Our IT Executive Roundtables are invite-only events hosted by peers for peers that bring together a select group of senior IT leaders from across industries for topic-driven, intimate dialog on current trends and topics. The group met remotely to discuss CX priorities in retail, led by the SVP & CIO of a leading American specialty retailer. This Session was sponsored by Linc.
Consumer expectations are constantly evolving. To stay relevant, companies must strive to adapt. But how do you prioritize projects to meet the ever-changing customer needs? How do you identify your value drivers and go about implementing them? Where does technical debt fit in the equation?
At the start of the roundtable, the group discussed the biggest shifts in customer expectations in the last few years. A director of analytics started by saying that people have a low tolerance for inconvenience and want things very quickly. Big titans like Amazon have set high standards for express delivery, and people expect other businesses to be just as vigilant. A VP of brand innovation added that customers want to be seen and respected by their favorite brands.
A previous CIO of a discount retailer said that buyers get bored of products quickly and expect to see new items on the shelf every time they come in. A VP of retail operations remarked that shoppers today prefer companies that offer an omnichannel buying experience. Lastly, a CIO shared that the modern customer wants to interact with businesses on their terms. They expect the brand to understand who they are and personalize their experiences accordingly.
Multiple attendees agreed that they had seen both sides of the spectrum: customers who acknowledge the global supply chain issues and compromise on speed and availability and customers who don’t care about operational challenges and want things delivered super-fast. One executive argued that having an open communication channel with your customers is the most important thing. Companies need to invest in customer expectation management, i.e., proactively talk to and update the customer regarding their order, so that their expectations are managed. If they call you with a query, you must be adequately prepared to offer them meaningful answers/explanations.
Regarding innovation, you must focus on things that can generate instant value and growth. Go for incremental changes instead of the big bang projects. Fail fast, rebuild, get some quick wins, and repeat. A great strategy is to look at your customer journey and identify use-cases that lead to customer friction. Ideally, initiatives to mitigate customer friction should bring tangible enhancements to the customer experience and ensure revenue growth. One of the crucial things to focus on is delivering an omnichannel experience. It’s also important to leverage data analytics to produce actionable insights and serve personalized content to customers.
An executive told the audience that dealing with technical debt and innovating simultaneously is important. You can’t wholly forego one for the other. Another participant commented that technical debt and innovation aren’t always mutually exclusive. Sometimes, to build new things, you can rebuild pieces of your existing architecture. The bottom line is not letting your technical debt hold back your innovation. Innovate, and then figure out which parts you need to replace as part of that innovation.
A contributor said that businesses must innovate and adapt accordingly as customer expectations continue to evolve in the next few years. Through modern technologies like sentiment evaluation, it’s possible to measure a customer’s experience every time they call for support. AI-based tools can compare the change in sentiment from start to finish and see if it progressed or declined. It’s also crucial for companies to optimize both digital and in-store segments, as customers will continue to use both. Lastly, a participant mentioned how important it was to also focus on the pre-purchase stage of the buying journey, e.g., offering a consultation experience to potential customers, helping them in their research, etc.