This is the age of the customer," Forrester has declared. The impetus for this is the growing number of customers using mobile, social and other digital technologies to obtain information that will determine how they engage with organisations.
Only "customer-obsessed" enterprises will prosper, according to the analyst firm.
CIOs across the public and private sectors know full well the impact of these empowered customers: They expect to engage on whatever platform they choose,using their preferred devices, and expect security and efficiency as default settings for transactions.
The upside is the availability of technologies that provide organisations a high-definition view of their customers and the potential to use this insight to benefit the business.So what happens at the point where business technology andcustomer engagement meet?
The question was at the centre of a recent CIO roundtable discussion held in association with Ruckus Wireless. Thirteen CIOs and two specialists from Ruckus Wireless tackled a range of related issues, including the shifting demands of customers, the rise of bring-your-own-device schemes, and location-based data services.
No industry is unaffected
"Customers are now used to much more information than they've ever had [before], with much more comparative information," says Mike Clarke, CIO of SkyCity. He cites the case of hotel comparison service Trivago, which checks various channels to work out where the cheapest rates are.
Clarke says the goal is to provide a set of offerings that will ensure customers will get a "great response" whether they come through online, by phone, or go to the hotel and opt for self-service or prefer to speak to staff.
"We are looking very much at layered models that overlap quite comprehensively. That is not an easy thing to do."
"We're seeing quite a significant disruption happening in education," says Owen Werner, general manager, information management services at Unitec. He says organisations like Unitec have to respond to massive open online course (MOOC) providers such as edX and Coursera that offer courses for free.
"We need to start offering and providing the services online and available as well," he says."We're having to transform very quickly. For education, it's actually new and challenging in terms of [transacting with] a student online only rather than face-to-face, and working through the traditional enrolment and applicationprocedures."
"Education is still formalised around semesters, standard class hours and times. Now we have to respond very, very quickly to a 24x7 world. And it's not just the customer needs but now all of our staff, all of the support procedures and everything else quickly need to transform and adopt that new philosophy and new method ofworking."
Stevenson Group is a diverse business ranging from mining to concrete to aggregates, says its CIO, Andries van der Westhuizen. Each division has its own requirements for customers. In the case of concrete, says van der Westhuizen, the operation is fairly time based because delivery has to be done before the concrete sets. "Sometimes you have multiple deliveries in sequence and the trucks needs to be dispensed in that sequence. What we are looking at now is, after we've changed some of the backend systems, we have now got the ability to potentially send a notification to the customer saying 'this truck is on its way and it will be there at that time.'"
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