A global survey of over 550 senior executives across 30 markets reveals that ‘Iconic’ firms – those that both maintain the highest levels of customer experience (CX) satisfaction, and have world-leading brand recognition – are more than twice as likely than others to employ comprehensive, leading-edge technology solutions in such areas as Next Generation Self-Service, loyalty program management and ‘voice of the customer’ survey analytics. The study, sponsored by Genesys, also found that:

• Iconic firms are nearly three times as likely to consider leadership in technology adoption crucial for maintaining CX excellence.
• Only half of firms with low levels of CX satisfaction and low brand recognition currently employ enabling technologies.
• Iconic firms are far ahead in the deployment of AI in their CX operations: 91% currently deploy AI solutions to increase customer satisfaction, as compared to 42% overall.
• Despite their strong technology leadership, Iconic firms are more driven by customer satisfaction than efficiency in CX management strategies.
• Nearly 90% of Iconic firms feel they are adept at managing CX from an omnichannel perspective; this figure drops to 66% for low-performing firms.
• Respondents across Asia indicate they are 10% to 15% less likely to perform aspects of omnichannel management, such as enabling customers to personalize their experience online.
• Unique customer insight as a competitive advantage: a third of Iconic firms indicate that they actively do not share their customer insights across their ecosystem.
• CSR is also a differentiator for Iconic firms: 75% feel it is one of the most important components of their brand value, compared to 21% among low-performing firms.

Mastering customer experience (CX)—optimizing tools, applications and operational processes to engage with customers across every stage of their shared journey—has always been a core growth strategy for successful global firms. This has only accelerated with the advance of technologies—such as ‘big data’ analytics, which turns customer information into predictive assets, and virtual assistants (or ‘chatbots’) which help firms more efficiently manage customer inquiries.

But technology adoption is only part of the CX strategy. This is the conclusion of “Getting To Iconic”, a new report from MIT Technology Review which analyzes the results of a global survey of over 550 senior executives asked to define their CX management strategies and how they introduce new technologies and optimize human capital as they seek to improve it. The report also includes case studies and insights from CX leaders at such firms as Alibaba, Uber, and Zurich Insurance.

The survey asked the executives to provide a detailed audit of their use of technology and technology-enabled processes in their CX operations, particularly in their current and planned usage of AI-enhanced tools and analytics (see Figure 1). Respondents were also asked to evaluate how well they executed on technology planning and implementation in the service of CX objectives. In the survey, the respondents analyzed their own level of ‘true’ omnichannel experience management, their ability to manage their surrounding ecosystem in support of their customers, and the role that broader objectives, specifically Corporate Social Responsibility, played in achieving CX goals.

Interestingly, emerging-market respondents reported notably lower levels of “leading” CX solutions, and a particularly high level of respondents in all emerging regions, save Asia, have no plans to implement these solutions. The relative lack of technology forwardness in emerging markets extends into next-generation solutions; Asia is a notable exception. While few Asian respondents indicated that they currently employed “leading” solutions, between one-third and one-half of respondents had some CX tech in place, and nearly all respondents have plans to implement it in the near future; in particular, 86% report some plans for AI. Surprisingly, even some respondents from Asia’s relatively mature markets are poor adopters: almost no respondents from Japan indicate that they have leading customer solutions deployed, and more than half have no plans to implement self-service, privacy or user experience tools.

The survey reveals distinct differences between the responses of Iconic firms–those which maintain industry-leading levels of customer satisfaction and brand recognition–and others, both in terms of their current level of technology deployment in their CX operations, and in the way they blend their technology and customer satisfaction strategies. Overall, Iconic firms are much more advanced in their deployment of leading-edge CX technologies, including the use of emerging AI applications (Figure 2).

“The leaders of Iconic companies know that they also have to be leaders in customer experience technology investment,” says Elizabeth Bramson-Boudreau, CEO and Publisher at MIT Technology Review. “But they also know that over-reliance on technology in search for efficiency gains can reduce, rather than increase, the levels of customer intimacy required for success.”

Ms. Bramson-Boudreau added: “Iconic firms, realizing the limitations of a technology-centric approach to maintaining desired customer management levels, place a high value on human capital investment, and are keen to strike the right balance between human and automated customer channels.”