Engaging the Customer

Engaging the Customer

As enterprises focus increasingly on growth, direct customer engagement is more important than ever

Despite uncertain economic conditions, or maybe because of them, enterprises are focusing on growth more than ever. Therefore, the value of engagement with customers is increasing for all concerned.

Engagement does not stop at the IT boundary line. CIOs in all types of enterprises are responding by focusing more on increasing their breadth and depth of customer relationships. For example, 54 per cent of respondents to the 2008 Gartner CIO Survey named “customer intimacy” as their key value discipline.

But the response to this question also raises more questions. What is “customer intimacy”? And what does it have to do with IT?

CIOs have largely focused their attention almost exclusively on internal customers of IT services within the enterprise. Until recently, “customer intimacy” meant providing the unmentionable in polite circles: customer relationship management. Those days are now behind us. Gartner’s CIO survey research and related case studies reveal that some CIOs are taking the opportunity to increase their “touch” with external customers — the ultimate consumers of the enterprise’s products and services — through means available to all.

The question is: How can the CIO use direct customer touch to increase value for the customer, enterprise and IT organisation? The answer is different for every CIO.

The place to start is to understand that not all external customers are equal. This is why customer segmentation, one of the oldest marketing tools, was invented.

For any customer group, enterprises can choose from five customer engagement models that align with enterprise growth strategies. From least to most engaged.

They include:

Transactional: Improve business processes.

Demographic: Expand into new markets or new geographies.

Personalised: Target new and existing customers more effectively.

Contributing: Expand current customer relationships.

Partnering: Enable new growth through innovation.

Higher levels of engagement require greater levels of mutual value exchange. The value for the enterprise in every engagement model is support for the growth strategy, while the value for the customer varies depending on the type of engagement model.

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