In the digital era, 'your customer sets the bar, not your competitor’

Customer expectations are changing faster than ever and what people learn to love in one industry increasingly defines what they expect in other areas as well Michael Buckley, Accenture Interactive

Nine in 10 companies are struggling to deliver digital customer experiences (CX) that exceed their customers’ expectations, according to a new study from Accenture Interactive.

The finding reflects the huge challenge brands are facing as customer expectations are becoming “liquid” and changing at a lightning pace.

“One word defines business executives’ attitudes toward digital CX: complacency,” notes Forrester, which conducted the study for Accenture.

The study is based on a survey of 702 customer experience decision-makers from companies in 14 countries.

While over half (52 per cent) of respondents said that they’re ahead of their competitors at providing digital customer experiences, only 7 per cent said their company exceeds the expectations of their actual customers. Another 67 per cent stated they ‘meet’ these expectations.

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“Meeting customer expectations is by no means a small achievement,” says Michael Buckley, managing director, Accenture Interactive Australia and New Zealand.

“However, it’s not enough anymore. Customer expectations are changing faster than ever and what people learn to love in one industry increasingly defines what they expect in other areas as well – we call this ‘liquid expectations’. It’s now your customer who’s setting the bar, not your competitor.”

Shifting expectations require companies to stay closer to customers to learn their needs and preferences directly from them, says Buckley.

The reality is that businesses often think “inside out” and take customer experience initiatives without consulting customers directly, he says.

While 81 per cent of all respondents believe that it is important to involve customers in customer experience efforts, only 57 per cent actually take this “outside-in” perspective.

The findings show that many companies fail at measuring what they know they should, too. For example, 90 per cent see value in churn metrics, but less than 40 per cent capture them, he states.

The study recommends organisations work with customers to help reinvent their experience.

Involve customers directly into your design processes to gain critical insights that will help you solve existing issues and anticipate future needs, it advises

“Push techniques like ethnography, design thinking, iterative development, and customer co-creation to the front and centre of how you develop new products and solutions.”

Flick CTO Simon Pohlen: 'Embrace the idea that in the digital world, the customers have got all the power.'

How to meet and exceed customer expectations

The study distilled some winning traits of the high performers.

Having senior executive sponsorship for customer experience initiatives fully aligned is critical. Experience transformation calls for close collaboration between the CEO, CMO, and CIO, it states.

“If you are in one of these roles, then it’s time you educate yourself on what it truly takes to be a leader in the digital age. If you report to one of these roles, then lobby to create a digital education program including executive intervention sessions, digital safaris, and outside-in inspiration sessions.”

High performers are also in a “dynamic state of constant flux”. They treat digital customer experience transformation as an ongoing initiative rather than a project.

These organisations are also analytics-focused and data-driven around customer experience.

They pick partners, not vendors, according to the study. “They build strategic partnerships, not just vendor relationships to help them with skills and resources they lack but need in order to continuously transform the customer experience.”

High performers are analytics-focused and data-driven around customer experience.

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Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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