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By Rich Green, Chief Product Officer at SugarCRM

The customer experience is the next competitive battleground”.

Jerry Gregoire, former CIO of Dell Computers prophesised the future of the CIO in 1999 – although no one could forecast the rate at which technology would upheave the operation of businesses.

Previously, the CIO role had very little to do with customer experience, existing as more of a support function for the operation of other areas of the business. Traditionally it was seen as a back-office role, in charge of corporate technology and overseeing staff.

Fast forward to 2021 and the CIO’s focus has shifted. The pandemic has accelerated the progression of technology even further, and the overwhelming reliance on IT has meant that the CIO is now well and truly in every business strategy’s spotlight.

The growing dependence on digital and subscription services is evidence of how the customer is now intertwined with technology, drawing the CIO closer to their experience. Now digital systems play a vital role in keeping the customer happy, the CIO’s attention has moved out of the office.

As a result, CIOs must slip seamlessly into their new role as chief customer officer (CCO), ensuring they safeguard brand reputation and loyalty by delivering on productivity and efficiency – essentially putting the customers’ needs first. So, how does a CIO accomplish this?

Digital transformation, staying ahead of competitors and technology, and fulfilling customer expectations with a streamlined experience are the holy trinity for a CIO in their pursuit to be a successful CCO.

Ensure fit for purpose systems

Data-driven, high-definition customer experiences (HD-CX) are key to outperforming competitors, and so a CIO should ensure that their company is moving away from outdated systems and keeping ahead of the curve.

Amazon’s recommendation algorithm is the perfect example of using personalisation to stay ahead of competitors. First introduced in 2010 and continually perfected since, their machine learning-powered algorithm uses input about a customer’s interests to generate a list of recommended items. Today, Amazon claims that these recommendations drive 35% of their sales.

Implementing a machine-learning system that can learn and adapt without explicit instruction prevents staff from manually entering endless customer details, and simultaneously allows the CIO to prevent human error.

CIOs need to ensure no busy work for employees by letting CRM platforms do the work, ensuring their systems automatically capture data, and present it in context to everyone who needs it.

Embrace New Technology

High-definition customer experience relies on a 360-degree view of the customer, and to achieve this level of insight, a company must record every change in the customer journey to reliably predict future outcomes.

Ever-developing technologies, such as AI, voice recognition, and personalisation are becoming indispensable to HD-CX. So, as they navigate their new customer-focused role, the CIO needs to become an evangelist of these tools.

AI can deliver exceptional predictions, even with incomplete CRM data. This is achieved by tapping vast external data to consider factors the limited CRM data doesn’t cover and surface insights that a company may not have known existed. These unparalleled predictions allow businesses to make confident decisions and focus on the highest priority activities across marketing, sales, customer service, and more.

SugarCRM has built tools to incorporate AI into CRM, including HD-CX, a time-aware customer experience platform that allows companies to capture large amounts of data and feed it into an intuitive system that returns predictive insights to fuel their best business decision-making. The AI powered SugarPredict does not require the usual investment of time, cost, and technical expertise typically needed for companies to take advantage of AI.

A recent McKinsey & Company survey found that executives are three times more likely now than before the pandemic to say that at least 80% of their customer interactions are digital in nature. It is becoming vital to keep up with technological development to ensure that customers aren’t swayed by competitors.

Create a unified customer journey

In addition, CIOs need to break down the silo mentality and ensure a seamless user experience.

Uber addressed its customer service innovatively through implementing a support feature within the app itself – ensuring that users do not need to leave the app to resolve their issues. Despite using a lot of anonymised data, Uber successfully collects data in one place to analyse and meet high volume demands.

Although aligning silos seems like an impossible job, an advanced CRM system can bridge the gap automatically and ensure no blind spots. By combining customer data, and identifying and filling any gaps, whilst pairing it with the right technology, CIOs can obtain the intelligence they need to make both vital strategic and tactical decisions.

Laying foundations like this and utilising in-depth, cross-siloed customer data will enable the CIO to excel in this new aspect of their remit, providing a clear and unified view of the customer and without putting a lot of cost into the business.

Looking ahead

In a fast-changing environment, it is fundamental that CIOs observe trends and embrace digital transformation in order to successfully stay ahead of the competition and future-proof their businesses.

Lifting the admin burden placed on sales teams, adopting technologies that make high-definition customer experience possible, and overcoming data silos are the key steps in a seamless transition towards becoming a strong CCO. This journey is not without its challenges but focusing on these three areas will set CIOs off on the right path.

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