At Merkle, we get unique insight into industry-related nuances as we enable CX (customer experience) transformation across our diverse portfolio of brands. In the High Tech industry specifically, several key characteristics shape the needs and requirements of successful CX transformation projects.
While the list of High Tech’s unique attributes is lengthy, let’s focus on a few components that require rethinking when addressing CX transformation projects:
- The industry is driven by numbers and reports. As a growth and “engineer-managed” industry, the management modus operandi is highly cadenced and highly reliant on numbers and reports, with a constant expectation for short term/immediate results, visible “on the dashboards.”
- High Tech has historically been a product-led industry. Even if the advent of customer experience as a critical component is now broadly understood and accepted, the natural tendency of the industry is to lead with products, and thus create organizations that prioritize product performance and look at metrics in silos. The industry cares about its customers, but the transformation to true customer centricity is not yet a reality in most companies.
- There are constant disruptions. Whether it’s organization changes, strategic shifts (new business models, new product lines, exiting legacy business, etc.), or new alliances, this industry is hyper dynamic, making long projects more difficult to drive to completion due to frequent disruption.
- There’s a tendency to cut budgets more quickly than in other industries. The High Tech industry reacts quickly to market shifts and signals. Marketing budgets are often the first area to cut when brands seek to increase margins or manage through difficult times.
CX transformation is a journey, not just a one-time task. As such, it’s critical for High Tech marketing executives or client officers to evolve their plans and expectations beyond historical practices.
Four Critical Practices for Successful Transformation
1. Create a tangible and clearly communicated vision.
A vision that articulates the full list of benefits of the transformation is key to getting buy-in and budget.
Because CX transformation can be a generic and over-used term, marketing leaders need to find ways to “make it real,” with examples, illustrations, live mocks-ups, or demos. High Tech leaders will not engage if the vision is not tangible or feels disconnected from their area of the business. Show how specific product lines or departments will benefit by showing what the change in experience will look and feel like rather than simply telling.
Use known experience examples and sites from competitors or well-known leaders in the industry, or from other industries. Help the leaders you are selling understand what the change will mean for their clients and for them -- how it will help renew sales, sell more products, better forecast, and more easily manage the supply chain. Speak the language of the leaders you need the buy-in from.
2. Build an all-encompassing plan to secure long-term buy-in across the entire organization.
Invest in building a phased, scalable plan that you can adapt over time, with clear milestones. From the get-go, involve all relevant teams and make different departments part of the project. Break the silos from day one: involve IT, supply chain, marketing, legal, and sales. Gather their ideas, collect the information you need to build the plan, and start building the internal understanding that the transformation is underway.
You can and probably should involve outside support, like consultants or marketing agencies, to accomplish this step, but always ensure you have an internal champion. This will ideally be the CMO, the head of sales, or even the CEO, to help it feel like a corporate plan and not an external plan.
Continuously communicate progress against the plan and the next steps and milestones. Avoid the project becoming secondary. Keep it top of mind, especially as organizational or corporate distractions appear.
3. Plan for and deliver quick wins.
Having a long-term plan and roadmap is not enough – the High Tech industry will need to see results fast. This is a key requirement of your roadmap. You need to demonstrate quick wins, with medium to high impact, and with low-to-medium effort/cost. This will strengthen the initial buy-in and make the transformation feel real.
Choose quick wins that will allow you to demonstrate progress for as many product lines (and thus leaders across the organization) as possible. Do not limit the benefits and good news to one service line.
4. Report progress through the right set of balanced KPIs.
You need to demonstrate with hard numbers how the project is improving results. Make sure you align with sales leaders and the Chief Experience Officer (CXO) upfront on what KPIs will show progress. Defining exact targets is often a more complicated, but necessary, step.
Make sure you have a large enough set of metrics and KPIs that address different components of the project: from highly operational metrics to customer satisfaction and eventually revenue and pipeline metrics (though that’s less critical in the early stages of the projects). Through your choice of metrics, you must be able to monitor all steps of the project, not just the final results (i.e., revenue or pipeline growth).
Celebrate successes and improvements to the metrics, not just project milestones. Deliver a monthly update to key stakeholders on project progress, leveraging the KPIs that are relevant for the phase of the project you’re in.
The above requirements are not unique High Tech, but they are must-haves due to how brands in the industry operate.
Customer experience transformation in High Tech is highly complicated and cannot be done in isolation or in silos. Managing the project requires more than technology or marketing expertise. Transforming the client experience requires internal transformation as well, and this can only be achieved by acknowledging the unique operations of the High Tech industry.
Companies that enact these practices are making incredible strides towards this fundamental shift. We are witnessing this first-hand, making this an incredibly exciting time for our High Tech clients.