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Tech professionals need to 'get out of the data' and talk to people again

The irony is that while demand is high for close customer engagement, technology tends to impersonalize it even more.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer
Reviewed by Min Shin
IT professionals working together
Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

It wasn't too long ago that customers of Citizens Bank found their accounts overdrawn, Wells Fargo customers missed their paychecks, and Southwest Airlines customers missed their flights -- on two occasions. These were terrible customer experiences, for sure, and all caused by software glitches. But it's the more mundane, day-to-day inconveniences that can ruin good CX.

Superior customer experience may be everyone's top priority, but technology professionals often get left out of the loop. This is a shame because tech professionals need to be out in front of things, especially since, Gartner predicts, over the coming months and years, at least half of companies will mess things up, failing to "unify engagement channels, resulting in a disjointed and siloed CX that lacks context."

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That's a job for technology professionals indeed. "Most organizations struggle to deliver seamless digital experiences across the touchpoints of the customer journey," according to Gartner analyst Irina Guseva, writing in a recent report.  

The irony is that while demand is high for close customer engagement, technology tends to impersonalize it even more. "We hear how technology is bringing all of us closer to our customers, but it can also disintermediate where the product and service being delivered is not in person," says Andy MacMillan, CEO of UserTesting. "So, tech professionals face a few challenges in regards to customer experience, mainly they are not interacting with customers on a daily basis, if at all. They don't have that level of insight, which can be critical."

For starters, IT professionals still have plenty of work on the back end of things -- addressing the multiple silos hinders the flow of information and services that are part of CX. In addition, "monolithic technologies undermine the consistency of experience," Guseva and her team point out. She recommends developing and adopting "an organization-wide digital experience strategy across multiple touchpoints of the customer journey. Apply the principles of total experience to bridge the digital experience gap by linking CX, UX, employee experience (EX) and multi-experience (MX)." Gartner calls this "composable UX."

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More of the human touch is required as well. Both corporate culture and technology culture may inhibit CX efforts, but MacMillan also blames what he calls a "proximity barrier" that arose during the COVID-19 years and has remained in place. Prior to the pandemic, he explains, "IT service providers would visit customers' offices and actually walk around and speak with people, help them with the technology if needed, and build relationships. This has changed dramatically. Much of IT service is now remote. Both corporate and technology culture have become virtual cultures."

MacMillan's advice to tech professionals is to "get out of the data and get to the actual people. I think the key is to get out and get direct feedback from people, that is the only way to build up your customer intuition and get the forward-looking perspectives required to build new products and experiences. Oftentimes, these insights can't be captured through data alone. Find those people that are unlike yourself -- so hypothetically, if you are a product developer, building solutions for marketers, go speak with the marketers."

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Interact "with the people facing the challenges that your technology is trying to solve," MacMillan urges. They may be "in other departments, or your customers' offices, he says. "Get different insights -- and use those insights to validate what you're building and how to build it. This will yield a much greater level of understanding that you won't get from just a snapshot of data. Get out and speak with people, ask questions, hear their reactions; listen and learn from them." 

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