The customer is always right—but 4 in 5 businesses struggle to put customers first

by | May 21, 2019 | Public Relations

Brands and businesses are hailing the importance of a customer-centric business and marketing strategy—but are they walking the walk? New research fromdigital experience optimization firm Optimizely reveals that over 80 percent of businesses are talking about the benefits of a customer-first approach, but few of these are turning talk into action. Over half (51 percent) of respondents said that, despite the rhetoric, customer centricity doesn’t get enough focus in their organization.

The firm surveyed over 800 purchasing decision-makers from marketing, product and IT teams in the U.K., U.S., and Germany for its new global research report, The Digital Experience Economy, which uncovers the keys to success in the new age of digital experiences—and reveals the cultural and structural barriers that are holding back innovation.

The findings show that employees from different departments across the organization need to be empowered to have a meaningful impact on customer experience. According to 79 percent of business leaders, the customer experience would benefit if the product, marketing, and IT/engineering teams worked together more closely.

Ninety-one percent of respondents claimed that their organization’s employees are capable of delivering a constant flow of new ideas focused on improving the digital customer experience. However, over a third (34 percent) say that organizational structures make it too difficult to turn an idea into reality and team members don’t have the time to focus on developing new ideas. Thirty-two percent say siloes cause issues, as responsibility for delivering new ideas is kept locked down in one team within an organization.

The customer is always right—but 4 in 5 businesses struggle to put customers first

Changing attitudes to change

If businesses are to constantly improve the digital customer experience, they must experiment with new approaches. New ideas will not always work, so adjusting attitudes towards failure is an important consideration for innovative businesses.

Currently one in five organizations (20 percent) still have a culture where failure is not an option. But this might change soon. In the past 3 years alone 68 percent of executives have altered their attitude to change, with 94 percent of these executives claiming their organization has become more open. It is leaders who are driving this trend, as 43 percent of decision-makers embrace failure more than less senior employees.

The customer is always right—but 4 in 5 businesses struggle to put customers first

“Innovative organizations such as Amazon and Google have consistently embraced failure as a part of their culture,” said Dan Siroker, co-founder and executive chairman at Optimizely, in a news release. “Being able to experiment and fail fast allows organizations to innovate, and stay in touch with the ever-changing Digital Experience Economy. A business-changing idea can just as easily come from the customer support desk as it can from the board room. For this reason, organizations need to ensure they have a culture that allows all employees to have a voice when it comes to customer experience initiatives.”

The customer is always right—but 4 in 5 businesses struggle to put customers first

Businesses struggle for digital clarity

It is no coincidence that this trend has come at a time where businesses see digital disruption as a constant threat. In fact, two-thirds (66 percent) of global businesses are either moderately or very concerned about being digitally disrupted by their competition. With the customer experience pivotal to success in this landscape, 89 percent of business decision-makers see digital experimentation as an important part of transforming their customer experience.

It is clear that communication around such digital transformation must be improved. Worryingly, 40 percent of business decision-makers don’t understand what their organization means by ‘digital transformation.’ Further to this, 58 percent agree that the definition of digital transformation and what it means is not communicated clearly enough by leadership teams.

The customer is always right—but 4 in 5 businesses struggle to put customers first

Ultimately, an inability to effectively communicate digital transformation initiatives will result in projects being stalled, or failing altogether. While a quarter (25 percent) of businesses from the U.S. and Germany don’t expect it to take more than a year to roll out their digital transformation initiatives to the entire organization, only 14 percent of respondents in the U.K. felt this was achievable.

The customer is always right—but 4 in 5 businesses struggle to put customers first

“Ten years ago, investment in digital for most businesses was significant. But today, we’ve seen rapid exponential growth towards how companies think about experience design, product engagement, and customer experience,” said Matty Wishnow, managing director of Experience Design & Optimization at Accenture Interactive, in a news release. “With the democratization of software for gathering data, analyzing data, and using data to make better products and experiences, businesses have the opportunity to get closer to their customer than ever before. I see experimentation as the key enabler to helping businesses get closer to their customer, to iterate and validate their way into value creation. It’s a continuous and iterative process for understanding what your customers most need and expect

Download the full report here.

The customer is always right—but 4 in 5 businesses struggle to put customers first

The research was conducted by independent research firm Sapio, based in the United Kingdom on behalf of Optimizely. Optimizely surveyed 808 purchasing decision-makers or influencers from the U.K. (25 percent), U.S. (50 percent) and Germany (25 percent). All interviews were conducted online in March 2019.

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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. Reach him at richardc@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter

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