Breaking the engagement: Is IT just not into me anymore?

Man using a digital tablet in a corridor

I didn’t receive my 24-hour check-in reminder email or text from my favorite airline yesterday.  I must admit I became a bit anxious about the apparent oversight.  Was there a problem with my reservation? Had I been bumped? Would my preferred seating still be available? How could they forget ME??!! I felt like my mother does when I don’t call her for a week.

As technology moves to what techies refer to as the “applications layer” that resides closest to the customer, the need for more intimate engagement obviously increases. More important, the effects of “breaking the engagement” in any way can have rather serious implications on brand perception and thus on revenue.

This enrichment and continuity of customer engagement has evolved into the 21st century version of “keeping the lights on” for IT professionals. Unfortunately, CIOs quickly learn that engagement is much broader than the UI piece they’re used to doing. And quite frankly, as with marketing and communications strategy, this is not IT’s strong suit.

As seasoned executives with any C-title can tell you, developing an initial engagement blueprint is the easy part.  Adding continuity and variety to technology-driven engagement on the deployment side takes very hard work that must continuously be conducted entirely from the outside-in.

The topic of the relationship between outside-in and excellence in customer engagement was a major theme at this week’s CSC ASPIRE event in Orlando. CSC Leading Edge Forum’s Simon Wardley in his scary-smart presentation on Value Chain Mapping emphasized how executives create the illusion of customer centricity when in fact it’s entirely inside-out thinking. He calls this resistance to being totally customer-centric a “tyranny of action over situational awareness.” This results in ineffective one-size-fits-all digital strategies, as was evidenced by the very passionate resistance to BYOD in the IT suite.

While this is not new to marketing wonks, one size does not fit all when it comes to engagement.  As a former international media executive, I know that the print experience must be totally different from the web experience, and that mobile engagement can be subdivided into tablet and phone interfaces. It wasn’t all just “media.”

But what further complicates the deployment strategy is that boomers can have a slightly different (but critical) engagement need than a millennial. Add to that the cross-cultural aspects of Chinese engagement versus American engagement, and we can see why one with triple-deep technology engagement skills can become a franchise player in the enterprise.

One forward-thinking CIO mentioned how her job required the identification of “omni-channels,” a technique we use quite frequently in global advertising.  While this may sound like one-size-fits-all technology engagement it is a bit more nuanced in that it tries to identify the highest common engagement denominator rather than the lowest.  They then develop slightly tailored engagements for those who fall outside the engagement core.

Despite dozens of use-case examples on outside–in thinking at CSC ASPIRE, perhaps the best was presented by CSC’s CTO Dan Hushon related to the inseparability of client co-creation and digital innovation. Hushon pointed out that to totally understand the engagement needs of clients, they must drive the collaborative process. Realizing this had not been the case in the past, CSC has installed the TweetChat platform to enable real-time and unfettered collaboration with clients and partners. CSC clients are not only asked about innovation, they are drivers of digital disruption on a 24/7 basis.

Where are the drivers for engagement strategy in your firm? How much does IT get involved in the “softer” side of engagement strategy?

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