Falling house.
If your customer experience delivery hasn't completely crumbled, it's getting there for many companies, Dimension Data found. PHOTO: Ian Sane

Customer experience is a competitive differentiator, but disconnected channels and a lack of clear strategy cause most companies to fail in delivery, according to research released today by Dimension Data.

Dimension Data, an IT services provider and customer experience technology integrator, surveyed 1,351 organizations across 80 countries for its 20th annual Global Customer Experience Benchmarking Report. 

"Customer experience is such a powerful business tool, and people genuinely appreciate the benefits it delivers," Andrew McNair, head of benchmarking at Johannesburg-based Dimension Data, told CMSWire in an interview. "But the real truth is uncomfortable."

Strategy? What Strategy?

The report numbers reflect those "real truths." For instance, only 13 percent surveyed grade their CX delivery a nine out of 10 or better and just one in 10 organizations call their digital business strategy "optimized." 

And as for omnichannel, seven in 10 organizations say they had few (or no) connected channels. 

McNair shared a personal anecdote that encapsulated these shortcomings: He recently used a web-based chat to discuss a problem with a provider. The conversation went well, except when it came time for execution, the web agent told him he needed to call the contact center.

That, he said, is where many organizations fail: they invest in multiple channels but have no strategy to connect channels.

Companies produce "all sorts of evidence" they care about customer experience but "the execution behind it is a bit disjointed."

"Organizations just don't have a strategy in place," McNair told CMSWire.

Dimension Data
PHOTO: Dimension Data

Uncomfortable CX Truths

Andrew McNair
Andrew McNair

Seventy-one percent of respondents (76 percent in North America) cite customer experience delivery as their top strategic performance measure. But only about one in 10 call their performance a nine out of 10, 10 being the highest score.

It's clear why they don't execute, according to Dimension Data findings. Organizations are plagued by disjointed strategies, disparate management and inconsistencies in approach, which Dimension Data officials said damage customer experiences.

"When we drill much deeper," McNair said, "we're seeing holes all over the place."

About one out of three (36 percent globally; 31 percent in North America) don't have an appointed manager responsible for all customer experiences. More than half of organizations (51 percent globally; 46 percent in North America) don't have a digital business strategy at all. At best, they're in the process of developing one.

The report said these findings pit organizations against two paths for customer experience delivery: digital crisis or redemption.

“The digital dilemma is deepening," Joe Manuele, Dimension Data’s group executive for CX and collaboration, said in a statement. 

Good News for Those Who Succeed 

Not all respondents reported doom and gloom. About 81 percent of organizations recognize CX as a competitive differentiator, citing the following benefits associated with improving CX:

  • Increased customer loyalty (92 percent)
  • An uplift in revenue (84 percent)
  • Cost savings (79 percent)

What do high performers do well? Listen to customers, for starters. They also use customer data analytics solutions and put in place processes to use that information in determining strategy. 

They invest in multiple channels only when they need to, McNair said, rather focusing on the top-performing channels that resonate the most with prospects and customers. Only 8 percent of organizations report having all channels connected, the survey found.

"Omnichannel doesn't mean you have to span every channel," McNair said. "Find your channels where your customers are and let's get them connected there. Don't kill yourself or break the business trying to do everything."

Number of Channels Surge

In spite of McNair's advice, customers will have, on average, their choice between nine channels with which to engage organizations, a number the researchers predict will rise to 11 channels by 2018.

The report noted other shifts in channels including:

  • Omnichannel solutions, alongside customer analytics, are seen as the top factors to reshape CX capabilities within the next five years
  • 58 percent of organizations report their channels are being managed in silos, and 42 percent say channel data is not actively shared between teams 
  • Virtual assistants (chatbots) were voted the top channel growth focus for 2017 (with nearly a 250 percent increase in deployments forecast over the next year). Internet of Things (IoT) deployments are set to double within the next year

In the face of so much digital disruption the report's authors warned, "if you want to ensure the future success of your organization, you will need to make the right choices in your CX and digital strategies."