Even with all the technology available today, true CX champions are still a relatively rare breed. A recent study by MIT, on behalf of SAS, found that just 15 per cent of organisations can claim to be CX champions, while the vast majority (70 per cent) are followers and 15 per cent are laggards.  

In the survey of 2,670 managers, spanning a range of sectors, MIT also found that organisations reporting the poorest levels of CX quality are likely to be using the same tools as those reporting high-quality CX – so why is this?  

What makes a CX champion?  

Our study found CX champions do the following:  

  • Elevate CX strategy to the level of digital transformation strategy, putting CX front and centre and making it an integral, measurable component of corporate strategy.  
  • Use advanced analytics and push towards mastery of artificial intelligence (AI) to create outstanding customer experiences and maximise ROI on CX technology investments. 
  • Create highly cross-functional and decentralised teams, provide collaborative platforms and continually refine their systems to support rapid innovation.  

The second point – AI mastery – is critical. Like many emerging technologies, it holds tremendous promise, and is already delivering value to CX champions, but it’s not a bolt-on nor a silver bullet. At the same time, for every senior manager who wants to jump straight in with AI, there’ll be another who’s nervous about trying to decipher what computer vision and natural language processing (NLP) actually mean, let alone how they can deliver value.  

Yet doing nothing will place them firmly in the ‘laggard’ camp and make it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve growth or even sustain the business.  

Company size doesn’t always lead to a significant advantage  

For a long time, CX technology has been an exciting proposition for senior leaders, who see it as an opportunity to cut costs, better understand their customers and stay ahead of their competitors.  

It’s important to point out that company size doesn’t always lead to a significant advantage when it comes to CX quality and ROI on CX investments. The study found that CX champions have substantial representation across revenue levels.

For example, 17 per cent of champions have annual revenues of $10 billion or more, compared with 12 per cent of followers and 11 per cent of laggards – highlighting the importance of what champions actually do, rather than the size of their bank accounts.  

Investing in your CX strategy to become a champion 

The fact that CX champions are outpacing the market when it comes to investing in AI shows what the direction of travel is. Just over 80 per cent of our champion respondents expect to use AI-powered chatbots over the next two years, compared to 65 per cent overall.

Three-quarters will embed AI assistants in products and services compared to 56 per cent of other organisations, and adoption of autonomous vehicles for delivery is on the rise too, at 65 versus 36 per cent. It’s also noticeable how champions are also planning to use more than others when it comes to all 12 types of technology they were asked about. 

Every department needs to play a role  

With AI still in its infancy at many organisations, now is the time to firmly embed this technology in CX and digital transformation strategies – with every department playing a role in implementing them.  

Responsibility doesn’t fall to marketing, customer service, IT or any other single department but should instead be a collaborative effort. It’s no coincidence that almost a third (33 per cent) of champions don’t have a single executive in charge of CX and neither, reassuringly, do 40 per cent of organisations overall. 

Making CX integral to the highest level of corporate strategy allows organisations to build the kinds of cross-functional and decentralised teams that are the backbone of CX initiatives. Both approaches outlined in the graphic above can work. What matters most is that CX and digital strategies are aligned to create organisation-wide goals and KPIs that cascade down into every department and drive activities.

Connecting CX and digital strategies  

Champions are more than three times as likely than laggards to have linked their CX and digital strategies, and they’re the ones that are outperforming the competition on CX quality and technology ROI. They do this by creating highly-empowered, cross-functional teams that nurture talent and can move quickly, and investing in collaborative software that enables people to work in a single – often cloud-based – digital environment.  

Interestingly, the study found that across the financial services, retail/ consumer goods and manufacturing sectors, respondents were closely aligned with their view that an organisation’s CX and digital strategies should be closely aligned, with between 37 and 38 per cent strongly agreeing. Those working in the IT/ telecom sector placed greater emphasis on this, with 46 per cent strongly agreeing.  

This may not come as a surprise, given that the IT/ telecom sector is the most aggressive user of most CX technology tools. Despite aggressive plans for CX technology investments, financial services entities have yet to move ahead of industries at large.  

Retail and consumer goods companies, on the other hand, are significantly ahead of industries overall in use of smart assistants embedded in phones and tablets, and slightly ahead in use of live chat, personalisation technology, use of AI chatbots, and providing immersive experiences. But they are still behind other industries in developing interconnected omnichannel experiences — a must-have in the minds of most consumers. 

Final thoughts

As the technologies powering CX develop further, to incorporate augmented and virtual experiences, organisations will need a roadmap of how they will get value from them. Any tools they invest in should solve challenges and enhance customer experiences, rather than implementing it for the sake of it or because they think they should.  

They should certainly try to stay ahead of their competitors – but by choosing technology that empowers teams, enabling them to capture digital activity at a customer level and use AI to drive their decision-making, they’re well on their way to becoming a CX champion.

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