Customer experience management is at the top of the CEO’s agenda. CEOs, CIOs and chief marketing officers have become interested in this topic because low-cost and ubiquitous access to information for customers, the rise of globalization, and the “death of distance” mean that customers are more empowered than ever. While this isn’t true of every industry and geography, it’s the case in more sectors every day.

Customers can compare experiences across industries and force regulators and governments to be more accountable. At the same time, competitive differentiation — achieved through a strategic decision to invent better products that are hard to imitate, or by being the most efficient producer of a service — has diminished over time. What remains the same is how challenging it is to create a superior customer experience that will serve as a sustainable differentiator.

Expert Q&A with Jenny Sussin, Managing Vice President

Organizations’ customer experience initiatives have been in place for years, but many are unfocused and thus slow to see business impact. In 2018, the focus has been on balancing the roles of humans and artificial intelligence (AI), continuing to invest in customer analytics, and bringing digital business to life with digital commerce.

Organizations try to boil the ocean with their customer experience initiatives. There are a lot of different things they could be focused on, but many try to start with the biggest problem first: reconciling disparate customer data which exists in multiple applicant environments. Gartner recommends delineating between quick wins and longer-term objectives to establish executive trust for continuous investment in improving the customer experience, to improve the top line.

When it comes to AI and its implications on the customer experience, organizations need to identify a clear use case for AI. AI is a human partner, not a human replacement. Oftentimes organizations experience a fear of missing out when it comes to AI which can lead to a mismatch fit, when AI is implanted within the organization.

Most organizations have no idea what they’re doing with AI and go after revenue generating tactics rather than personalizing the experience. There is more to AI than customer contextualization.

Organizations don’t have the luxury to focus on just the basic capabilities of AI or just the large and complex capabilities of AI. They must focus on both.

A business needs customers — plain and simple. The IT organization has been able to assert themselves as critical to improving the customer experience as so much of that experience is grounded in technology. This puts IT in a role to serve as business peers rather than business servants.

Why should customer experience be important to CIOs?

  • 75% of organizations are just getting started or in the early stages of their customer experience journey.
  • Customer experience is a cross-enterprise initiative — every business unit has a role to play, but in most organizations, there is very little coordination.
  • CIOs need to step up — as the hub for customer information, customer focused initiatives and business impact, they have a vital role to play.
  • However, CIOs are struggling to define their role, how to prioritize and measure impact, define their customers’ journey and truly partner with their C-suite peers.

Customer and user experience spotlight sessions from 2019:

How CIOs Can Drive a Culture of Customer Centricity   Gene Alvarez, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner

CIOs Must Drive Customer Experience Strategy to Succeed in Digital Business   Gene Alvarez, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner

Three Bold Strategies for Customer Experience Victory  Ed Thompson, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner