One of the things we heard about extensively during our time on the ground at SXSW Interactive 2013 in Austin over the past week was the importance of the customer experience.
Whether that be in applications in mobile devices, in customer service via the social media, the physical experience of a brand's product or service... the customer experience rules!
And this anecdotal data is supported by IBM's own research, including last year's Global CEO Study, which queried 1,700 CEOs from 64 countries and 18 industries and found that CEOs are changing the nature of work by adding a powerful dose of openness, transparency, and employee empowerment to the command-and-control ethos that has characterized the modern corporation for more than a century.
The study revealed that the advantages of this fast-moving trend are clear: Companies that outperform their peers are 30 percent more likely to identify openness -- often characterized by a greater use of social media as a key enabler of collaboration and innovation -- as a key influence on their organization.
Those "outperformers" are also embracing new models of working that tap into the collective intelligence of an organization and its networks to devise new ideas and solutions for increased profitability and growth.
In order to forge those closer connections with customers, partners, and a new generation of employees in the future, CEOs plan to shift their focus from using email and the phone as primary communication vehicles to using social networks as a new path for direct engagement. And while social media is the least utilized of all customer interaction methods today, it stands to become the number two organizational engagement method within the next five years, a close second to face-to-face interactions.
Big-data, big opportunity
Given the data explosion being witnessed by many organizations, CEOs also recognized the need for more sophisticated business analytics to mine the data being tracked online, on mobile phones and social media sites. The traditional approach to understanding customers better has been to consolidate and analyze transactions and activities from across the entire organization. However, to remain relevant, CEOs must piece together a more holistic view of the customer based on how he or she engages the rest of the world, not just their organization.
The ability to derive value from data is strongly correlated with performance. Outperforming organizations are twice as good as underperformers at accessing and drawing insights from data. Outperformers are also 84 percent better at translating those insights into real action.
From theory to action
To this end, IBM today announced the creation of the IBM Customer Experience Lab, dedicated to helping business leaders transform the way customers experience their products, services and brands through the use of mobile, social, cloud and advanced analytics technologies.
IBM Research scientists and business consultants will co-create with clients to deliver systems that learn and personalize the experiences of each individual customer, identify patterns, preferences and create context from big-data, and drive scale economics.
The IBM Customer Experience Lab will provide CEOs, CMOs, CFOs, heads of sales, and other C-suite executives direct access to a virtual team of 100 researchers, supported by the deep industry and domain expertise of thousands of IBM business consultants addressing the opportunities of the digital front office.
In the new age of big-data and analytics, organizations are reassessing how to move from addressing mass audiences to personalized relationships. The same technologies allow enterprises to engage in new ways with their employees, allow government agencies to build new relationships with citizens, or enable new models of interaction among students and educational institutions.
IBM Research is developing technology assets and capabilities that can help deliver front office capabilities as a service from a cloud, design novel products to match customer preferences, and leverage math and psychological theories of personality to improve marketing effectiveness.
The Lab focuses on innovation breakthroughs in three primary areas:
- Customer insight. Applying advanced capabilities such as machine learning and visual analytics to predict differences in individual customer behavior across multiple channels.
- Customer engagement. Using deep customer engagement to drive insight and continuously deliver value by personalizing engagement, versus transactional experiences.
- Employee engagement. Embedding semantic, collaborative, and multimedia technologies to foster employee engagement and insight -- in person and online.
Among the clients engaged with IBM on advancing their innovation processes are Nationwide Building Society, the world's largest building society serving 15 million members in the United Kingdom, and Banorte, one of the largest banks in Mexico with more than 20 million customers.
"Mobile and social technologies, and the ability to access information anytime, anywhere, is driving significant change in the way consumers bank and in the services they expect," said Martin Boyle, Divisional Director of Transformation, Nationwide Building Society. "Our ability to innovate and anticipate, and not just respond, is what sets us apart from the competition and helps us to provide our customers with new and better ways to do business with us. By partnering with IBM, we can tap into its vast research and innovation expertise and facilities, which has already proved invaluable in our transformation program and will continue to be an important part in how we continue to innovate our service for customers."
New tools and capabilities
The Lab provides IBM clients with an innovation process, assets, and platform to give line-of-business leaders the exclusive ability to work side-by-side with IBM researchers and business consultants to analyze business challenges and jointly create solutions that integrate next-generation mobile, social, analytics, and cloud technologies.
Co-creation with clients includes an innovation model called Innovation Discovery Workshops, which generate ideas, roadmaps, prototypes, and solutions that draw on research assets, business consulting, and IBM Software solutions in areas such as Smarter Commerce, Big Data, analytics, and Mobile First products.
The IBM Customer Experience Lab will be headquartered at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, N.Y., supported by researchers at IBM's 12 global labs including Africa, Brazil, California, China, India, Israel, Japan, Switzerland, and Texas.
The Lab brings together skills across disciplines including service science, industries research, mathematics and business optimization, social, mobile, Smarter Commerce, data mining, cloud computing, security and privacy, cognitive computing, and systems management. IBM invests more than $6 billion annually on research and development and employs about 3,000 researchers worldwide. IBM Global Business Services deploys business consulting, applications, and delivery expertise globally, including market-leading business analytics, Smarter Commerce, mobility, and applications management practices.
Visit here for more information about the IBM Customer Experience Lab, and follow IBM's innovation breakthroughs on Twitter at @IBMResearch.