By Keith Tilley, Executive Vice President, Global Sales & Customer Services, Sungard Availability Services
They say the key to great customer experience is exceeding expectations. Today, we've reached an age where customers expect to be able to contact or work with organisations whenever they want, wherever they want and on whatever device they choose.
With such high expectations, it becomes very difficult to even meet them, let alone exceed them. Availability issues can have a lasting impact not just on customer experience but a company's bottom line.
The lesson is clear: a business outage translates directly to customer outrage.
Placing Customers at the Heart of your Strategy
In considering customer expectations, it's important to acknowledge just how far they have escalated in recent years. The rise of smartphones and consistently available cloud services has had a lasting effect on the understandings of what's possible with technology - and it's a one way journey. In some ways, these giant leaps forward have taken elements that used to be a competitive edge for industry leaders and turned them into the bare minimum expected by any serious market participant.
For a long time, without such pressure on these external elements of the experience, companies could turn much of their attention to internal needs and the challenges that face those teams in operating and growing a business. That's no longer the case. To make meaningful developments in the area of customer service, it all starts with considering the external experience and customer-facing side of your business, no matter what industry you're in.
This kind of change is so broad and deeply tied into many areas of an enterprise that it can only effectively be accomplished by the C-level leadership team. This in itself can present challenges depending how in touch that part of the company is with its customers. And there's almost no such thing as being too aware and conscious of that audience's reaction to you.
Working Together Within the C-Suite
While a sound understanding of your customer is essential to business success, in a sense, the biggest challenge can stem from within the organisation itself. Departmental leaders may agree on the end-result, but suffer from a difference of opinion, or a lack of coherent strategy about how to get there. It is within this context that the IT department can come into its own. In a recent piece of research, we found that 97 per cent of business leaders felt that a closer alignment between business departments and IT is key to yielding a competitive advantage, with a further 40 per cent stating that a closer relationship with the IT department could help deliver growth and enterprise availability.
Indeed, uptime and availability is one of the best examples of how effective C-level co-operation can have customer impact. By team members like the CIO and CMO working closely together, they can ensure that they're both technically prepared to be available to customers as and when they are expected to be - and effectively communicate what an advantage this is to the wider leadership team, and in turn to the rest of the company. Furthermore, they may then better understand the impact of that and team up with the CFO to measure and quantify it. Every link provides more value.
This is just one example. But to successfully navigate these changes into the future, it's precisely the kind of focus that can pay dividends. The process may not be easy but the results will speak for themselves. And neglecting them is one way to guarantee that you'll start to decline in everyone's expectations.