Gone are the days of the single customer touchpoint. For companies to excel in engaging with customers at the right time, right place, they can no longer only be where the customer is in any given moment; they must be present across all channels, ready to respond no matter where the buyer's journey may take their prospects. Yet, while many brands understand the need to optimize the omnichannel customer experience while meeting the increasing desire for personalized, real-time interactions, few have the necessary strategies, support, processes, and metrics for success in place.

According to Harvard Business Review Analytic Services' recent "Lessons from the Leading Edge of Customer Experience Management" report, only 45 percent of companies view customer experience management as an important strategic priority. However, the study, sponsored by SAS, explores how leaders in the space currently outperform their laggard counterparts across all essential KPIs (i.e. profitability, revenue generation, market share, etc.) in their pursuit of improved customer experience management. Having polled 403 executives, the report reveals that, while 71 percent of leaders believe customer experience enhances their competitive advantage, only 35 percent of laggards feel the same, demonstrating these two drastically different mindsets.

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The following statistics examine the obstacles facing all companies grappling with customer experience initiatives, and how the leading edge attitude helps proactive companies achieve their goals:

  • Both leaders and laggards struggle with maximizing customer experience ROI (52 percent), achieving a single view of the customer (51 percent), and building new customer experiences (51 percent). Systems integration (41 percent), multichannel complexity (37 percent), and organizational structure (33 percent) stand as the greatest obstacles on the path to consistent customer experiences.
  • When it comes to Big Data and customer insight, leaders and laggards both struggle with data integration (43 percent), forecasting customer behavior (40 percent), and data quality (36 percent). Leaders (34 percent) and laggards 53 percent) also both find it extremely or very difficult to tie customer experience to business outcomes.
  • Sixty-four percent of leading-edge companies claim that their customer experience programs are sufficiently funded, while 73 percent agree that their brands already have effective customer experience processes in place. However, only 22 percent of laggards believe such programs receive adequate support, with only 12 percent having implemented the necessary customer experience processes.
  • As leading-edge companies work to build a foundation for customer experience excellence, the majority (80 percent) focuses on creating the right organization and skills for systematic customer experience management, while laggards (24 percent) fall far behind. Leaders (59 percent) also put great emphasis on integrating the right tools and systems to make data-driven customer experience decisions. Only 18 percent of laggards do the same.
  • Overall, companies find connecting corporate rewards to customer metrics to be one of the most successful customer experience practices (53 percent), yet only 27 percent have such strategies in place. Fifty-two percent of respondents also believe developing customer experience strategies that align with corporate strategies to be an extremely effective tactic, yet only 44 percent have such measures in place.
  • Fifty-three percent of leading-edge companies rank multichannel management as extremely important to their customer experience efforts, as compared to 21 percent of laggards. Leaders also find greater promise in today's emerging tools, as many have embraced customer experience and online behavior analytics (61 percent), social media analytics (56 percent), and real-time decision-making (54 percent) to drive these multichannel efforts.

Key takeaway: Before the Big Data boom and the proliferation of social media, ignorance was bliss, as many companies used to hide customer issues. However, brands now recognize that these problems are truly opportunities in disguise, for quick resolutions often lead to enterprisewide improvements. Thus, customer experience management must become part of every company's strategic agenda, encompassing the entire organization in order to accomplish desired business outcomes and create consistency. While companies once focused on each individual customer transaction in isolation, brands understand that developing the complete customer view not only enhances internal access to insights, but also closes the customer relationship loop, ensuring that the customer journey promotes both increased loyalty and higher profitability.