How IT can put customer's needs at the heart of all engagements

A recent Ofcom report has revealed that over half of households now own a tablet, with this number set to increase even further in the coming years.

Apple’s iPad launched in the UK just over five years ago and, alongside Android and other tablet devices, it has helped to shape the way we surf the internet, buy things, communicate and watch our favourite shows.

Indeed, interacting and getting information or services via a tablet or smartphone is now viewed as being both faster and more effective than visiting a physical store or meeting a provider on site – and has certainly become the go-to point of contact for many brands.

Recent research with YouGov – commissioned by Citrix that polled online shoppers in Great Britain - revealed that two thirds of people (67 per cent) view the speed of a website as important, as opposed to only 15 per cent who view sleek design as a priority. A further 69 per cent of individuals stated they were fairly or very likely to use a different website to buy a product if their chosen site was loading too slowly, highlighting a potentially fickle streak in British online shoppers and calling brand loyalty into question. While consumers would clearly be put off by a particularly ugly or un-user friendly web design, it is certainly interesting that speed now appears to be buyers’ primary concern.

Such a shift has significant implications for not only the way customer interactions are managed but how businesses as a whole operate. Decision-makers can either interpret this as a challenge to the established status quo or as an opportunity for service to become a key differentiator. In order to succeed on a global scale, surely there is only one option. So how can firms achieve this?

Get personal

The rise of digital allows businesses to personalise their services, offering customers a level of engagement tailored to their needs.

From custom email marketing campaigns to one-to-one communications through social media or online instant messenger platforms, enterprises must deliver relevant campaigns and engage with customers based on their previous buying habits and data – otherwise the company could soon be resigned as out of touch or irrelevant.

Prepare for change

This move to personalised information and services often demands that organisations fundamentally change how they operate. If we take finance as an example; this is a sector that traditionally relied on face-to-face interactions in branches to build relationships, yet customers now regularly use their smartphones or the bank’s website for simple transactions such as viewing statements, checking balances and making bill payments or bank transfers. So while it is important that banks maintain a physical presence to maintain relationships, they have to appreciate this will be reserved for more complex transactions like discussing a mortgage, loan or business plan, for example.

This changing dynamic relies upon, and is built around, the effective provision of technology and as a result falls under the remit of the modern CIO. In most instances this represents a significant change from the way the traditional CIO has operated. Previously the CIO had been focused on their own customers in the form of employees, with the aim of providing them with the basic tools they need to get their job done.

Build the digital relationship

With the customer increasingly being placed at the heart of an enterprise’s business roadmap, the CIO now has to consider how customers want to interact with front line staff to meet their requirements, and not the other way around. They subsequently need to harness IT skills within the workplace which ultimately helps differentiate the customer interaction.

Not only does building digital relationships with customers improve retention and boost sales, but it also helps organisations to save money, through streamlining processes internally. Ultimately, a tweet, email or instant message costs less than a phone call or face-to-face interaction, while producing the same, if not better, results.

Reap the rewards

As the CIO becomes more involved in the delivery of services and collaborates with the likes of the CMO around specific projects, there is increased innovation across the business.

The impact of this new and innovative way of delivering customer service has important ramifications for internal processes as well, with a more digital approach to operations being a key factor in recruitment. Individuals want to work in a modern, dynamic environment where they are enabled by the latest digital tools.

Today, more than ever, it is crucial that businesses differentiate themselves from their competitors by building stronger relationships with their customers – and communicating effectively through user-friendly digital channels forms a critical element of this move. Now is the time for CIOs to put their front line staff in the driving seat of customer engagement, placing the onus on them to regularly feedback and lead on improving standards.

Customers are the heartbeat of any organisation, and only by placing them at the centre of operations will businesses ensure their survival.

Jason Tooley, UK & Ireland Country Manager, Citrix