CX Professionals Get a Reality Check

Brands' continuing innovations fail to fulfill consumer expectations, exacerbating the widening gap between experience and satisfaction.
Customer Experience

Despite soaring confidence levels, brands rarely meet consumer expectations, as the gap between what customers want and what customers get continues to widen. Brands believe their current strategies are satisfactory, but as customer experience becomes the main competitive differentiator, marketing leaders must recognize that their perceptions no longer align with reality.

IBM ExperienceOne's recent "The Consumer Conversation" report explores the experience void between brands and their customers. Conducted in partnership with Econsultancy, the tandem study surveyed 276 customer experience professionals and 1,135 consumers to assess how brand behaviors impact customer perceptions. Overall, brands believe they offer good offline (75 percent), online (69 percent), and mobile (57 percent) experiences, as compared to their competitors, yet consumer sentiment indicates that most companies fail to meet their needs in term of personalization and problem resolution.

The following statistics validate the differences between brand capabilities and consumer expectations:

  • Over the past year, 49 percent of consumers switched service providers because their previous provider failed them (30 percent) or the new provider offered something more (59 percent).
  • While 81 percent of brands surveyed claim to have an effective, holistic view of their customers, only 37 percent of consumers say their favorite retailer understands them.
  • Forty-seven percent of companies believe they deliver relevant communications and 44 percent claim to know customers' preferred communication channels. However, only 35 percent say the marketing messages from their favorite brands are usually relevant.
  • Consumers (75 percent) are comfortable with any company having their shareable information, yet only 40 percent feel the same way about sensitive data.
  • Ninety-one percent of companies polled strongly or somewhat agree that identifying high value customers remains vital to the brand's overall growth.
  • Overall, 77 percent of organizations are satisfied or very satisfied with their ability to predict customer service problems, and 89 percent are somewhat or very satisfied with their ability to resolve conflicts. However, while 28 percent of consumers agree that brands are very effective when handling issues, 24 percent believe brands are very ineffective.
  • Consumers who've had poor customer service experiences are more likely to share their stories (98 percent) than those who have had positive experiences (89 percent).
  • Though 88 percent of CX professionals agree that their organization's growth ultimately depends on personalization and better customer knowledge, only 37 percent have the tools they need to provide exceptional customer service and experiences.

Key takeaway: Before aligning brand innovations with customer expectations, companies must bridge the online/offline chasm that often hinders progress. Marketers typically fail to understand how the rapidly changing digital landscape can complicate the role of offline media as it applies to audience and revenue development, for only 34 percent of brands effectively link online and offline customer experiences. Yet it's this very issue that reveals the underlying perils of inconsistency. With disconnected communications in place, marketers miss many opportunities to expand relationships and improve relevancy. Disjointed experiences impede loyalty growth and satisfaction because consumers view each channel interaction as the continuation of their ongoing brand relationship. Consumers also seek simplicity and value over time. Thus, as brands begin to reassess internal processes and structures, they must ensure that all decisions spawn from an increasingly customer-centric mindset.