5 Ways to Stay Customer-Centric in Uncertain Times

November 23, 2020

Contributor: Manasi Sakpal

During uncertain times, it is critical for IT to step up and expand its role in customer experience.

Some organizations may engage with customers just once or twice per year. Others might reach out occasionally or never at all. Organizations that fail to put the customer at the heart of the organization — especially during uncertain times — risk losing connections and customers. 

“The competition for gaining customers’ attention and engagement is tougher than ever,” said Michael Chiu, Senior Director Analyst, as a follow-up to his presentation at virtual Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo® 2020. “Organizations should examine every opportunity to engage with their customers, create new connections and add value to the relationships.”

Amid the uncertainty that exists today, focusing on customers is difficult, but necessary. During uncertain times, IT leaders should increase this focus in a variety of ways. Below are five impactful ideas.

Read more: Top CX Trends for CIOs to Watch

No. 1: Reduce employee effort

Sixty-four percent of respondents to a Gartner survey believe that unnecessary effort prevents their company from delivering a higher-quality CX. Lowering the effort that employees must expend in their day-to-day responsibilities can have a positive impact on customer experience.

Some of the largest sources of unnecessary employee effort come from company policies and regulations.

Assess how essential these policies and regulations are and the employee effort they are generating, and for the less vital ones, consider reducing or removing them. 

No. 2: Employ 3-2-1

The 3-2-1 method starts with three customer experience strategic priorities. For each of these strategic priorities, organizations should identify two obstacles preventing the attainment of those strategic priorities. This will result in the identification of six obstacles. Lastly, think of one tech-related business idea that would either eliminate or reduce each obstacle.

The resulting six tech-related business ideas will now align with the organization’s customer experience strategic priorities. 

For example, if one of your strategic priorities is to improve the in-store experience, obstacles like scarce parking and time-consuming return processes might prevent customers from having a delightful in-store experience. Some tech-related business ideas that could address these could be a digital parking finder integrated into the store app and implementing a return-by-mail program. 

Gartner outlines five ways to stay focused on customers during uncertain times.

No. 3: Make IT and voice of customer (VoC) a two-way street

VoC feedback comes in three types: Direct, indirect and inferred. Across all three, IT can both contribute to solutions that help collect such feedback, as well as receive this customer feedback and take action accordingly.  

“A critical aspect of a VoC program is actually getting VoC information into the hands of employees who can do something about it,” said Chiu. 

No. 4: Walk a mile in your customers’ shoes

It’s often not enough to understand customers; IT leaders need to empathize with them. Opportunities to achieve this include having IT staff “be a customer” and go through the experience your organization provides to customers.

IT leaders can also invite customers to their staff meetings, and give them time to talk about their experiences. Some organizations choose to co-design with their customers, working alongside them to build the products, services and experiences that will ultimately be provided.

No. 5: Use customer-centric culture hacks 

As opposed to trying to bring about a customer-centric culture via large-scale initiatives, try implementing several small changes to your culture, known as culture “hacks.”

Culture hacks are easy and can be implemented in less than 48 hours. They’re emotional, immediate, visible and low-effort, but not low courage. 

Read more: 10 Culture Hacks for Digital Transformation

For example, ask that each meeting invitation include an answer to the question, “How will this meeting benefit the customer?” Alternatively, leave an empty chair at each meeting as a visual reminder of the customer who will be affected by the decisions made at such meetings.  

IT leaders should discuss these five initiatives not only with the IT team, but also with those involved in customer experience. Determine which one makes the most sense to implement first, before assessing its results and moving onto others. IT leaders can utilize this current state of uncertainty to refocus on their customers and expand their organization’s knowledge of customer experience.

Experience Information Technology conferences

Join your peers for the unveiling of the latest insights at Gartner conferences.

Drive stronger performance on your mission-critical priorities.