Good customer experiences should never be down to good luck; they need to be well planned and executed. But the complexity of managing the customer experience is still very much a stumbling block, with most companies still being in the very early stages of formulating formal customer experience strategies, according to a study from Econsultancy and CACI. This article is copyright 2013 The Best Customer Guide.

The 'Integrated Customer Experience' report, which was based on a survey of marketers and ecommerce professionals, found that 58% of companies are still only developing strategies in this area, compared to only 20% of companies with a well developed strategy.

A further 15% of companies said their strategy 'is being changed', but 7% said there was 'no strategy'. This is despite nine in 10 companies saying there is at least some level of organisational commitment to delivering an integrated customer experience.

The research also cast new light on the aspects of the customer experience that organisations are having particular difficulties with. While more than half of the responding companies see 'data' (63%) and 'systems and processes' (54%) as critical areas for delivering an integrated customer experience, most companies have inadequate capabilities in both areas.

Only 32% of companies rated themselves as 'excellent' or 'good' for data (in the context of gaining a single customer view and customer insight), while even fewer (24%) rate themselves this positively for systems and processes.

"For the majority of organisations the challenges to overcome have remained similar. What is new is that the impact of these challenges is accelerating with the increase in channels, data and organisational silos," said Matt Hey, director of consulting for CACI. "Overcoming these challenges has always offered a compelling prize; the improvement of all the key customer value drivers across acquisition, retention and cross sales. However, what this report confirms is that although organisations perceive an integrated customer experience to be important, this does not necessarily translate into a focused effort to enhance it."

Among the report's key findings:

  • Just over half (51%) of companies are using non-integrated technology platforms within their organisation, despite many saying their greatest barriers revolve around the complexity of customer experience and difficulty unifying different sources of customer data.
  • 90% of companies say improved customer retention/brand loyalty is a business benefit of an integrated customer experience, but only 54% use retention and loyalty to measure its effectiveness.
  • Only 16% of companies use web data attributable to individuals extensively while 43% are using aggregated web data.

"The sheer difficulty and complicated nature of integrating the customer experience is identified as the single greatest barrier to improving the customer experience. This is a challenge but one that businesses need to overcome," concluded Econsultancy's research analyst, Bola Awoniyi. "Having an integrated customer experience is becoming less of a novelty and more of a necessity in our heavily connected society. Companies must commit to a customer experience strategy, and start laying the foundations for investment and training in this area."