In "the age of the customer", businesses need to retool their strategies and become more customer obsessed, says Forrester Research.
Today's customer uses mobile, social and other digital technology to take power from institutions, in particular corporations. They can discover pricing, and publicly critique products they don't like and can buy from anyone at anytime and anywhere.
Forrester's recent report, entitled Collaborating Internally to Serve Empowered Customers, hones in on how Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) businesses are facing this challenge of a rapidly changing business environment.
Forrester interviewed senior business and technology leaders from ANZ companies including Commonwealth Bank, IAG, Fuji Xerox and Suncorp, on how they are combating "misalignment and misunderstanding" between key leaders in technology, marketing and customer experience (CX).
The report cites the results of Forrester's survey among budget-decision makers from ANZ companies, who stated their top priorities are moving toward efforts that support other business units and tech management's ability to deliver effectively. The survey included small and medium-size business (SMB) and enterprise companies with 100 or more employees.
Seven of the top eight priorities for the next year were on items that contribute to business effectiveness and agility rather than infrastructure and other traditional IT priorities, according to the survey.
The report also cites a recent Forrester survey on budgets and priorities which found marketing departments across the globe are spending more on technology. Nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of global respondents reported increasing their budget by 5 to 10 per cent, and 15 per cent reported having increase their budget by more than 10 per cent.
Amidst these changes, here are some approaches ANZ businesses are taking to become more customer obsessed:
Co-location of teams
Having the technology and CX teams on the same floor can improve collaboration, the report says. One company that did this experienced "true collaboration" between the teams.
"The most valuable collaborations occurred over coffee breaks or by accidentally overhearing a colleague discuss a project in the hallway. Offers of help and support became commonplace -- and all conducted face to face, person to person."
But if it is not possible to have these teams physically move to sit with one another, Forrester suggests adopting collaboration techniques that encourage sharing between CX, marketing and technology leaders and their staff.
"Using structured approaches to the co-creation of strategy, customer understanding and technology project implementation will produce a better result, but leaders of different business units must collaborate early and often."
'Don't create strategy, co-create it'
Culture dominates strategy, and if a company creates a strategy that goes against its normal way of doing things or does not explicitly enjoy executive support, the chances of that strategy's success are slim, the report states.
SunCorp, for example, conducted an extensive customer observation research project involving university doctorate students, external consultants and staff volunteers including the CEO and seven other senior executives.
The result was that Jacqui Jordan, head of customer strategy, was able to embed CX strategy within the company's overall business strategy.
Hire and train people for 'hybrid' skills
Customer obsessed companies must create a common language, says the report. Marketing must speak 'technology' and tech management must speak 'customer experience'.
The report says the best way to adopt a common language is to hire people who already speak it. It suggests including questions around customer advocacy and customer centricity when interviewing for a project manager or developer. When interviewing a marketing manager of CX specialists, he/she could be asked about technology knowledge and business analysis.
"A key aspect of CX maturity is how companies train their staff, both new and existing," the report states. "In the spirit of collaboration and co-creation, training staffers to become hybrids together will encourage even better collaboration."
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