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IT Leadership // Digital Business
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Jessica Davis
Jessica Davis
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Improving Customer Experiences: 10 Ways IT Can Help

The customer experience, also known as CX, is nothing new. But Forrester Research says 2016 will be the year that companies need to either embrace CX and make it central to all operations or get left behind. Here's what IT leaders need to do to survive.
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(Image: indigolotos/iStockphoto)

(Image: indigolotos/iStockphoto)

Can your company's customers find what they are looking for instantly? Have you digitized your business to enable that level of immediate gratification? According to Forrester Research, 2016 will be "a year of consequence" for companies and their customer-experience strategies.

If you're not considering where your IT organization fits in enabling your company to provide the best possible experience to its end-user customers, you stand a good chance of being left out in the cold. According to Forrester, if the customer isn't at the center of the universe at your company, the entire organization could risk falling behind competitors and losing customers. CIOs and other IT leaders risk losing influence within their own organizations if the CEO sees the need to hire a Chief Digital Officer to jump-start customer experience efforts in this competitive environment.

"This is the year of action, and it starts with a commitment at the C-level suite," Cliff Condon, Chief Research Officer at Forrester, told InformationWeek in an interview.

[Check out how technology has derailed C-Level careers. Read 14 Security Fails That Cost Executives Their Jobs.]

Those companies that have prioritized "customer experience," or CX as it is sometimes called, will be rewarded, and those that haven't will be left behind. The forces that have driven this consumer age have been in play for quite some time -- mobile phones, the Internet, and instant access to customer reviews and pricing wherever you are. But 2016 will mark the year of action.

"It's the age of the customer," Condon said. "You have technology with you that has changed your expectations as a consumer. As a traveler you can now check your flight schedule, boarding pass, get updated on gate changes. This changes our expectations in terms of the level of performance that we expect."

Condon provided another example -- people shopping for major appliances at Sears, for instance, have instant access via their mobile phones to competitive pricing and customer reviews for every item on the store floor. That has empowered consumers and changed how organizations need to engage with their customers. It also changes what IT needs to do.

"A lot of IT used to be about running efficient backend systems," Condon said. "In this new environment, technology permeates every aspect of the operation. Technology is becoming a growth engine that you can use to serve and retain customers."

And that can lead to a disconnect for some organizations where IT is focused on the cost side and the business leaders are focused on revenue goals.

"There is broad recognition that empowered customers are changing the fundamentals of the market," Forrester wrote in its report: The 2016 Top 10 Critical Success Factors To Determine Who Wins And Who Fails In The Age Of The Customer. "In response, most companies are executing strategies that place the customer at the center of the universe."

The research firm said that many companies have underestimated the magnitude of change needed and the speed required to catch up to dynamic customers and disruptive competitors. Forrester identifies the traits that will separate leading companies from laggards.

Here are Forrester's 10 critical success factors that will define success or failure in customer experience for companies in 2016, and our reccommendations for how IT leaders can apply these guidelines to their own operations. Once you've reviewed these, tell us how your organization stacks up. Are you working with a company that is a customer experience leader, or a laggard? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Jessica Davis is a Senior Editor at InformationWeek. She covers enterprise IT leadership, careers, artificial intelligence, data and analytics, and enterprise software. She has spent a career covering the intersection of business and technology. Follow her on twitter: ... View Full Bio

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