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During a global crisis, while many organizations are simply struggling to survive, the thought of making an investment in technology might be too overwhelming for many to consider. However, it's during these times that customers depend on us to continue delivering our products and services so they can continue to deliver theirs as well. Any type of investment in technology, much less that which supports your customer experience strategy, takes time, effort and resources.
Investing in tools and technology that support your organization's customer experience is important, necessary and often expensive. Sometimes, it's also the first place some leaders start when they want to kick-start improving their CX. In a previous article, I talked about how tools, people and processes make up the three-legged stool of customer experience. These three components work together to make it easier for customers to experience the true meaning of your brand promise.
And the truth is, businesses are focused on producing products, delivering services, paying employees and making whatever profit is possible right now. Given the choice between investing in new equipment or product development versus customer experience technologies, organizations may choose the former. While it's easy to believe that investing in CX technologies could be a significant expenditure, it doesn't have to be. Some would suggest that organizations are better able to deliver an exceptional customer experience because they are nimble, agile and able to respond quickly and effectively to customers. Any approach to CX should be deliberate and not by chance. All of this starts with having a well-defined, clear and specific customer experience strategy.
Understand customer expectations
Trying to select the appropriate technology without an established CX strategy is risky business. I've heard it more than a few times from leaders, "I need to fix my CX, what technology should I buy?" They are asking which came first the chicken (customer expectations) or the egg (technology). It's important to ask these 10 questions before buying CX technology:
- Do you have an established CX strategy so you can align your technology to the strategy?
- Have you communicated this strategy within the organization, so the other two components of people and processes are in alignment to the technology?
- What problem are you trying to solve?
- What customer expectations have been identified?
- How will the technology application address the identified expectations?
- Do you understand the touchpoints customers have with your organization to help define the tools your employees need to do their job?
- What adjacent organizations (sales, supply chain, etc.) might benefit from the investment in your technology?
- How much will the technology cost and can you identify specific results that will deliver a return on your investment?
- Do you need to integrate existing applications into the new technology? Have you determined how they will work together to create a seamless experience?
- How will you measure your success in using technology to improve your customer's experience?
The good news is that most of the CX technology business partners will help you answer these questions. They want to ensure the technology you buy will be successful in achieving your goals. The last thing they want is to sell you an application that requires substantial investment and doesn't work or meet customer expectations. CX technology partners also produce meaningful content applicable to building your CX strategy and executing it successfully.
How will CX tech affect employees and processes?
Finally, when you decide to acquire technology to support your customer experience strategy, make certain you consider the impact on employees and processes. Technology is an enabler but it's not the exclusive solution for all things CX. As mentioned earlier, the three-legged stool of people, processes and tools, when executed properly, will ensure a successful customer experience improvement for your organization. Being able to identify the behaviors that must change in every department at every level of the organization is an imperative to the successful implementation of your strategy and the technology to support it.
It's easy to get excited about new technologies, but debating which comes first is a sure way of turning that excitement into disappointment for your organization and your customers. Understanding customer expectations first and investing in technology second will create a win-win for your customers and employees.
About the author
Robert Azman is founder and CXO of Innovative CX Solutions. Innovative CX is a customer experience consulting firm specializing in CX design and execution, sales and service experience design and talent development. Azman is the 2020 Immediate Past Chairman of the Board of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org). He has a wealth of diverse global operations and leadership experience as an executive at organizations such as CWT, Thomson Reuters, Ceridian and Deluxe. Azman is an adjunct professor in the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management's Supply Chain and Operations Management department and a senior guest lecturer at the Rutgers University Business School Executive Education programs.