I was reading a study on analytics by Accenture last week and found some statistics that didn’t add up for me. According to some recent research, 55% of executives rated their ability to target customers and provide them relevant experiences as either “ideal” or “very good”. My immediate reaction was that this number seemed unrealistic. Another statistic in the report confirmed my suspicions. Only 21% of consumers believe the companies they choose to do business with are good at providing them with tailored, relevant experiences.

This is quite a difference of opinion. Over half the CEOs think their companies are very good at delivering relevant experiences but only 1 in 5 consumers think they are. Because the consumer is the ultimate judge of the quality of the experiences, I conclude that the CEOs don’t have a realistic assessment of the situation. What accounts for the discrepancy?
I found some other statistics that give us some insight. When asked what resources senior managers used when making decisions about what their customers want, the most common response was personal experience. That makes sense. There’s nothing like being on site with customers, seeing their environment first-hand and using all your senses to really understand the customers’ situation and problems. But how often does this happen?
I couldn’t find a comprehensive study on the amount of time CEOs spend with customers but I ran across an anecdote about AG Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble. You’d assume a B2C company like P&G would invest heavily in understanding the customer up close and personal but Lafley reinstituted consumer home visits and store visits for himself and his senior
executives after discovering that P&Gs product managers spent on average only three percent of their time in contact with end consumers. Personally, I’ve observed very few CEOs that spend much time with customers or when they do it’s to calm down an irate client or to help a salesman close a large order. It’s rare a CEO will take the time to just listen in order to understand what his/her company could be doing better.
So here’s my summary. CEOs think they’re doing a much better job than their customers do based primarily on their personal experience from very little customer interaction. Andy Grove said only the paranoid survive. That implies the isolated and complacent have the odds stacked against them. It doesn’t seem like a very solid foundation on which to understand and deliver value.

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