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Executive summary

Everything about the customer is changing – motivations, connections, expectations, time and purchasing power. Life events are less predictable than they were in the past. Organizations that don’t detect these shifts, and fail to build strategies based on the new realities and lives of the customers they serve, will struggle to remain relevant in today’s marketplace.

Winning this battle for an ever-evolving consumer requires deep, holistic insight; a willingness to design distinctive, personalized and – critically – intentional customer experiences and then, crucially, the ability to execute these experiences across the life cycle of the customer throughout the organization.

It requires all layers of an organization to be obsessed with the customer. Obsession describes an idea or thought that continually intrudes upon the mind. For leading organizations, the customer continually pervades their thinking. Serving customers by solving their problems and meeting their changing needs is their raison d’être, their motivation and their enduring quest.

I believe there are three defining and competitively advantageous characteristics of customer obsessed organizations:

They are customer first: they put their customers at the heart of their strategy, planning and execution and continually ask “what does this mean to my customers?”, “what is the impact on my customers?” and “how will my customers respond?”

They are insight driven: these companies know their customers at a deep and profound level, they know their physical and their psychological needs and, as a consequence, they craft market leading propositions. They are continually listening to customer feedback in real time and choreographing experiences that are inspirational and motivational.

They practice customer foresight to anticipate customer needs: many are organized around the customer, with ‘test and learn’ a way of life. They are organized to respond quickly and to execute efficiently and effectively, so that in many cases they meet the need just as the customer realizes they have one.

Leading companies’ obsession with building long term customer relationships generates a customer focused mind-set that penetrates strategic thinking and operational reality.

In this report we look at four lenses of customer obsession and how these translate to market success:

The Power of Purpose

The purpose of the organization, its brand and how it is lived internally so it is felt authentically externally; how greater potential can be unlocked within its teams for the betterment of the consumer – and ultimately the business.

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Products, services and propositions

The products, services and propositions that the firm develops in response to its customers’ needs, the supply chain and supporting partnership eco system that supports rapid product delivery.

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Customer interaction management

Customer interaction management and the use of predictive analysis to anticipate customer needs, the supporting systems, technologies and support services required to deliver a seamless experience.

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Customer oriented business models

The organizational design model, its closeness to the customer and the degree to which the front, middle and back office are connected.

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We have incorporated our research findings from 2,075 brands across 20 countries, regions and jurisdictions, sharing the experiences of leaders who are customer obsessed and making real progress transforming their businesses and, in the process, enhancing their customers’ lives and gaining competitive advantage.

These firms are breaking away from the pack because they have built firm foundations for success by cultivating the right internal capabilities. They are distinguishable by the degree to which their customer experience (CX) efforts are integrated and connected. The boundaries between their front and back offices are blurring and they are intimately close to their customers and driven to innovate by the insights they gain. They are structuring their businesses in new and exciting ways and, in the process, they are delighting their customers and creating lifelong fans.

These customer obsessed organizations see customer experience as a source of commercial value; not just a differentiator versus competition (although it certainly is that) but a mechanism for superior profitability. The net result? Customer obsession results in a sustainable source of financial value for shareholders and owners.

”It requires all layers of an organization to be obsessed with the customer. Obsession describes an idea or thought that continually intrudes upon the mind. For leading organizations, the customer continually pervades their thinking.”

Julio Hernandez
Head of Global Customer Center of Excellence,
KPMG International,
US Customer Advisory Lead,
KPMG in the US

Key findings

The quality of customer experiences are improving around the world. All countries researched in 2018 have seen an uplift in their overall Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) score this year.

Businesses are finally coming to grips with escalating customer expectations, as new organization models emerge and firms become more agile by deconstructing silos.

Three sectors dominate the 2019 hall of fame. First place rankings are occupied by: Financial Services, Travel & Hotels and Retail.

New entrants globally are redefining the way experiences are delivered and are solving life problems rather than just selling products.

In six markets, the number one ranked brand holds the position for a second consecutive year.

The battle lines for ‘platform wars’’ are being drawn as organizations create an ‘operating system’ for retail that includes an entire ecosystem of technologies, partners, sophisticated supply chain and delivery management.

Personalization drives loyalty in 18 out of 20 markets. In a world of mass marketing and mass production, consumers still want to feel unique. Firms that play to this with mass customization – through their platforms – are winning out.

The top-ranked brand in each market typically outperforms the respective market average score for each pillar by around 10%.

Personalization as an approach is becoming increasingly anticipative as firms use advanced analytics to reach out to customers before they even realize they have a need. Relevance and cut-through are becoming the drivers of purchase decisions.

Integrity drives advocacy in 14 out of 20 markets. Consumers are concerned about trusting organizations and, in particular, what they do with their data. This will limit the amount of personalization firms are able to achieve.

Integrity is rooted in the purpose of the organization. Firms with a strong sense of purpose are attracting generation Z, millennials and baby boomers, as environmental and social concerns increase in many countries.

Empathy appears to be the most challenging pillar. On average, performance is half a point lower than across the remaining five pillars.