2016: CIOs And CMOs Must Rally To Lead Customer-Obsessed Change Now

In the coming weeks Forrester will publish its annual set of predictions for our major roles, industries, and research themes — more than 35 in total. These predictions for 2016 will feature our calls on how firms will execute in the Age of the Customer, a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.

In 2016, the gap between customer-obsessed leaders and laggards will widen. Leaders will tackle the hard work of shifting to a customer-obsessed operating model; laggards will aimlessly push forward with flawed digital priorities and disjointed operations. It will require strong leadership to win, and we believe that in 2016 CMOs will step up to lead customer experience efforts. They face a massive challenge: Years of uncoordinated technology adoption across call centers, marketing teams, and product lines make a single view of the customer an expensive and near-impossible endeavor. As a result, in 2016 companies will be limited to fixing their customer journeys.

CMOs will have good partners, though. As they continue to break free of IT gravity and invest in business technology, CIOs will be at their sides. 2016 is the year that a new breed of customer-obsessed CIOs will become the norm. Fast-cycle strategy and governance will be more common throughout technology management and CIOs will push hard on departmental leaders to let go of their confined systems to make room for a simpler, unified, agile portfolio.

Firms without these senior leadership efforts will find themselves falling further behind in 2016, with poor customer experience ratings impacting their bottom line. Look for common symptoms of these laggards: Poorly coordinated investment in digital tools, misguided efforts to invent new C-level titles, and new products with unclear business models.

We will begin publishing our predictions for the CMO and CIO roles on November 2nd in conjunction with our Age of the Customer Executive Summit. A steady stream of predictions will follow in the days after that. In the meantime, I'm providing a sneak peek at our predictions documents by identifying the top 10 critical success factors for winning in the age of the customer:

  1. Disrupt leadership: CEOs will need to consider significant changes to their leadership teams to win a customer-led, digital market; CEOs that hang on to leadership structures to simply preserve current power structures will create unnecessary risk.
  2. Institute a customer-obsessed operating model: Companies that shift to customer-obsessed operations will gain sustainable differentiation; those that preserve old ways of doing business will begin the slow process of failing.
  3. Connect culture to business success: Those that invest in culture to fuel change will gain significant speed in the market; those that avoid or defer culture investments will lose ground in the market.
  4. Personalize the customer experience (CX): Customers will reward companies that anticipate their individual needs and punish those that have to relearn basic information at each touchpoint.
  5. Implement multidiscipline CX strategies: Companies that transform operations to deliver high-value, personalized experiences will drive a wedge between themselves and laggards just executing CX tactics.
  6. Operate at the speed of disruptors: Leaders will animate their scale, brand, and data while operating at the speed of disruptors; laggards will continue to be surprised and play defense in the market.
  7. Evolve loyalty programs: Companies that find ways for customers to participate with their brand and in product design will experience new and powerful levels of affinity; companies that try to optimize existing loyalty programs will see little impact to affinity or revenue.
  8. Convert analytics to customer value: Leaders will use analytics as a competitive asset to deliver personalized services across human and digital touchpoints; laggards will drown in big data.
  9. Master digital: Companies that become experts in digital will further differentiate themselves from those that dabble in a set of digital services that merely decorate their traditional business.
  10. Elevate privacy as a differentiator: Leaders will extend privacy from a risk and legal consideration to a position to win customers; companies that relegate privacy as a niche consideration will play defense and face churn risk.

As you can tell we’re expecting 2016 to be another year of rapid change as firms learn to cope and respond to empowered customers and agile competitors. The decisions companies make, and how fast they act, will determine if they thrive or fail in the age of the customer.

To learn more, download our guide to the Top 10 Success Factors To Determine Who Wins And Who Fails In The Age Of The Customer. In-depth analysis on these themes and more will be available on our blog in the coming weeks.