Most organizations recognize the business value of an exceptional customer experience (CX)—but are having difficulty executing due to strategic, organizational and technical roadblocks. A new independent survey from Boston-based CX agency Verndale reveals many brands’ key oversights.

The survey, Solving for CX, reveals key insights into brands’ efforts to improve their customer journeys. Central to these issues are brands’ struggles to capture and analyze customer data, which makes it difficult for them to create personalized experiences that contribute to sales and retention. Many marketers see advanced technology—including machine learning, artificial intelligence and big data/analytics solutions—as being vital to overcoming this problem, and those companies that are investing in these areas are already seeing benefits.

According to consulting firm Walker, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020. Bain piled on by showing that “companies that excel at the customer experience grow revenues 4–8 percent above their market.”

Companies struggling with personalization lack a true CX leader

“Marketing and technology leaders have come to a consensus on the importance of CX but haven’t figured out how to put all of the pieces together yet,” said Verndale CEO Chris Pisapia, in a news release. “Any organization that isn’t maniacally trying to solve for a better customer journey will find themselves losing market share to companies that are leveraging marketing technologies to deliver a more personalized experience. Getting it right, however, can result in a number of key benefits to organizations, from boosting the bottom-line to improving customer satisfaction, retention and lifetime value.”

Personalization is the top CX challenge

Personalization is a critical element in the customer journey. However, it is also extremely difficult to execute correctly. Marketers that are able to place customer data at the heart of their marketing strategy find themselves able to fundamentally change their approach to journey optimizations.

  • The vast majority (92 percent) of respondents see personalization as a “crucial” element of CX.
  • 51 percent of respondents say that their organization cannot deliver the personalization that its customers crave.
  • Over four in five (84 percent) believe that their organization has yet to fully realize the value of personalization.
  • The key areas for improvements in personalization come from access to more real-time data (46 percent), capturing more customer data (40 percent), and improving analysis of customer data (38 percent).
  • Lack of real-time customer insights (31 percent) is the challenge most likely to stop organizations from optimizing the customer experience, and 63 percent predict that big data/analytics functionality would be critical to enhancing CX in their organization.

Companies struggling with personalization lack a true CX leader

Who owns CX?

The idea of the Chief Experience Officer (CXO)—one person who has oversight and responsibility for the entire customer journey—is still evolving. Brands know CX optimization is the gatekeeper to business growth, but many still don’t have a solid grasp on how to view that holistically, who should ultimately own every customer touch point, or how to seamlessly manage the customer experience across teams.

  • An average of three executives and five departments are involved in managing and executing their CX strategy. CX touches every department within an organization but the lack of constancy in who owns it and where they sit in the organization reflects how complicated it is for marketers to break out of traditional silos.
  • Respondents also felt that there were several departments that SHOULD be involved in CX but weren’t. Operations (49 percent) and finance (40 percent) were the top two departments left off the CX team that marketers felt would add value.
  • Good help is hard to find. Despite 61 percent of brands understanding that they need help to assist them in managing CX, only 35 percent have confidence in the capabilities of their partner. Organizations said they need partners that are able to ensure that organizations have full line of sight into every touchpoint on the CX journey, while ensuring that everything is optimized, from strategy to design to build.

Companies struggling with personalization lack a true CX leader

Artificial intelligence and machine learning to the rescue

Marketing leaders are increasingly optimistic about the ability of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to drive better customer outcomes, but the vast majority of them haven’t implemented these technologies yet. This reflects both the reality of implementation and organizational alignment, and likely also an imperfect understanding of how effective this technology is in shaping the customer journey.

  • Only 34 percent of respondents said AI is already currently helping enhance their customer experience.
  • Organizations see machine learning as a key factor in helping them process huge amounts of customer data (49 percent), provide real-time analysis (49 percent) and build more accurate pricing models (49 percent).
  • For respondents that hadn’t used AI already, many don’t fully understand the value of automation within their CX strategy as only 45 percent expect it to improve future customer experience and 39 percent expect greater customer personalization. Given the challengers that marketers admitted to earlier in the survey, these numbers indicate that they don’t understand how to effectively implement AI and ML.

Download the full report here.

Companies struggling with personalization lack a true CX leader

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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