Any company that ignores its customers is destined for failure. That was the advice echoed in a recent Forrester report addressing the battle for customer retention. Of those business leaders interviewed, the majority said driving revenue and improving the customer experience were key initiatives for the business technology agenda.

However, many business leaders are still unsure whether their CIOs possess the business understanding to help meet their objectives. The same applies to specific business functions. For example, only 50% of marketing managers felt IT was sufficiently accelerating their department’s successes. The news was worse in sales (75% felt there was misalignment), and customer service leaders were extremely worried in their concerns (79%).
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As CIO rightfully states“CIOs need to start changing this negative mindset. They should tap into the talk about winning, serving and retaining customers by keeping the customer lifecycle at the centre of conversations and decisions when creating a business technology strategy.

This comes from understanding the business’ specific customer lifecycle, and how technology impacts each phase.

At the brand discovery phase marketers need to ensure potential customers can interact with the brand in the way they want – digitally, mobile, personalised and engaging. Sales and customer cultivation then follows; these departments must possess intelligence and insight to keep customers informed during the buying process.

It doesn’t end once a product is shipped or deployed. Once usage begins businesses can capture customer usage data from embedded diagnostics, sensors and social sites, which in turn can be transformed into valuable research and development data for product refinement. CIO describes this as, “providing stellar customer service through technology. Customers will reach out in various ways for help and assistance post-purchase and technology needs to be in place to provide good, consistent support across multiple channels.

One slip up and a customer can be lost for life. 80% of American online consumers say they avoid websites that have dissatisfied them during the buying process. Businesses need to support their customers long after a sale is complete. Technology wise, this includes voice-of-the-customer programmes, customer experience measurement and well equipped post-sales management teams.iStock_000020482237XLarge

The above will only result in positive business outcomes if technology unites a business. As Forrester says, “it is tempting to reduce this collection of technologies to discrete application and departmental categories, or worse, write it off as nothing more than the legacy customer relationship system adopted a decade ago.”

Customer expectations are currently evolving and your business’ technology strategy must keep up with progress. CIOs can transform IT’s poor reputation by delivering technology that supports every phase and function of the customer lifecycle through a cohesive system.

If approached strategically, IT can become critical in the age of the customer and the race for revenue. It needs to, otherwise your competitors will leave you behind.

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