Every year, KPMG Nunwood conducts a Global Customer Experience Excellence survey, in which they rate companies on their ability to meet customer demands, as well as rating customer excellence across industries as a whole. As a design thinking organization, we constantly evangelize the importance of customer-centricity, so it’s always interesting to see the results of this report.
This year is especially interesting as so many studies have come out recently proving the business benefits of design thinking and customer-centricity. Most recently, Genesys found that delivering an improved customer experience results in a whopping 42 percent improvement in customer retention, a 33 percent improvement in customer satisfaction, and a 32 percent increase in opportunities to cross-sell customers, all of which directly adds to bottom-line results.
You would assume that with all this data and the ensuing conversations about the value of being customer-centric, that this year’s report would show stellar improvements across the board. But you would be wrong.
The research finds that while business leaders may be investing a lot of money and thought into how to make their brand’s more customer-centric, they aren’t seeing much improvement.
Walking the Walk
Fully 70 percent of CEOs surveyed say they “need to represent the best interests of their customers” and almost as many say they are committed to building customers’ trust. That’s the good news. The bad news is that despite knowing that customer-centricity drives business benefits, and investing a lot of money in trying to become more customer-centric, they aren’t making much progress.
The report finds that in 2018, the top 100 brands saw a mere 0.7 percent improvement overall across the firm’s “Six Pillars” of customer experience, which is a data-driven model that defines the necessary emotional outcome required for a customer experience to be successful. The lowest increase (0.4 percent) was in the “Personalization” pillar, which researchers call “the most valuable component of most customer experiences.” This pillar is measured by how well a company demonstrates that it understands the customer’s circumstances and are willing to adapt the brand experience accordingly.
The pillar that showed the most improvement was the focus on empathy. The report found the top 100 brands increased their performance on empathy by 1.5 percent — one of the highest increases. The researchers found that many companies are making empathy a key measure in assessing new recruits, adding it to their training curricula, and seeking opportunities for project teams to engage directly with customers to develop empathy for their brand experience.
Design Thinking Can Close The Gap
Despite these efforts, the minimal progress suggests that while companies want to improve their customer experience, they haven’t quite figured out how to do it. That’s where design thinking comes in.
Anyone familiar with design thinking will recognize its tenets throughout this blog, and the pillars KPMG uses to measure success. As we discuss in every workshop (and many blogs), empathy is the core of design thinking. And personalization, demonstrating trustworthiness, and setting expectations (more of the six pillars), are all outcomes of that empathy if it’s done right.
The results of this survey should send a clear message to business leaders who want to achieve customer-centricity but are struggling to deliver: it’s not enough to brainstorm about what customer want in-house, or to assume a handful of customer surveys will you give you all the insights you need. To be customer-centric you have to actually observe real customers where they live, ask them for their feedback, and trust them when they tell you what you are doing wrong. Gathering these first-person insights, is how you develop empathy for their needs and identify ways to improve your product or service to make them happy.
That is the only way to transition from talking about being customer centric, to actually doing it.
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