Creating a 360 Customer Experience
Cindy Breshears, CTO of IBM Bluewolf, shares how companies that win have the best CX
“Customers have more choices than ever before and customer experience is the only differentiator that organizations really have out there.” — Cindy Breshears, CTO Bluewolf, an IBM Company
Back in 2012, IBM made a bold, strategic acquisition.
Now, Bluewolf is on a tear, introducing new initiatives at a lightning pace.
One of the women behind these transformations is Cindy Breshears.
Cindy has been a CIO for multiple organizations over the last 16 years and is currently Chief Transformation Officer (CTO) for Bluewolf. There, she provides digital transformation leadership.
Cindy recently sat down with us on IT Visionaries to discuss one trend that is taking over the IT landscape: customer experience. What follows are some of the most important actionable insights for other technology executives who are looking to get an edge.
Consumers have access to more choices than ever before. They also expect the utilization of, installation of, and support for these services or products to be hassle-free.
“Execs don’t decide how customer-centric their company is. Customers do. And as we know, the expectations from a customer are changing rapidly, as their last, best experience becomes their new baseline for what they expect for the next experience.”
Over the last decade, as technology has advanced, customer experience (CX) has become more important than ever. Every aspect of the customer journey — from purchase, to use, to upgrading, to fixing a bug — must be optimized to the customer. Cindy calls this the ‘360 experience’:
“It’s a really what I would call 360 experience with the customer. A good [company] has a journey and take the data points for the beginning to the end and does a full 360 for that service or product. A bad experience is when, for example, I have a baby, but then I forget that I have to feed and clothe them. So I only go halfway with my engagement model.
“Companies must focus on optimizing every customer moment. In Bluewolf — as the top Salesforce Consulting partner — we believe Salesforce is the platform for that customer engagement and innovation model that we’re just discussing and our mission is to help our customers realize it and not just do half of an engagement model.”
Every part of the customer journey must be geared towards providing excellent service. Engaging a customer at the point of purchase, but then only providing mediocre upgrade options will result in a lost customer. And when “68% of consumers who switch to the competition don’t come back,” making sure that initial engagement is positive is crucial. Creating a 360 experience from the very beginning will result in a customer for life.
But, who owns CX? Which department is responsible for creating this 360 experience?
“I think we get into this Silo mentality with customer experience. So for me, the question is not about who owns customer experience, but who executes on customer experience. And the answer is everyone in the organization executes on customer experience.
“If it doesn’t start from the top, if it’s not being felt from an employee standpoint, and it doesn’t radiate through the entire culture and a mindset, then the customer experience will be in silos instead of being owned by everybody.”
Silos create gaps in the customer journey; a gap that could result in a lost customer. To prevent these gaps from occurring, every department must provide excellent customer experience.
Another part of Cindy’s job as CTO is to find where new tech can be brought in to support Bluewolf. AI, bots, and machine learning are changing how companies are able to interact with their customers.
“Technologies like AI, cloud, blockchain, and the internet of things will change the world. But only if they can be effectively trained, trusted, and applied. So it goes back to that change management piece… We have a lot of new technology but how to enable them into the organization and into our enterprises is the key.”
One example of this is transforming healthcare and improving patients’ medical experiences.
“We have patients that expect their healthcare providers to be familiar with their medical record history. So what we’ve done is we’ve used Salesforce Health Cloud — which provides a 360 view of the patient including previous doctor visits, medical history, transactions, and past inquiries — and when a patient dials their healthcare provider, IBM Watson Health improves call key management by analyzing a patient’s data to automatically route them to the appropriate agent for their issue…Then the Salesforce automation enables providers to officially route and escalate patient cases, minimizing the wait times for patients.”
Using this method, Cindy and her team have helped innovate new ways of approaching medicine and healthcare. Despite the results, she says the process of pushing IT to the forefront has not been easy.
Throughout her career, Cindy has heard that CIOs are not change leaders. She believes they are. But without the support of an entire team and organization, she acknowledges change can be difficult to execute.
“CIOs have been talking change since the first day they got a seat at the table, but it takes the culture to interconnect metrics, technology, process people, and training together. The CIO doesn’t stand alone… he’s a body of a team of management that makes effect of change.
“The bottom line here for me, and the CIO as a change leader, is that leadership must administrate commitment to the long-term outcomes of customer experience.
“Commitment is through building a culture and organizational transformation plan that aligns and continuously adapts to business and technology with metrics to succeed and get the big ideas to reality.”
The customer journey is ultimately what will cause your company to keep or lose customers. Creating good customer experiences is the responsibility of the entire organization. Communication, clear expectations, appropriate technological adaptation, and a customer centric culture all work together to generate the 360 experience.
What’s the app that you’re using on your phone that’s the most fun right now?
“My daughter is in Africa, so the most fun is being able to see my daughter through FaceTime.”
Favorite time-saving tool?
“The Delta app for my flights [allows me] to make changes. And Amazon, I buy everything from Amazon.”
Favorite team, sports or otherwise?
“Favorite sport is dirt biking and ATV riding. Favorite football team is, from a professional sense, the New England Patriots, because you’ve got to love that Tom Brady.”
“I like Ted Talks and really enjoy the IBM podcast.”
Favorite show that you’re watching?
“I have two! The Americans and The Shooter.”
“The one that kinds of bills into what I do on a daily basis is Who Moved My Cheese?”
Favorite one-day getaway in Atlanta, or surrounding areas?
“I would have to say going up to a place where we do a lot of dirt biking and ATV riding. We go up there for the day and I get on a bike or an ATV and I don’t think about anything else in the world.”
Favorite Dreamforce moment?
“I have a lot of them, but my most favorite was when I was one of those CIOs they did a spotlight on. They gave me a makeover and did a video of me. Then we all went out to dinner with Mark that night and it was a great experience.”
To learn more about transforming IT and creating a 360 customer experience, check out the full interview with Cindy.
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This interview has been edited for length and clarity.