Digital customer expectations outpace experience: new study

“One word defines business executives’ attitudes toward digital customer experience (CX): complacency,” according to this global study by Forrester for accenture. Below I share some highlights from this study and suggest what actions are needed to address this complacency.

1. Look beyond your direct competition

The study found that whilst companies have “woken up to the importance of digital in forging great customer experiences”, these same companies are mistakenly looking only at close competitors to benchmark their efforts, “thinking it’s good enough to be the leader in a mediocre pack”. While 52% of respondents believe they beat their competitors, a mere 7% are exceeding customers’ expectations. “Your customers expect more. Their expectations are forged by their experiences of leading brands across industries,” rightly point out Forrester.

On brandgym projects we get teams to look beyond their direct competitive set to indirect competitors, but also to a “brand peer group”. This set of inspiring brands targets a similar customer and/or occasion, but is in a totally different industry. For example, working on shape management brand Ryvita, we looked beyond direct completion in crackers and savoury snacks to look at what Diet Coke and Special K were doing.

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 12.00.02 Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 12.00.08

Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Accenture Interactive, May 2016

2. Constant renovation is key to success

In the study 69% of companies surveyed claim to have the right technology to execute their digital strategy, but only 59% agree that they have the right organisation. And what is striking is that these figures are lower than the same survey in 2015, down 9pts and 5pts respectively. This suggests that customer demands are growing at a faster rate than companies’ ability to execute.

This is in tune with our belief that core brand renovation is a never-ending process, not a one-off “project”; As Forrester say, “Experience transformation requires a state of constant analysis and redesign”. However, a mere 20% of respondents believe that digital transformation is an ongoing initiative, with most expecting to be done in four years or less. Whoops!

3. Investment does seem to pay off

The encouraging news from the survey is that companies that invest time, money and talent in improving customer experience does reap some important benefits. A sub-segment of “CX high performers” (18% of companies) reported higher rates of success across a number of metrics, including differentiation (+22%), improved brand relevance (+21%), customer satisfaction (+16%) and customer loyalty (+17%).

Screen Shot 2016-09-13 at 12.05.13

Source: A commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Accenture Interactive, May 2016

4. Lead from the top

The importance of senior leadership in what we call “brand-led transformation” is reinforced by this study. “Every CX high performer agreed that their senior sponsorship is fully aligned, versus only 41% of lower performers,” reports Forrester. And this leadership must come right from the top. “The CEO must rally all of the various functional groups toward a shared vision. Executives must break out of their silos and collaborate”, suggest Forrester. This cross functional working is key, to mobilise CIOs, who own the company’s digital tools and technologies, and CMOs, who hold customer relationships. More on this CIO/CMO collaboration here from Deloitte. This is why a lot of effort and time on our brandgym projects goes into designing and delivering projects that encourage this sort of collaboration to drive engagement and alignment.

In conclusion, customer expectations around digital customer experience are rising, and will only continue to do this. Winners in this space will be led from the top, driving cross-functional collaboration in an ongoing process of brand renovation.