IT professionals are poised to play a bigger role in the crucial business of customer retention, if they can develop the correct skills. A survey of IT chiefs and decision makers has uncovered a new set of demands from the business and a corresponding shortage of relevant IT skills.
In particular, a 60% majority of IT chiefs had difficulty in finding candidates with expertise in digital commerce, social media and web architecture. Businesses are looking to IT staff to improve supply chains and CRM systems to enhance interaction with customers, it found.
Retain, not recruit
"It’s a well-known economic fact that it’s more cost-effective to retain customers than to recruit new ones. IT can accelerate this and bring the economic principle into sharper focus," notes Adam Thilthorpe, director of professionalism at the Chartered Institute for IT.
Social media skills rate high on the wanted list as IT departments play a greater role in understanding what customers want and have to deliver more customer-friendly technology. But IT pros may have to face down the marketing department if it wishes to ‘own’ this skill set.
The BCS confirms that its membership faces a growing demand from their businesses for digital commerce and social media tools and skills. Alongside traditional business intelligence requirements, there’s a call to garner more information about customers, using Twitter accounts and Facebook.
Beyond business intelligence
However, warns Thilthorpe, this demand has to be treated this with some caution. "End users wish to have and utilise social networking tools internally in order to meet their business goals. However, the question needs to asked, ‘What do you do with all this new data?’"
For FMCG companies, having a Twitter account in order to promote products may be a no-brainer. But for a more traditional services company, it may be less obvious what success looks like in this realm, points out Thilthorpe.
The desire for IT staff to become social media gurus, and for internal systems to integrate with Twitter accounts is not confined to large enterprises. For smaller firms, it can make an even bigger difference, confirms the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).
"Using digital commerce and media for customer retention is a key theme for SMBs, but they are also using it to expand business overseas and to start up", said a spokes person. "For many small businesses, it’s cheaper to expand than to trade on the high street".
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