Sailing Toward Success: The Benefits of Customer-Focused IT Initiatives
In this special feature, TenFour’s Vice President of Customer Success & Lifecycle, Jessica Carroll, discusses the numerous business benefits CIOs can reap by re-focusing their IT operations on the customer. With over 20 years in leadership roles in the technology industry, Jessica’s been published in CIOInsight, BizTech magazine, and writes regularly for the Institute for Digital Transformation, covering an array of tech industry topics.
We're thrilled to share Jessica’s thoughts below; be sure to check out more of her IT industry thought leadership, experience, and expertise on LinkedIn and her Institute for Digital Transformation profile page.
Prevailing winds are pushing CIOs to create a “customer-centric” focus when defining priorities and setting the cultural direction of the IT organization. Is this just the latest buzz, destined to be another industry theme that will edge off the map in a year or two?
Not a chance.
A study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Gainsight® found that 88% of the companies surveyed “plan to create a customer-centric culture.” Forrester defines customer-centric as “a system of shared values and behaviors that focus employees on delivering great customer experiences.”
A highly performing business will cultivate an environment that weaves the customer’s voice through development, delivery, and the lifecycle of the product or service with the intent of elevating the end-to-end customer experience (CX). A structured and measured approach to understanding, defining, and producing how that experience should look and feel is required, or the CX initiative is simply a nebulous concept and ultimately will fall flat. This is in part why a dedicated discipline to shepherd these new experiences increasingly sits under the purview of the Customer Success team.
Customer Success (CS) within an organization is defined as, “the function at a company responsible for managing the relationship between a vendor and its customers. The goal of customer success is to make the customer as successful as possible, which in turn, improves customer lifetime value (CLTV) for the company.”
The function of Customer Success has been thriving in SaaS companies for some time, but in the infrastructure world it is a budding area. According to the Technology Services Industry Association (TSIA), this is the case with infrastructure because “the subscription-based customer experience is a different, complex, more intimate interaction and customer journey than many MSPs are used to.”
Forward-leaning organizations, regardless of product type, should surround their customers with the white-glove touch a Customer Success Program provides. This is because customers are no longer looking to buy “widgets”; they want services designed with business outcomes in mind, along with deeper partnered experiences when interacting with the vendor.
From the enterprise perspective, working with a vendor that has invested in the Customer Success discipline can be a differentiator in gaining the business alignment and ultimate value needed in order to successfully push forward key projects and initiatives.
A vendor with a strong Customer Success Program offers advantages because the business gains an advocate and consultative partner that is singularly driven to understand, deliver, measure, and transparently report outcomes that are born from the business goals of the enterprise (not from the vendor’s goals).
This tangible value, especially in the infrastructure industry, can be game changing for the CIO as it can underscore the foundational importance of the platform on which all critical systems and customer-facing applications reside, in business terms that have meaning to the non-technical C-suite.
Enterprises should evaluate a vendor’s Customer Success Program to ensure it is truly equipped to provide the strategic viewpoint and outcomes promised. Key attributes a business should expect from the CS team include:
An authentic desire to understand the customer’s point of view
A consultative mindset from a team of professionals who are focused on solutions that drive the business strategy of the customer
An emphasis on the relationship between the customer and the vendor, with a genuine perspective that strong and deep partnerships focused on “doing the right thing,” ultimately creates a win for everyone
A program that is structured around the definition of what success means for the customer based on business priorities, and agreed upon KPIs to measure the value of the relationship
A well-structured Customer Success team will work in tandem with the IT executives and their organization to ensure alignment between the IT initiatives and business priorities, especially in areas pointed at delivering amazing customer experiences through back-end systems or customer-facing applications and touch-points.
For the infrastructure team in particular, a vibrant Customer Success team can help position the network as the cornerstone of the business in supporting and delivering delightful experience to its customers.
The prevailing winds of the customer voice are here to stay. Bring the Customer Success team aboard and you’ve got a crew dedicated to help strategically chart the smoothest course to your customer-centric destination!