Companies must engage customers on three fronts: Are CIOs ready?

According to Forrester Research, to win in the 'age of the customer,' CIOs must help their businesses engage customers on three fronts.

Empowered customers are demanding new forms of interaction, and if they don't get them, they will switch to other

sellers that serve them better, according to Peter Burris, vice president and research director at Forrester Research Inc.

Peter BurrisPeter Burris,
research director,
Forrester Research Inc.

Organizations that don't engage customers on their own terms must change with speed and conviction, said Burris, who helps set the CIO research agenda at the Cambridge, Mass.-based consultancy. Forrester believes that adapting to the "age of the customer" will require retooling technology capabilities wherever and whenever the business engages a customer -- but are CIOs ready?

Here are his three recommendations for making that transition.

To succeed in the age of the customer, CIOs must partner with customer-facing business leaders to deliver business technology that enables three different yet parallel modes of engaging customers:

  • Engage directly through technology. E-commerce has been a feature of most businesses for more than a decade. In some industries, like financial services and software, it's moved from being an alternative distribution channel for certain types of products to the core approach to engaging important segments of customers across whole portfolios. Typically, this mode will operate online, with most data and processes stored on servers. As customers are given new digital entry points to your business, your success in this mode will depend on integration with the chief marketing officer, marketing leadership and e-commerce roles.
  • Engage through technologically empowered employees. Mobile technologies, properly applied, are dramatically improving the value customers receive from customer-facing employees like salespeople. Social business concepts will be especially important in this mode as a means to handle unpredictable customer actions. Typically, this mode spans shared processes and data, whereby mobile apps run local caches of crucial data. To succeed, this mode requires deep integration with and commitments from your sales enablement and service delivery roles.
  • More CIO advice from Forrester Research

    Three CIO competencies for surviving digital disruption

    CIOs must embrace, not fight, the employee 'digital self'

    Achieve business agility by adopting these 10 attributes

  • Engage through increasingly digital products and services. Moore's Law and the availability of high-quality, public digital infrastructures facilitate the embedding of programmable sensors and devices in a rapidly expanding array of goods and services. These "smart" offerings use digital technologies embedded locally to provide differentiating functionality, anticipate service issues, periodically stream performance and usability insights back to engineers, and sustain engagement with brands. Customer intelligence, product/brand management and service management are the key business roles for this type of engagement.

About the author:
Peter Burris is a vice president and research director in the CIO practice at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

This was first published in January 2014

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