and applications that serve as a balance to take deep-drives into customer data to enable continuous intelligence, better decision-making and improvement, while at the same time ensuring that these technologies and solutions align with the existing infrastructure to reduce risk and drive corporate growth. 

How can the CIO and CX leader work collaboratively?

A CIO and CX leader are looking for the same thing – value - and determining what will create the biggest impact on achieving desired business outcomes. 

They must know each other’s priorities and motivations and reconcile that to deciding what is best for the customer. 

The CX leader and the CIO must engage early in the CX development process what will drive customer outcomes and organisational growth. The CIO must be involved early on in CX strategy, design, execution, and governance just as the CX leader must be involved early on in the types of solutions that will best drive CX maturity in the organisation.

The CIO must educate the CX leader on CX technology and CX leader must educate the CIO on customer-centricity and CX. They both must be focused on leveraging data to make the best decisions to ensure customers stay, increase customer lifetime value, and drive growth.

The CIO and CX leader should take a partnership approach when reviewing qualitative and quantitative data, having conversations with customers and employees, evaluating third-party reviews, identifying insights, and determining best processes and practices to improve CX.

The CIO and CX leader must collaborate and communicate regularly so they are in lock step to provide the 360-degree view of the customer, and know what is necessary to drive CX, in the short term and long term. 

This collaboration creates a balance. CIOs help CX leaders by deploying real-time personalisation and analytics and providing a holistic data view. And CX leaders help CIOs by helping them understand tools that are appropriate for different customer segments and the touchpoints that drive maximum customer engagement. 

Working together, the CIO-CX leader relationship will add value to CX and the organisation.



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