A recent study of 10,000 conversations about luxury brands reveals that “brand promise is the most important benefit category” for consumers. Functional appeal and product experience rank below brand promise in this analysis. Obviously, this research has meaning for marketers, but there are profound implications for the CIO and IT organization.
In a previous post, I described the gap between how brands view themselves and consumers’ perceptions. As summarized in this diagram, it’s extraordinary to see that fully 80 percent of companies think they provide a superior proposition while only 8 percent of consumers agree. The data is from relevant research by consulting company Bain (PDF download):
Although these numbers refer specifically to the gap between brand promise and customer perception among consumers, evidence suggests similar kinds of business dissatisfaction with IT performance. This crisis of confidence has led to a significant shift of technology spending (about 40 percent) away from IT into the business.
In other words, when IT does not deliver what the business expects, the business bypasses IT and buys its own technology — it’s the reason why shadow IT exists. Overcoming the delivery gap between IT’s brand promise and negative customer perceptions requires the CIO to do a better job meeting customer expectations.
Most IT departments gather business requirements and compile feature lists as standard mechanisms to translate business needs into software functionality. For example, finance may require flexibility in invoicing or processing product returns, while HR may need to manage worker classifications in particular ways.
Although these feature/function requests form the backbone of typical IT activities, they are boring and do not necessarily create a strong connection with users. Feature lists represent the humdrum business of IT as usual and we should not delude ourselves into thinking otherwise. By their nature, business requirements and feature lists neither inspire nor delight customers.
To leap across the barrier of user delight, IT must innovate, communicate, engage, and collaborate to deliver great experiences to customers.
Experiences, rather than lists, are the foundation for customer delight in both marketing and IT. This is where the CIO has much to learn from counterparts in marketing, the best of whom understand that positive experience is the real driver behind customer satisfaction.