Most senior business leaders now recognize the strategic importance of providing outstanding customer experiences. Customer experience has been one of the hottest topics in business and marketing circles for the past several years, and it’s been the subject of numerous research studies.

A 2017 report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services provides an important perspective on the current state of customer experience management. This report was based on a global survey of 682 business leaders, 53% of whom were executives or senior managers. Survey respondents represented several industry verticals and included individuals from large, mid-size, and small companies.

The HBR report is particularly interesting because survey participants were drawn from a variety of job functions, including operations/product management, sales/business development, marketing, and HR. It’s now clear that delivering outstanding customer experiences requires a cross-functional effort by many parts of a company. The HBR research is valuable because it captures the views of business leaders working in several business functions.

An overwhelming majority of the business leaders surveyed by HBR recognize the importance of providing outstanding customer experiences. Nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents (73%) said that delivering a relevant and reliable customer experience is already critical to their company’s overall business performance, and almost all respondents (93%) agreed that it would be critical two years from now.

The HBR research also revealed, however, that most companies have more work to do to provide great customer experiences. Only 15% of the survey respondents said their company is very effective at delivering relevant and reliable customer experiences. Fifty-three percent of the respondents said their company is somewhat effective, and nearly a third (32%) rated their company’s performance as not very effective.

This research also revealed the breadth of the customer experience gap. HBR asked survey participants to rate the importance of nine factors in delivering relevant and reliable customer experiences and their company’s effectiveness regarding the same factors. The following table shows the percentage of survey respondents who gave a high rating (8, 9, or 10 on a 10-point scale) on the importance/effectiveness of each factor:

As this table shows, there is widespread agreement regarding the importance of these nine factors, and the findings also show that less than half of these survey respondents believe their company is effective on any of the nine factors.

Like other studies, the HBR research identified the lack of a single, comprehensive source of customer intelligence as a major cause of the customer experience gap. Only 13% of survey respondents said they have a single source of customer data/intelligence across all products and activities, and the lack of unified customer intelligence is clearly having an impact. Only 23% of the survey respondents said they are able to act on all or most of the customer data they collect.

The HBR report discusses several other important topics related to customer experience management. If you’re involved in improving the customer experiences that your company provides, the HBR report will be useful and valuable.

Top image courtesy of Richard Grant via Flickr CC.