Editor's note: The following is a guest article from Lloyd Adams, Senior Vice President & Managing Director, East Region at SAP America, Inc.
The Notre Dame football team is 5-1 and having an impressive season (watch out, Alabama). Few things compare to the excitement and energy of 80,000 fans in blue, green and gold piling into Notre Dame Stadium to watch the Fighting Irish bring home a win.
While every season is action-packed, it was my visit to Notre Dame Stadium last season that sparked an observation.
As I looked at my peers enjoying the halftime show and anticipating the third quarter, I realized that elation on gameday wouldn't be possible without the people who plan university athletic events and provide services that keep the Notre Dame faithful coming back.
Notre Dame staff deploys a business truth
The staff knows a secret about one of the biggest drivers of business today. Positive (or negative) experiences aren't solely dictated by outcomes; it's as much, if not more, about the journey. A Notre Dame win is celebrated by fans, but the comfort of a fan's seat, the length of the line to the bathroom and concessions, and in-stadium technology impact a fan's assessment of the game.
This is useful insight whether in the context of collegiate and professional sports or any Fortune 500 business.
Humans experience more than 20 emotions ranging from joy and anger to anxiety and surprise – and they all dictate how customers and employees perceive and work with brands.
A horrible purchasing experience becomes a vivid memory that changes perceptions of a product or company.
Prioritize experience management
Using technology in a way that helps your organization better understand customers' experiences at every stage of the engagement process should be a key priority for CIOs.
CIOs can use reputation management software to capture negative customer sentiment and report back to vendors when they're missing the mark. To find creative ways to generate data streams, CIOs might consider policies to periodically survey on-site vendor staff or enable vendors to glean insights from employees directly interacting with customers.
All of this valuable, real-time experiential feedback can be harvested to develop minimum acceptable standards, have strategic and honest conversations with vendors, strengthen agreements and spark new partnerships.
Data shows why this can make or break an organization.
A recent Qualtrics Omnibus survey found the most common reaction to a terrible experience with a vendor — after returning the gift — is that respondents told others how horrible it was and complained on external channels.
Lost business is no longer contained to the price of a product or service; it's tied to a larger, reputation-driven cost.
This begs the question: How should business leaders, specifically CIOs, respond to this shift in the pathway of customer and employee experience and how can they become intelligent enterprises capable of adjusting in real-time?
The roadmap to intelligent enterprise
This process begins with a statistic. A Bain & Co. survey discovered that while 80% of companies believe they deliver the best customer experience, customers reported that only 8% agree.
A 72% gap is statistically significant — it's what we call an experience gap. The insight here is that businesses are responding to what they think the customer wants rather than what the customer actually wants.
This stems from a proclivity to overindex on hard figures and operational data without contextualizing this information by matching it with the wealth of experiential data generated on social media and through direct customer feedback.
Finding the fix
We've pinpointed the problem. How can companies find solutions?
The first step is to align directly with business stakeholders to understand how research data can help them succeed. Insights are only as valuable as your ability to match them to actionable process improvements. So much is written about big data from a quantitative perspective.
What good do massive data volumes do for a CIO if there's no process in place to map insights to business processes and drive actionable next steps? It creates more questions than answers. Identify key metrics, whether they are marketing, financial or customer insights and the processes these insights will ultimately improve.
As a CIO, when you're conducting research and pulling proposals, the "Why" behind your push to help your organization collect and make sense of an increasing volume of big data is the most important factor for getting leadership buy-in, proving ROI and establishing an intelligent enterprise system that leverages and integrates experiential data and operational data.
From a tactical standpoint, here are best practices:
- Centralize experiential data collection and management to a single system of record to overcome silos, mitigate fragmentation and lower costs.
- Invest resources in training staff with instrumentation they need to make faster business decisions and illustrate how experiential data feeds into improvements to the processes they manage.
- Embed experiential data collection process into operational systems (e.g. ERP, HRM, CRM and/or SCM) to take full advantage of data categories and how they interact.
- Given sensitivities and an increasingly complex regulatory environment, collaborate with partners that have expertise on global data compliance and governance to avoid unnecessary challenges.
The value of merging X- and O-data
Matching experiential to operational data is key to resolving the experience gap figure I mentioned previously.
Innovation enables businesses of all sizes and industries to achieve a similar level of experiential-operational data synthesis (known as XO.) By extension, companies that follow this path will see results in the form of employee, customer and brand sentiment — it's just a matter of getting started.
Data and feedback are key to resolving the disparity. The Notre Dame event staff uses data to make gameday experiences memorable. Negative social media comments can be relayed to event staff to address a pretzel shortage at a concession stand or to resolve an issue with seating.
As an alum, I think Notre Dame is unmatched in terms of its understanding of fans and loyalty. They keep fans like me coming back.