Gartner Customer 360 Summit: Crossing the Digital Chasm Requires Cultural Changes

ORLANDO—As companies work to cross the chasm created by disruptive technologies that have changed the way consumers interact with brands, one of the biggest challenges they face is creating a customer experience vision, Gene Alvarez, Gartner analyst and conference chair, said as he kicked off the morning keynote at the Gartner Customer 360 Summit here Monday.

Creating that vision calls for inspiring customer-driven cultural changes at the top of every organization, and implementing those changes throughout the company hierarchy, Alvarez explained. "Culture change is not a wicked problem. It starts with authentic leadership, building upon the personal brands of all the staff, and is wired together with gamification," he said. "It's difficult, but it's necessary for thriving in a digital environment," he added.

To create a customer-driven culture, companies must have strong leadership that can craft a brand vision, as well as formalize and communicate the message to other employees. Companies must also be prepared to find evangelists to propagate their business, and should get into the habit of stating their company value behaviors, Leigh McMullen, Gartner analyst and copresenter, said. It's also crucial for company leaders to socialize with their employees to reinforce the relevant messaging through the company and embed it in the culture, as well as offer incentives and provide recognition to those who excel at executing the strategy.

"Businesses that excel at creating customer-driven cultures also use stories to communicate messages, make the messages transparent to their customers, make responsibilities and rewards clear to their employees, provide training and education, recruit in innovative ways, and, lastly, recognize that these types of cultural changes take commitment and time," Alvarez added. "Though this is hard work, it's not particularly complex, and once the cultural shifts are implemented, they are self-sustaining," McMullen agreed. "Ultimately, they're inevitable, because customers' expectations are changing," he said.

Expectations are growing, analyst Michael Maoz agreed, largely because customers are looking for a "concierged" service experience. "If your company can't give them the kind of experience that they can get on Pinterest or elsewhere for free, then they won't pay for your service, and they'll get it elsewhere," he added. While disruptive technologies such as social media and 

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