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CX is at a digital tipping point—here’s what IT leaders can prepare for

As companies broaden CX technology investments, IT leaders are in a unique position to drive CX forward.

By Hannah Wren, Content Marketing Associate

Last updated September 23, 2021

The rollercoaster of 2020 changed customer experience (CX) for good.

The coronavirus pandemic accelerated businesses’ transition to a digital-first world. Companies are rapidly acquiring technologies to adapt to growing customer needs, putting a spotlight on IT leaders to solve new, customer-focused business challenges.

As companies broaden CX technology investments to keep up with changes in how they operate and interact with customers, IT leaders are in a unique position to drive CX forward, enabling speed and agility to accelerate digital growth. Forget multi-year plans for digital transition, CX is at a tipping point—meaning the time to act is now, or risk getting left behind.

Technology and CX strategies are one and the same

In Zendesk’s 2021 Customer Experience Trends Report, organizations reported seismic shifts in how they work:

  • 88% of tech decision-makers at mid-sized companies and 91% at enterprise companies say COVID accelerated digital adoption

  • 56% of mid-sized businesses and 59% of enterprise companies manage remote teams

  • 98% of mid-to-large sized companies implemented new tools or processes

Businesses are realigning the entire organization around digital technologies to adjust to new customer expectations and a predominately remote workforce. In fact, two-thirds of tech decision-makers say investing in digital technology will grow revenue.

Technology and CX strategies are now one and the same, if they weren’t already. Today’s IT leaders must connect the dots between what internal teams are working to accomplish for external customers and building the infrastructure that works holistically across an organization.

Over half of businesses around the world expect CX technology investment to increase in the next year

Over half of businesses around the world expect CX technology investment to increase in the next year, and IT leaders can help lead the way.

According to our research, CX organizations are investing to add new ways to offer support, adapt to keep up with customers, and better manage distributed workforces.

Using our data on how 90,000 businesses across 175 countries are prioritizing CX technology investment, we’ve outlined key takeaways for IT leaders as they prepare a digital strategy for the next-normal.

Investment area 01: New ways to interact with customers online

Interacting with businesses online has become the new normal. Organizations need to ensure they’re providing a digital experience that’s on par with or better than in-person experiences—and that means putting customer data at agents’ fingertips for efficient and personalized customer interactions.

Yet data access remains a persistent challenge. Less than half of agents can access relevant customer data.

Less than half of agents can access relevant customer data

91% of CIOs say how companies handle and use customer data is as important as their products and services offerings, according to a KPMG CIO survey. CIOs and other IT leaders can help bridge data gaps between departments by championing open and flexible systems in replacement of monolithic ones that force organizations to operate disjointedly.

Eliminating data silos means creating a unified customer view, one that connects data across channels, systems, and software. When agents don’t have to toggle between systems to get a holistic view of your customer’s journey, they can personalize interactions—and accessing data in those tools from a centralized location goes a long way toward improving efficiency. It transforms time-consuming retrieval processes into one-click processes.

On average, high-performing mid-sized businesses manage 40% more customer data and high-performing enterprise teams manage 35% more data, meaning more efficient agents and better-personalized CX.

And of course, as companies manage more data, information security is critical—security management remains a priority for tech decision-makers in 2021.

Investment area 02: Agile tech

CX leaders cited the ability to quickly adapt to evolving customer needs as their top pain point in 2020 and the highest priority going forward.

Agile technology is technology that makes adjustments seamless rather than complicated and costly. This has always been important, but the environment of constant change put agile tech at the center of business strategy—and IT leaders play a critical role. They have a line of sight across the organization that, combined with their technical fluency, can build agility into their business’s DNA.

With composable architecture at the crux of agility, high-performing organizations build an infrastructure that enables them to identify trends across systems to understand customers’ needs and use those insights to optimize operations. And 37% of CIOs surveyed in IDG’s 2021 State of the CIO cite analyzing customer needs and behaviors as a priority this year.

37% of CIOs cite analyzing customer needs and behaviors as a priority

Part of building a nimble cloud-based architecture means ensuring teams don’t have to work hard just to access data, and can focus on understanding and reacting to it instead.

Investment area 03: Managing a distributed workforce

As CX leaders learn to manage a distributed workforce, they’re laser-focused on eliminating friction for agents in addition to customers.

We already know cloud-based systems enable employees to work anywhere without businesses having to build and maintain their own data centers—that’s table stakes. But as organizations expand investments in employee experience (EX) technologies, 70% of IT buyers say their company is investing in new ways to engage employees.

Specifically, a third of tech-decision makers plan to invest in automating business processes or internal support ticketing, roughly doubling investment in these areas. IT leaders can champion pairing internal support with automation by highlighting how it helps teams work smarter. For instance, an AI-powered bot that recommends help center articles makes employees, and those serving employees, more efficient.

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The digital tipping point

Companies are rapidly adding digital tools to help them scale their operations and better serve customers. We’ll guide you through your technology options, and best practices for using them, in our how-to guide.

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