According to a new Gartner report, customer experience is the “new battle ground” for business success. For most of our clients, this isn’t news – it’s business as usual – but as with any new way of looking at things there’s still a lot of businesses struggling with the idea.

Why? When it’s so obvious.

The best example I can think of is how most businesses saw branding 10 years ago. “It’s our logo, isn’t it?”

Now branding’s a multi-billion dollar industry, most leaders understand the importance of creating an emotional bond/promise with customers and the financial benefit it has.

Getting the board on-board

No matter what your flavour of customer experience, you’ll know that to make it work successfully you need senior-level buy in. That’s because customer experience, if done properly, is as much about a cultural shift as it is about data and improvement.

That’s what the slides below are for – to show hard data that reinforces the importance and value of putting customers at the heart of your business. With huge thanks to Laura McLellan for kicking off the data gathering in her article: 10 Proof Points – Why Customer Experience Is the Next Big Thing.

We’ve adapted/changed them a little to focus less on digital (Gartner’s weapon of choice) and more on highlighting the facts that are coming out of research by leaders in the field.

The 9 Reasons Customer Experience should be on the top of your agenda

89% of companies surveyed plan to compete primarily on the basis of the customer experience by 2016

Gartner – 2014 – Gartner Survey Finds Importance of Customer Experience on the Rise — Marketing Is on the Hook (n=200 responsible for customer experience, revenue > $500M)

Yes, that’s right. Of the 200 businesses surveyed with revenue over $500M a whopping 89% plan to use customer experience as a competitive advantage. Not just that, but they plan to compete primarily on that basis. That’s a staggering number when you consider the variations in sector, focus, market.

93% say that improving CX customer experience is one of the top three priorities for the next two years

Oracle – 2013 – Global Insights on Succeeding in the Customer Experience Era (n=1300)

If you’re just starting to get your head around how to develop a customer experience strategy – this figure is important. Mainly because it will increasingly become a point of differentiation between you and your competitors. Plough all your efforts into acquisition at your peril – the scales need to be balanced to ensure you’re delivering on your promise post-sale too.

“Marketers believe that customer centricity—and the customer’s belief that they are engaged with a customer-centric organization—is critical not just to the business, but also to the individual marketer’s success.”

CMO Council, in partnership with SAP – 2014 – Mastering Adaptive Customer Engagements (n=319)

What’s fascinating about this feedback is that customer-centricity isn’t a tangible. It’s not like social, or “making an app”. In our view customer-centricity is an approach to solving problems – like Lean or Six Sigma. It’s an acknowledgement that putting the customer at the heart of business decisions makes sense. User experience has a lot to answer for here – user-centred design was the beginning of a new chapter in understanding how we put customers at the heart of our products.

Now, businesses need to take the same approaches to put customers at the heart of their strategy.

39% of respondents agree that the very definition of customer centricity is being established at the very top of the organization with the president/CEO

Gartner – 2014 – Gartner Survey Finds Importance of Customer Experience on the Rise — Marketing Is on the Hook (n=200 responsible for customer experience, revenue > $500M)

Familiar with adoption curves? That 39% is the early stages of a more significant shift towards customer-centricity. More importantly, the companies surveyed all have revenues greater than $500M. This shift towards putting customers at the heart of business is only going to increase, with big business leading the way. What’s exciting for the disruptors and smaller businesses trying to claw their way up the ladder is that while big business will take months (or years) to implement a customer experience improvement, you can do it in a matter of days.

Size isn’t everything. Apparently.

Respondents most often rank digital customer engagement as a top strategic priority, too, and report that current spending patterns mirror digital priorities

McKinsey – 2014 – The digital tipping point (n=850 CXOs)

The trend continues to move towards how businesses use digital channels to connect with customers. The key though continues to be how these digital channels integrate with the physical experience customers have – and how older channels like print/whitemail evolve to offer a more engaging user experience.

We see a great deal of businesses who have forgone the more traditional channels and are suffering because of it. Digital is sure to be king, but whitemail still rules for now.

CMOs say leading the customer experience cross-functionally at all touch points is the top investment over the next 2 years

Gartner and The CMO Club – 2014 – CMO Leadership, Accountability & Credibility within the C-Suite (n=105) [to be published October 2014]

Multi-channel touchpoint improvement is only going to increase in importance as customers demand access to services through their channel of choice. Although this throws up some interesting challenges for how to join up the dots, it also makes a signal, customer-centric approach all the more important.

Understanding what customers want and building a strategy around their needs means less time wasted on unnecessary channels and more confidence in the journeys you’re delivering.

97% state CX customer experience is critical to success

Oracle – 2013 – Global Insights on Succeeding in the Customer Experience Era (n=1300)

That’s a huge number when you consider the broad range of businesses asked.

85 percent of customers are frustrated by dealing with a company that does not make it easy to do business with them, 84 percent by companies promising one thing, but delivering another; and 58 percent are frustrated with inconsistent experiences from channel to channel.

Accenture – 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey (n=13,168 consumers)

Customer effort score continues to increase in prominence. More importantly “how easy you are to deal with” will play a vital role in how effective your customer experience strategy is. This is a cross-channel, cross-department challenge that ultimately comes down to how well you’re marrying up customer journeys and operational processes. Most poor experiences are born from an inward-facing approach to designing process with little thought for the customer.

65% of companies have the equivalent of a chief customer officer — they report equally to the CMO and CEO

Gartner – 2014 – Gartner Survey Finds Importance of Customer Experience on the Rise — Marketing Is on the Hook (n=200 responsible for customer experience, revenue > $500M)

Call it what you like – but the role of the customer champion will only increase as businesses evolve around a customer-centred approach to business strategy. What’s perhaps most interesting is that this role almost always reports directly to the board or CEO. We’re seeing in our work that this role acts as a cross-departmental feedback system to leaders and the board – helping customer-focused roles give real-time feedback to the people at the top.

Long may it continue.

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