Report Summary

 “To satisfy the customer is the mission and purpose of every business.” Management guru Peter Drucker’s words are as true today as they were in 1973, when he first published Management: Tasks, Responsibilities and Practices.

But for decades the gap between big companies and the customers who bought their products and services has grown only wider. The customer might be king, but his crown slipped.

Now, technologies and practices are emerging that give firms an opportunity to rebuild an intimate sense of connection with customers—to know them as though they were running a corner store. Yet those same technologies—social media, cloud computing and the “Internet of things”—have empowered customers, too. They can share their brand disappointments and their stories of service that is subpar with consummate ease. Likewise, they are able and willing to tell their friends and family about companies that have made them go “wow.”

This is the customer-led economy, an emerging world of bewildering strategic options. To understand how companies are adapting, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), sponsored by salesforce.com, conducted a global survey of business executives and interviewed leading firms.

Our findings show that:

  • A large majority of companies are fundamentally rethinking their strategies for engaging individual customers. These changes have been largely driven from the top, with the CEO commonly taking personal responsibility for redefining how the company connects with customers and how it empowers employees and partners to improve the customer experience.
  • Emerging technologies are the principal enablers of this new customer-centric thinking, as companies strive to follow their customers as they migrate across channels. Mobile and cloud-based applications are leading this trend, along with more intensive use of social media tools and connected products.
  • The benefit of connecting customers, employees, partners and products is ultimately customers who are more satisfied. More than 80% of the executives surveyed in each of these categories said that improving those connections would enhance the customer experience.

Date Published: December 3rd 2013

Why read this report

  • Most companies (51%) are still relying on their website as their main communication tool, followed by e-mail (40%). Only 23% are using social media, with just 10% using mobile apps. That mix will change over the next three years. Companies in the survey say social media will become their number-one channel (43%) and their use of apps will leap fourfold.
  • Emerging technologies are the principal enablers of this new customer-centric thinking. Companies are striving to follow their customers as they migrate across channels. Mobile and cloud-based applications are leading this trend, along with more intensive use of social media tools and connected products.
  • Companies are connecting their customers, employees, partners and products to increase customer satisfaction. More than 80% of the executives polled say improving these connections will enhance the customer experience.
The deepest connections are those that connect the consumer to product. People experience our brand through our product—through wearing it, having life experiences in it.

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