​CIO playbook: HP talks customer experience and digital transformation

It's time for IT to become the hero of awesome customer experience in the enterprise, Two digital leaders explain why this matters and how to do it.
Written by Michael Krigsman, Contributor

Chief Information Officers and their IT departments face dramatically shifting expectations from users. Among these changes is the demand that IT improve customer experience; not just service and support, although that's part of it, genuinely becoming a customer-oriented change agent.

Every great CIO I know - with no exceptions - thinks about their role as driving organizational change.

The constraints to which IT must adhere complicate the relationship between customer experience and IT. For example, the CIO must make these goals work despite their appearing mutually exclusive:

  • Rapid innovation vs. system stability
  • Openness vs. privacy and security
  • Agility vs. business process stability
  • Strategic contribution vs. cost-savings

Because customer experience is a critical issue for IT, we devoted episode 251 of the CXOTalk series of conversations with the world's top innovators to this topic. I invited an innovative IT manager from HP to chat with a well-known customer experience and digital transformation expert.

Gwen Becknell works for HP as Senior Director, Employee Experience and Support. She focuses on the customer experience that IT provides to its customers, which are HP employees.

Tamara McCleary, is one of the most well-known advocates for customer experience and digital transformation. She travels widely giving keynote speeches around the world.

The entire conversation between Gwen and Tamara sparkles with insight, so I urge you to watch the full video embedded above. You can also read the complete transcript. I have pulled out edited comments below:

Why is customer experience critical to IT?

Tamara McCleary: If you don't have customers, you don't have a business. Isn't IT involved in everything? IT is central to business success in this era of digital transformation.

Businesses must transform themselves to stay relevant and to grow in a rapidly expanding digital environment. The rules of the game have changed with respect to customer experience as well because, as we all know, and we are all consumers and customers. In the B2B and enterprise space but also in the B2C space, we are all consumers.

Do you guys remember how incredibly amazing and how it surprised and delighted us when we were first on an airplane when it had Wi-Fi? And we were like, "Wow! This is amazing! IT's incredible!" But now, if you don't have Wi-Fi or the entertainment system is down in-flight, everybody is angry. Why? Because it's become an expectation.

The rules have changed, which means we must be incredibly creative and develop the ability to co-create experiences that keep customers coming back. If they don't like us, if they don't like the experience they're having, that's going to drive them to the competition. The competitive edge, right now, in this time of digital transformation, is exquisite customer experience.

Gwen Becknell: We have twenty-four hours in the day. Everyone has the same amount of time. With technology, we give people more time by making things more efficient for them.

But, the converse is also true. If we trip them up, then we're taking time away from them. We've got to be cognizant that we can give or take time away from our employees, our customers, etc.

Think about the days of have audio conferencing. You had to get ready early to dial in: first the number then the conference code, then wait for everyone to get on. With Skype or Zoom, with the click of a button, you get into your calls and keep going.

When that doesn't work perfectly or seamlessly, we become because the technology is not enabling us to be as quick as we want.

Tamara McCleary: How many of us get annoyed when we send a text message and don't get a response for a while? You see the little three dots blinking on your phone, and you're like, "Come on! Just answer the question!" Chaos and feeling overwhelmed are the new norm. More time is the one thing that we grasp.

How do customer expectations affect IT?

Gwen Becknell: We want to be the lights-on organization so people don't have to think about the technology. That's a good day for us. The more we can get into that kind of electricity, lights-on, mode where everything just works seamlessly, the more we can create a seamless experience for users, the better off we are.

In my team, we're working on mobility: ensuring that users can work seamlessly from one modality to another. We want to be device-agnostic, where it doesn't matter if I'm on my phone or my computer or my tablet. I should be able to go seamlessly from one thing to another. I should be able to transit around the building and not worry about my Wi-Fi dropping or that I'm going in and out of a conference room.

For us, the workplace of the future means walking into a conference room that instantaneously knows I'm there. It starts a Zoom meeting or a Skype call and connects wirelessly, sharing the screen with the rest of the world.

How does IT fade into the background to make sure that employees, our customers, can do their job without worrying about technology? We're looking at the easy button.

Tamara McCleary: I have a lot of compassion for IT departments. Employees ask them to do all kinds of things now, not tomorrow. It seems like sales, marketing, customer service, product development -- every department - are all chasing shiny objects. Then, they shift gears and want something else. They come to IT, not realizing all the projects IT has already started and is working towards.

Employees seem to expect that IT is a department of wizards with magic wands: whenever you have a desire, ask the IT department and they'll do it right away.

It plays into this immediacy within our culture. We have no ability to delay gratification in our society and so within the workplace, you see, "I need this and I need you to do it now."

Gwen Becknell: Employee expectations have never been higher on the IT department.

Technology is ubiquitous the technology around us. People have more technology available in their homes. As that stuff changes, expectations at work grow exponentially.

Tamara hit on this notion of empathy, making sure that we utilize designed thinking and empathizing with our customers. For me, it's our employees and making sure that we empathize with what they need to do.

This expectation of instant gratification is tough from an IT perspective, even though agile methodologies enable us to shift things quickly. It's always a dichotomy of trying to do more with less. We don't have the ability to instantaneous deploy all the different technologies we want to.

But, we're also on the opposite side of that, looking at costs. Even working at HP, I don't have an unlimited budget, so we try to get the most for our money, bringing technology to our employees cost-effectively.

How can IT manage cost containment vs. user experience?

Tamara McCleary: Cost is a high-priority consideration. At the same time, when focusing specifically on customer experience, it's not all about cost. It's considering questions like, "Who's the customer?" and "How are we working together to serve the customer?"

It's about making sure that everyone within the organization functions with the same value set, the same passion, the same commitment to service our customers."

Customer experience, internally and externally, is about people coming together around shared values and purpose. That saves money in the end because you don't have all the problems that arise when people say, "Not my job. That's them. That's not me."

People need work that is meaningful and real. When you have that, you create trust with your target market.

Gwen Becknell: Tamara's right. Working at a very large organization, we do have siloes out there and IT is separate from the rest of the business. We're trying to knock down those walls and understand what is the most important for our customers, the different business units. It's harder to do than it might sound, to get in there and make sure that we have shared alignment around our goals and expectations.

I spend a lot of time with the business units. With 77,000 employees, we take care of many customers every single day, with varying expectations from the regions versus the global units and different business lines. It's not one-size fits all from IT, but understanding differences related to segmentation and serving those different segments.

That's one of the big things that my team has been working on. For example, how do we get away from the email jail that everyone hates? We're looking at things like teams and social collaborations to break down some of those walls and engage our employees with video clips and with social media channels. We're trying to engage employees rather just send one-way communications on email.

CXOTalk brings together the most world's top business and government leaders for in-depth conversations on AI and innovation. Be sure to watch our many episodes! Thank you to Zoom for underwriting this episode of CXOTalk.

Thumbnail image credit: Loren Javier, Creative Commons.

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