Senior company leaders in virtually all types of businesses now recognize that providing great customer experiences is a critical source of competitive advantage and a primary driver of business performance. As a result, customer experience (CX) management has become a top strategic priority in many enterprises.
Given this interest, it shouldn’t be surprising that CX has been the subject of numerous research studies over the past several years. One of the best studies I’ve seen recently was published earlier this year by The Harris Poll and RedPoint Global.
Addressing The Gaps In Customer Experience was based on two surveys that were fielded in early 2019. One was a survey of 454 senior marketing executives residing in the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom. This survey also included technology and customer experience executives, but I’ll refer to the participants in this post as “marketers” or “marketing leaders.”
All of the surveyed marketers were affiliated with companies having a minimum of $500 million in annual revenue. (Note: The annual revenue minimum was $200 million for companies that derive more than 50% of their revenue from direct sales to end users.
The second survey involved 3,002 consumers (18+ years of age) residing in the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom. Figures for age, gender, education, region, and employment status were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportion in the population.
This type of study is particularly instructive and useful because it enables us to compare and contrast the perspectives of marketing leaders and consumers, and this is very valuable when the topic is customer experience. As the title of the research report suggests, these surveys found several significant gaps between marketers and consumers regarding customer experience performance.
The Performance Gap
The “headline” finding from this research was that marketers rate the quality of their customer experience capabilities significantly higher than consumers. Ninety-two percent of the marketers said their ability to provide an exceptional customer experience is excellent or good. But when the consumers were asked to think about the companies they interact with on a regular basis, only 80% rated these companies as excellent or good at providing great customer experiences.
The contrast is even greater if we look only at the “excellent” rating. Thirty-four percent of the marketing leaders gave themselves an excellent rating, but only 18% of consumers gave that highest rating.
This research used a “Customer Experience Index Score” to evaluate CX performance across four dimensions – privacy, personalization, customer understanding, and omnichannel/consistency. Not surprisingly, marketers gave themselves higher scores on all four dimensions than consumers.
Personalization and Privacy are Paramount
The findings of this study also provide compelling evidence that both personalization and privacy are of paramount importance when it comes to customer experience. In the consumer survey, 63% of the respondents said that personalization is now part of the standard service they expect, and over half (53%) said they expect a company to know their buying habits and preferences and be able to anticipate their needs.
Customer expectations for personalization have risen to the point that 37% of the consumers said they would stop doing business with a company that doesn’t offer a personalized experience. And while 36% of the survey respondents said that companies are presenting them with more personalized offers and messages compared to a year ago, 73% said that companies are still struggling to meet their expectations for personalized experiences.
Consumers in this study also made it abundantly clear that privacy is a primary concern. In fact, they ranked privacy as the most important dimension of customer experience, and 41% of the survey respondents said they would absolutely stop doing business with a company that sells their data to other companies for marketing or advertising purposes without their permission.
The consumer survey also asked participants about the importance of four privacy-related actions that companies can take. The following table shows the percentages of respondents who rated each action as very important or absolutely essential:
The Harris Poll/RedPoint Global research also has several important things to say about the role of technology in providing great customer experiences. I’ll discuss those findings in a future post.