You may sometimes feel alone, mired in today’s quicksand-like challenges. But you’re not alone. Interviews with more than 40 executives in CIOs, CMOs, VPs of Sales, and VPs of Service roles revealed several common challenges across roles. Those issues include ensuring technology ROI through adoption, unleashing the power of analytics, combating legacy thinking, and responding to the need for speed and collaboration to stay competitive. The interviews also uncovered approaches your peers are taking that you can adopt to manage through these changes and challenges.
Translate customer experience promises into business results: Nearly every executive interviewed cites customer experience (CX) as a top priority. Yet, the maturity of their CX initiatives varies widely in terms of strategy, accountability, and results. The interviews also revealed that some leaders consider it their responsibility to be CX designers; others note the importance of employee engagement in providing an outstanding customer experience. Most agree that data quality and management are foundational building blocks to deliver on the CX promise.
Adoption is the new ROI: The return on the investment of a technology platform or application is only as good as an organization’s adoption and use of it. Adoption is the link between the cost of the technology and it’s true value; it’s about short-term financial impact, as well as long-term business impact. As a result, senior executives are now expected to drive broad behavior change and technology adoption, so their teams and the organization at large can realize ROI benefits from their technology investments. These new responsibilities require skill sets new to some leaders, especially many CMOs.
The flip side of this issue is ease of use. Ease of use helps to ensure the effective adoption of a technology—which further increases its ROI. Executives we interviewed involve users in the purchase process to test usability when considering new technologies.
Unleash the power of data and analytics: Data management is no longer something “only IT will worry about.” All the leaders surveyed are concerned about data: from data collection, quality, and storage, to its organization, interpretation, and security. Migrating from siloed, legacy data models to a 360-degree view of customers and financials is difficult, but is also a business imperative in the age of the customer. Additionally, executives in all roles cite the importance of analytics to their decision-making. From predictive analytics to pipeline forecasting, using data to inform strategic and tactical decisions is fast becoming table stakes.
Obsess over leaving a legacy: All of the senior executives interviewed share a passion for developing organizational trailblazers, empowering key deputies, and adopting new business models that will leave a lasting legacy on their respective organizations. This was consistent whether their business is in growth, transformation, or maturity state. One way they plan to leave a legacy is by building up their organization to be a model for the rest of their industry. Another is by implementing technology solutions that will make the greatest organization-wide and long-term impact, as well as be a building block to future success.
Enable employees to own the customer experience: Senior executives point out the need to train their staff to think like managers.The training is primarily focused on how to better manage customer experiences and expectations—primarily external customers, but internal stakeholders, as well. It’s about pushing decision-making as close to the customer as possible. If CX is a priority, then businesses need to give their frontline employees the knowledge to translate any differences between customer expectations and the company’s ability to deliver on them, as well as the power and authority to take any necessary actions. Other reasons for this focus on training include ensuring engagement and retention, supporting career growth, and better aligning with customer experience mandates.
Elevate enterprise architects: The enterprise architect role historically was buried deep within the IT organization. Due to the demands of data management, integration, and customer experience, this role is now elevated in many organizations to a CIO direct report, and is becoming a must-have in other areas. For example, some CMOs are hiring a marketing architect to help manage the growing complexity of the marketing technology stack. Not surprisingly, the enterprise architect—whether in IT or another department—is gaining prominence as an influencer in key technology purchase decisions.
Combat legacy attitudes: The progress-stalling attitude of “But we’ve always done it this way” from peers and subordinates—and sometimes the industry at large—keeps some leaders stuck in the past. For example, CMOs and VPs of Service often hear that salespeople know the customer best; this is especially common in industries that use agents, such as insurance. Because peer relationships and empowered subordinates are so important to success today, these attitudes can be as troublesome as legacy systems. This outdated thinking can block the swift progress needed to respond quickly to disruptive market forces.
Outmaneuver disruption: Disruptive forces are spurring business leaders to aggressively build agility into their operations. The primary disruptive force in B2B is the Salesforce Effect and in B2C is the Amazon Effect. The Salesforce business model is creating disruption across multiple B2B industries, changing the way buyers want to purchase and to pay. For some B2B leaders, the pains of crossing over to a subscription model are evident. In the case of B2C leaders, mitigating the Amazon Effect is a priority. As Amazon displaces numerous traditional distribution routes, many B2C companies are torn between relationship loyalty and reach, scale, and profitability.
Get fast or get passed: Nearly every executive we interviewed across all four roles cites the need for speed to thrive today and to stay competitive going forward. Complacency is unacceptable. Speed must be a consideration in all strategic decisions and most tactical ones, too. This need for speed is compelling leaders in all four roles to collaborate with each other, as well as with senior executives across the organization in areas such as finance, logistics, and product development. Collaboration, they point out, is the only way to move swiftly enough to survive in today’s hyper-fast and ultra-competitive market.
In addition to these topics, several issues and opportunities emerged unique to executives in the VP of Service role. Common themes include improving the customer experience by transforming service, collaborating with peers across the organization to facilitate change, and exploiting data for its analytical and predictive value.