Five Things Every CMO Wants Their CIO to Know

This article first appeared in CIOReview, May 2017.

The reality of today’s digital, customer-centric world is clearer than ever, and it is significantly affecting the CIO and CMO. CIOs are now emerging as collaborative business partners with more customer-facing priorities; meanwhile, CMOs must now balance customer engagement with technology and analytics to deliver contextually-rich experiences. Together, these two key players must work in unison to amplify the customer communications experience.

I explored this dynamic further in a recent blog, where it was concluded that CMOs should operate as major influencers of IT spend, with CIOs working alongside them. Now, just one question remains: how? How can CIOs support CMOs to make their best marketing technology investments? How can they empower CMOs to operate at maximum potential each day?

There are seemingly endless ways that marketing can work with IT to reimagine business and customer outcomes, but the right support is needed to make this happen. To this end, here are five things CMOs want CIOs to know to help marketing teams do what they do best:

  1. Speed Matters
    The world has sped up in a very short amount of time. Consider technologies like web chat, social media and mobile apps: once non-existent for customer service, we now see hundreds of thousands of customers engaging with these platforms every minute. To be competitive, you must move quickly. You must be able to move at the speed of the consumer, and flexibly respond to digital change.

     

    Marketing organizations must have the freedom to instantaneously deploy new solutions and test new campaigns to limitlessly innovate and improve. Continuous change is at the heart of marketing; CMOs must be in control of the pace and nature of this change, while CIOs must support them to flexibly do so. Considering the average IT team takes up to six months to develop and deploy a new application, this is a major problem today. The traditional IT development/deployment cycle must be put to an end.

  2. Solutions Do Not Always Need To Be Built
    That same research shows that 85 percent of organizations demand faster development and deployment cycles from their IT teams. One way to significantly shorten this cycle is to eliminate the development phase altogether. In other words, solutions and applications do not always need to be internally built. There are many great off-the-shelf applications available that can be instantly cloud-deployed, and marketing needs IT to connect them quickly and securely for immediate use. In this way, CIOs can help CMOs reduce deployment time from months to days.
  3. Understand That We Live for the CX
    CIOs are notorious for having an internal perspective; meanwhile, CMOs thrive on their ability to look outward at the customer experience. For CMOs to operate at maximum potential, CIOs must understand how marketing is working to create a better experience for external customers.

     

    This means focusing less on why certain actions are being taken and more on how those actions will affect the end customer. Consider Daniel Bergan, Omni-Channel Transformation at Westpac, one of Australia’s most prominent financial institutions. In taking the initiative to better serve the bank’s customers, Daniel and the team created an end-to-end technology environment that transforms parts of the organization from the outside in. Most recently, for instance, the company announced that it would be making banking features available via social media messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Twitter and Snapchat.

     

    Forrester puts it best in a recent report: “CIOs (must) move beyond IT’s traditional focus on technology assets and expand their role as leader of a customer-facing function: responsible for creating superior customer experiences across channels and delivering digital business innovation.”

  4. We Need the Right Infrastructure and Tools
    Marketing teams need to be as productive as possible. They must be able to seamlessly communicate and collaborate, both internally and externally. They need insight into customer data across multiple teams, processes and customer touch points. Our level of efficiency is dependent on whether we have the right infrastructure and tools, supported by the CIO.

     

    Understand that we know you cannot eliminate bandwidth issues entirely, but we would appreciate if you did all you could to make them as minimal as possible. We know you cannot completely eradicate security threats, but we trust you are working overtime to ensure we can work as securely as possible. Just as we work to deliver on the promise of amazing experiences for our customers, we need you to deliver on the promise of this experience for us internally.

  5. Be a True Business Partner
    What more can I say? Get in the game with us. Dust off your other strategic hats and start wearing them. Start thinking outside of the box to drive the best possible business outcomes and customer experiences. The fact is that, today, the CIO is no longer concerned with simply keeping the network running and phones on. Like it or not, today’s CIO has stepped out of the data center and is actively working alongside key areas of business like marketing, sales, R&D and HR. They are now operating as a revenue-generating entity. They are responsible for driving efficiency across the entire organization.

     

    Today’s smart, digital world has assured that marketing and IT will remain interdependent. The good news is that CMOs and CIOs are increasingly seeing eye to eye, reflecting a willingness of both to prioritize the business over individual goals and objectives. As with all things, though, there is room to do better, there are opportunities to deepen collaboration between these two essential players and across IT and Marketing teams. I just outlined five key areas where I believe CMOs and CIOs can achieve the level of intimacy needed to really thrive and succeed.

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Meet Avaya’s Edison Award Gold Winner Blockchain Use Case

In less than two weeks, we are hosting Experience Avaya Asia-Pacific in Singapore, a city that ranks alongside the likes of Dubai and New York as a global business hub. As I get ready for this event, those two cities are very much top of mind for me right now—and it’s because of blockchain.

By now, just about everybody is aware of blockchain, which likely originated in the Asia-Pacific region, as part of the development of bitcoin. While bitcoin today seems to have gone through its bubble moment, blockchain is definitely here to stay.

Invented to serve one purpose, we’ve only just started figuring out what blockchain can do. In my world of technology and customer service, we would say we are developing “use cases.” Our job is to figure out how technologies can be used to solve a business problem, a social challenge and so on.

The inspiration to develop use cases can’t come from a single source—ideas come from everyone and everywhere. We have a team that picks up on those ideas and plays around with technology, putting the pieces together to create use cases to solve problems that are brought to us by our ecosystem or the customers we serve.

Our Winning Blockchain Use Case: Avaya Happiness Index

Inspired by the Dubai government’s drive to improve the citizen experience—and make it literally a happier place to be—our team, with our partners, looked at how blockchain can help track sentiment and enable organizations to respond more quickly to user trends.

We showed the Avaya Happiness Index on Blockchain to the world at GITEX in Dubai last year—and it was a huge hit. While plenty of companies are keen to use the word “blockchain” we didn’t present a concept, we delivered a blockchain use case. Real-time sentiment analysis may seem a very long way away from cryptocurrency, but we’ve demonstrated how this technology can enhance the citizen/customer experience. The value of bitcoin may rise and fall according to market demand, but the ability to make people happier? That is priceless.

I’m proud to say that the Avaya Happiness Index on Blockchain was a Gold winner for innovation at the world-renowned Edison Awards in New York this week, a milestone achievement for the Avaya team, and for our partners, Avanza Innovations and Sundown.ai. By combining our efforts we’ve created something of real value—a concept we call value co-creation.

When I meet with customers in Singapore this month, I will talk more about value co-creation. In today’s fast-moving digital world, it is no longer viable for technology companies like ours to create products and solutions and just push them out to market. Real value doesn’t come from a packaged solution; it comes from stakeholders working together and combining to create better outcomes. Avaya realized this several years ago, and we opened our platforms to make it easier and faster for customers, partners and suppliers to work with us. The end goal is to share the value creation process across our digital ecosystem so that the end result is magnified for all.

For me, it doesn’t matter so much who originated a technology. What matters is what we can do with it. The Avaya Happiness Index isn’t just a blockchain use case—it’s a proof point of Avaya’s business approach and cultural belief.

I’m looking forward to Experience Avaya Asia-Pacific in Singapore because I know that plenty of you share our belief. This event will give us the opportunity to come together and lay the groundwork for future collaboration. I can’t say where that will take us but maybe, it might just take some of us to New York next year for the Edison Awards 2019!

Please don’t feel you have to wait until we host an event near you. If you have an idea you want to discuss, please share it with me, or your local Avaya contact.

Five Things You Must Do to Shift Customer Experience in 2018

We all know that to drive competitiveness, you must shift customer experience—and that this is now more important than ever. But shift to what? How? When? I hear these questions all the time when meeting with customers in our Executive Briefing Centers, and at tradeshows and conferences. The industry is rallying around terms like “omnichannel,” “cloud,” and “analytics,” but the contact center is not a one-size-fits-all entity. You can’t instantly accomplish a great shift for your business simply by buying omnichannel for your contact center. Rather, it’s a delicate process that requires you to refresh and integrate systems together.

How to Shift Customer Experience

As executives and leaders in customer experience, we must be ready to make changes that can shift a contact center to deliver a better customer experience. Here are five things that Avaya recommends you do in 2018. These may seem obvious, but collectively they can yield true lifetime value results from customers:

  1. Understand Your Customer Journeys
    Rather than looking at countless different, individual interactions, choose to put your customer on a journey, one that rarely starts and stops with just one contact. Take an outside-in view by identifying several important customer journeys and customer preferences. Or, consider low CX scores that can be improved either through self-service assistance or by linking channels together with context (this helps to understand where the customer has been before).
  2. Listen to Your Feet on the Street
    While your customers’ feedback is essential, it is your frontline staff who will give you direct pointers. These individuals understand the necessary tools and training for reaching new levels of customer experience. Consider, for example, that 84% of global contact centers are adapting to meet the needs of next-gen millennial workers. Give your agents a sense of ownership and they will tell you where they can personalize and engage with customers on a greater level. Your agents could potentially sell more when they’re able to make customers feel great about their overall experience. The key is to arm agents with the right information on their desktops.
  3. Support Advanced Automation and Analytics
    According to Gartner, more than 50% of CIOs will have artificial intelligence as one of their top five investment priorities by 2020. AI will assist greatly in understanding the customer journey: augmented reality and bots can automate more processes over human-to-human interactions. Keep in mind, however, that humans are still needed. It’s just that advanced automation and analytics, when put in the right place, can lead to richer and more effective experiences between customers and representatives.
  4. Break Internal Silos
    Creating an orchestrated experience requires executives to look as a team at organizational processes. Take charge as the person who identifies and leads change across your entire organization. Departments working in silos—sales, marketing, service—all stop short when processes are not stitched together. Also keep in mind that your CRM systems and contact center processes must complement one another. They need to come together to drive better customer and business outcomes.
  5. Bridge The Gaps
    Now comes the fun stuff: ownership, budget and getting a project underway. This can be done either by way of proof of concept, or segmenting a certain group of interactions to begin changing processes. Take note of the before and after, and check-in with your customers on improvements (consider surveys or one-to-one outreach). Assess if there are new roles or skillsets needed to keep up with the change. Take it one step at a time and prove a return on investment against identified use cases before moving on.

You need to make a shift happen in 2018 to continually innovate customer experience and improve lifetime value. It will require some research and a few bold moves. I promise it will be a rewarding process if it is inclusive of input and bridges critical gaps.

So, where do you start? I encourage you to talk to Avaya about an assessment or visit one of our Executive Briefing Center sites. From initial strategizing to execution, Avaya can help you develop a solid customer experience plan that yields true lifetime value—we can even model a potential ROI or CLV based on your own estimates. Contact Avaya to learn more.

Avaya A.I.Connect Focuses on Improving Companies’ Customer Experiences

For Avaya, AI is all about people. Sure, there are clearly opportunities to increase automation, to provide higher quality, more natural, more life-like conversational self-service solutions for automated IVR, text, and chat interactions. But in all these cases, there is still a person at one end of the interaction—the end customer. At Avaya, our A.I.Connect initiative focuses on using AI and machine learning technologies to enable our customers to deliver more engaging experiences for their end customers.

The Evolution of AI

The term artificial intelligence dates back to 1956 as an academic discipline, born out of a workshop at Dartmouth College by leading researchers in the computer science field. AI’s success has come in fits and starts, with overblown expectations and not a small bit of fear—it’s been predicted that AI-enabled systems and machines will somehow impinge upon the place of human beings in the global pecking order. But interest in AI (and its associated results) is stronger than ever, poised perhaps to deliver upon an almost 70-year-old hypothesis that machines can be smarter than people. But no, we aren’t welcoming our new robotic overlords. At least not yet.

Keeping People in the Center of Our AI Story

Bringing AI capabilities to the table ultimately centers on increasing the positive nature of the customer’s experience. And doing so in the most innocuous, unobtrusive, comforting and, dare I say, enjoyable ways possible.

End customers aren’t the only ones who benefit from a little artificial intelligence boost. AI’s benefits extend to contact center agents and supervisors, making them more capable of meeting customer needs. AI provides capabilities for customer insight and an almost prescient ability for agents to have the right information at their fingertips (and get it to the end customer) just when it can have the most positive impact towards a successful outcome.

Our Key Focus Areas for AI Enablement

Companies are applying AI capabilities in a dizzying number of ways. While consumers may be familiar with automated back-and-forth interactions to select music, play games, order and re-order supplies, or simply update their family calendars, AI in the enterprise is stretching more broadly and deeply.

Within the scope of customer experience, Avaya’s AI strategy takes a more holistic view of the customer journey, creating a feedback loop from first contact through subsequent interactions across any and all channels, to continuously improve the key metrics for customer satisfaction. And through analytics, to feed the outcomes of the customer journey back into the AI engines so that smart technology can grow even smarter for the next iteration of contact by the customer.

As we apply AI to the contact center, we’re focusing on how it intersects with key areas, including:

  • Effortless Self-Service, including adoption through conversational interfaces, and extending Bot-based interaction capabilities.
  • Smart Routing, using Big Data and interaction history, as well as customer sentiment and other analytical/statistical measures, to provide pinpoint customer routing strategies.
  • Agent Augmentation, to drive upsell/retention opportunities through proactive guidance and next-best-action suggestions consistently across voice, video, chat, email and messaging channels.
  • Interaction Insights, using trend spotting and sentiment analysis among other techniques to allow enterprises to elevate offerings and enhance business processes with improved best practices and voice-of-customer analytics.
  • Enhanced Workforce Optimization, automating and improving QA and discovery of best practice models with the assistance of AI, as well as improving resource scheduling by predicting volumes and absentee rates within the enterprise

Introducing A.I.Connect, our Ecosystem of Partners

There’s an adage that says “to be a great leader, surround yourself with people smarter than you.” And that is exactly what we are doing with the launch of A.I.Connect.

A.I.Connect represents our partner ecosystem for delivering AI-enabled experiences joined to Avaya’s team and customer engagement solutions. Drawing upon top-notch AI-enabled technologies, integrators, and capabilities from companies like Afiniti, ArrowSI, Cogito, EXP360, Nuance, ScoreData and Sundown.ai, as well as others to be made public in the coming weeks, we aim to build an ecosystem that delivers exceptional experiences across the entire customer journey, from first contact to improving every subsequent interaction for the lifetime of that customer relationship.