CIOs need to make a number of changes to the IT function in order to deliver better customer experience for the enterprise, claims Forrester’s CIO analyst Nigel Fenwick.

Speaking ahead of Forrester’s CIO forum in London, Fenwick said that customer experience hasn’t typically been on the CIO agenda – but this is changing with the emergence of digital technologies and the ability for customers to share their experiences of a company on social media.

He said that consumers are much more empowered to shift loyalties between brands and companies and can easily tell a huge amount of people about their experiences.

“Whether they are digital, telephony, or in person, the touch points (when a customer engages with a company) are supported by technologies. The customers that are really excelling at customer experience, they understand the customer journey, the customer touch points and the systems that support these,” said Fenwick.

“More often than not they are implementing new applications on top – systems of engagement – such as digital mobile apps, which touch employees and customers directly. However, they do sometimes have to go further down the stack and dig deep.”

Fenwick’s research into the role of the CIO and companies that successfully use IT to improve customer experience, all have five common elements – design, empower, measure, organise and speed (DEMOS).

• Design – Forrester argues that IT should play a role in the user interface (UI) design. It should advise the customer experience team on design points, so that applications are not only user friendly, but can scale.

• Empower – Companies that successfully use IT to improve customer experience all have CIOs that empower their employees to have a say in customer experience. Fenwick said: “The IT employees [at the successful companies] felt like they weren’t just there to code, they felt like they were there to offer suggestions on how to improve the customer experience”.

• Measure – Companies should be obsessive about measuring customer experience, down to a very granular level. They should look at customer touch points and measure the experiences to understand the data e.g. a retailer should measure checkout times. This will allow CIOs to measure their employees not just on things like budget and performance, but on customer experience improvement metrics.

• Organise – In all the organisations that are excelling at customer experience, they had pivoted the IT function to allow for all customer facing applications to be under one team – separating out enterprise architecture into a different team. Fenwick said: “By doing this they are able to take a customer journey view of the technology, so they can see all of the technologies that support it.”

• Speed – Companies should be focused on speed. Apps should be regularly updated with rapid development cycles and technology teams should be using agile development methodologies. Fenwick said: “Even when you look at things like app performance, web page loads, the successful companies are really focused on how fast things happen and engineering IT towards speed.”

Forrester recognises that improving customer experience isn’t just the responsibility of the IT department and the whole company needs to reposition itself towards improving the experiences at each of the customer touch points. However, Fenwick argues that the CIO can play a critical role.

“Very few have got this right – the vast majority are not there, but the companies that excel get most of these things (DEMOS) in place. We expect great customer experience and when we don’t get it we are more willing to change quickly to another supplier,” he said.

“It’s not an easy transition to make at all, it’s a huge change management challenge and can take five to ten years. But CIOs need to recognise that they have a role to play and can be a change agent for the rest of the executive team to recognise how important this is.”