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Why it pays to meet your customers

By Adam Dennison· Feb 18, 2016

In the May 2015 issue of CIO magazine, I wrote that it was time for CIOs to gain a better understanding of their companies’ external customers, and even to start taking steps that would lead to themselves and their teams spending time directly with those customers. Now that we are firmly in the customer experience economy, the need for customer contact has only accelerated.blog_execvoices_pays_to_meet_customers_calloutCIO.com’s 2016 State of the CIO report bears this out. In the latest installment of our annual survey of more than 500 CIOs, nearly two-thirds of the respondents said that they currently meet with external customers. That’s a decent start, but a lot of work still needs to be done in this area for CIOs to truly become a factor in driving positive customer experiences.

You could argue that, outside of sales and marketing, IT is the business division for which it is most important to meet with external customers. To further put some numbers around why it is so beneficial for IT to meet with customers, consider this: Of the State of the CIO survey respondents who said that they regularly meet with customers, 57% report directly to the CEO, versus 46% of all survey respondents. Additionally, 41% of CIOs who have regular contact with customers spend their time on highly strategic activities, such as driving innovation, developing new go-to-market strategies and technologies, and studying market trends for commercial opportunities. In contrast, just 19% of CIOs who seldom or never meet with customers engage in strategic activities such as those.

Many of the CIOs and other IT leaders I have the pleasure of meeting in my travels tell me that they interact with their end customers on a semi-regular basis. They’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy to juggle a customer-facing role along with all of the internal work and responsibilities CIOs have to handle. But you’ll come away with a wealth of valuable information if you can spend time with customers. And there’s no better way to elevate and solidify your position within your organization than to have direct contact with your end customers and see to it that you and your team make it a priority to add value to the customer experience.

I urge you to get out there and meet with your company’s customers. You’ll be amazed at what you will learn and what it can do for you, your organization and, most importantly, the customers themselves.

I’d love to hear about your customer experiences. Please contact me at adennison@cio.com, or follow me on Twitter at @adamidg.

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