The technological foundation for the age of the customer

It's easy to get swept up in the glitz of shiny new technology, but there's more to pleasing the customer. Solid performance day in and out takes precedence. After you've shored up your IT infrastructure, you can layer on technology that dazzles customers and keeps them coming back.

customers first

According to Forrester Research, we are now firmly entrenched in The Age of the Customer. Their research shows that during the 20th Century and the New Millennium, companies that have outperformed their peers have been linked together by a core competence. From the 1900s through 1960, it was the age of manufacturing. Companies that mastered mass production, such as Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and U.S. Steel, rose to the top. From 1960 to 1990, we moved into the Age of Distribution during which companies like Walmart and UPS won. In the 1990s through the 2000s, it was the Age of Information with Google, Amazon, and Comcast emerging as top performers.

In 2010, the Age of the Customer began. Now the customer is empowered and leading the way. Companies with a laser focus on offering an exceptional customer experience will be today’s and tomorrow’s winners. These businesses will ensure that customers feel good as they discover, evaluate, buy, receive and use the products and services they sell.

Leaders in customer experience win

Making sure you provide an exceptional customer experience is important because it differentiates your company from the competition. That’s because manufacturing, distribution strength and information mastery are now considered commodities.

Also, customers are empowered. They are using digital channels to assess competitive product and pricing information. They are looking at online reviews. Thus, while exceptional service can create positive publicity, any missteps can quickly bring your company down. Your competition is likely rising to the challenge, and as they strive to meet and exceed customer needs, expectations rise. Now customers are demanding high quality and consistent digital experiences anywhere, anytime as well as high-value and efficient service online and off.

In this environment, research shows the frontrunners in customer experience outperform the market. While the compounded average growth rate for customer experience leaders is 17 percent, the laggards limped along at 3 percent.  Who’s in that winning group? Companies like Ally Bank, Barnes and Noble, USAA and QVC. Because they understand the efficiency that technology affords and that digital channels are essential to keep customers happy, companies like these are making technological investments. They are transforming their IT systems to become more nimble, reliable and customer friendly.

Those that fall behind will lose

Where there are winners, there are also losers. As proof, you only have to look to the mass extinction that has occurred within Fortune 500 companies. Only 12 percent of companies that were on the Fortune 500 list in 1955 still remained in 2015. Also, the staying power of Fortune 500 companies is dwindling. Fifty years ago, a company could expect to remain in the Fortune 500 for 75 years. Today, it’s less than 15 and diminishing all the time.

The cost of entry to digital success

In a world where business applications must be available, responsive and cost-effective, investing in a sound information technology infrastructure is the cost of entry. A company’s IT infrastructure will either help employees who support customers or hinder them. Thus, it’s essential to success to make sure all systems are up and running at acceptable speeds 24/7/365. Without this as a foundation, it does not matter how much a company invests in technology to support omnichannel service, personalization through Big Data, or cool mobile apps.

When companies fail to do the groundwork and shore up their infrastructure, customer service will likely decline, and costs will rise, making the business less competitive and sabotaging profitability.

  • Advanced technology slows down or goes down, leaving customers on hold and waiting in lines, or patients being put at risk in hospitals that cannot access their records … and more.
  • Apps that are the face of a company’s brand go down and are rendered useless when customers need them.
  • Technology costs rise due to over-provisioning and mismanagement.
  • IT departments waste time firefighting IT infrastructure issues rather than working to transform the organization digitally and increase value to customers.

So lay the foundation for success in the Age of the Customer by building and maintaining a sound IT infrastructure. Your launching pad for this is an infrastructure performance management (IPM) solution that helps you to plan your technology investments strategically and manage their performance.

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Copyright © 2017 IDG Communications, Inc.

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