Addressing customer experience from the CIO perspective

By Tim M. Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor, AVOA

Published October 5, 2020
Last updated November 9, 2021

For IT leaders, customer experience was already a hot topic, but the pandemic has amplified the importance of delivering a thoughtful and modern customer experience. Today's challenges bring into focus those attributes and hurdles that most directly tie to customer experience. In a nutshell, positive customer experience ties directly to revenue. Forrester, an independent research firm, found that “companies with superior CX [customer experience] grew revenues five time faster on average than their competitors with inferior CX.”1 Companies strive to become customer experience leaders over laggards. However, there are a number of hurdles that prevent this evolution and it starts with IT.

Understanding IT hurdles

It is not as simple as to say, swap out legacy technology for modern technology and the problem is solved. It goes much deeper. IT’s legacy challenges require a change to culture, technology, data and silos. Each of these must change in their own ways.

Evolution of legacy IT thinking is the first step in the journey. It is important for IT to become more engaged with their line-of-business counterparts to more intimately understand the nature of their business, how it operates, and how and where it engages with customers. Taking a customer-first mantra for IT paired with this core business understanding creates the foundation a customer centric- company needs.

Taking a customer-first mantra for IT paired with this core business understanding creates the foundation a customer-centric company needs.

Different parts of the company engage with customers, from marketing to sales to customer support and beyond. Each of these engagements provide an opportunity to create great customer experiences through the use of modern technology. Unfortunately, companies often rely on legacy technology that is limited in capability and flexibility. 81% of consumers will defect to another brand as a result of bad customer experiences.2 A fundamental change is needed.

The power of IT paired with data

IT provides the single greatest opportunity for change with regards to customer experience. IT provides the core foundation that all good customer experiences are built upon.

Customer experience leaders are striving for a ‘market of one’ and hyper-personalization for customers. This only comes through the use of modern technology paired with relevant customer data that can constantly adapt to a customer’s needs. A company’s technology choices must do the same…and at the same pace.

The sheer rate of change and volume of data is significantly increasing over time. Consequently, the underlying technology that parses and leverages the onslaught of data must remain flexible and accommodating. In the case of customer experience, we need to consider ways to provide seamless experiences for customers based on the underlying data as opposed to separate silos of data that are integrated.

The days of rigid, monolithic systems are behind us. Simply put, they just are not able to keep up nor provide the business guidance that today’s data provides. Of equal importance is that they are not able to provide positive engagement opportunities for modern customer experiences.

Leaders who recognize this opportunity are able to capitalize on the modern, unified customer experience that CX leaders and customers alike are clamoring for.

In order to provide consistent experiences, a business needs a view across each place a customer engages with a company. IT is in a unique position to see across the different points that customers engage with an organization. Leaders who recognize this opportunity are able to capitalize on the modern, unified customer experience that CX leaders and customers alike are clamoring for.

Enabling the modern customer-centric organization

Aligning to a customer-centric organization is critical for all parts of the company…including IT. Start by creating a culture that fully understands and embraces the customer. This goes hand-in-hand with the relationships between IT and non-IT organizations. Align to support employees that engage most directly with customers. Consider the technology that supports both customer-facing employees as well as technology which customers interface with directly.

Keep an eye to the future and where customers may be headed. It will never be a point. It will be a journey that meanders along a circuitous path and is constantly evolving. The organization, culture, technology and data need to adapt accordingly.

About the author

Tim M. Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor, AVOA

Tim Crawford is ranked as one of the topmost influential CIOs and regularly quoted in the Wall Street Journal,, Forbes, SiliconAngle and TechTarget. Tim is a strategic CIO, executive coach and advisor that works with large global enterprise organizations across a number of industries including financial services, healthcare, major airlines and high-tech. Tim’s work differentiates and catapults organizations in transformative ways through the use of technology as a strategic lever. Tim takes a provocative, but pragmatic approach to the intersection of business and technology.

Tim has served as CIO and other senior IT roles with global organizations such as Konica Minolta/ All Covered, Stanford University, Knight-Ridder, Philips Electronics and National Semiconductor. He is a board advisor to Latent AI and a member of the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Network. Tim serves as host of the CIO In The Know and CxO In The Know podcasts. The weekly podcasts interview CIOs and top executives to discuss the top issues facing them today.

Tim holds an MBA in International Business with Honors from Golden Gate University Ageno School of Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from Golden Gate University.

1 Forrester Research, Improving CX Through Business Discipline Drives Growth, Harley Manning & Rick Parrish, 11 September 2019
2 Zendesk, The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020