Customer Experience Tumbles Down the C-Suite Priority List, Finds IBM Research

IBM research uncovers what is motivating CEO decision-making

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Published: July 18, 2023

James Stephen

Research by IBM into CEO decision-making suggests that customer experiences are no longer such a top priority.

Productivity and profitability, alongside tech modernization, have pushed customer experience from the most pressing priority down to third place.

According to IBM, the global economic environment explains why companies are looking more toward their bottom lines than customer satisfaction concerns.

The research was carried out across 24 industries in over 30 countries, with more than 3,000 CEOs taking part.

Nicholas de Kouchkovsky, CCaaS & CX Expert at BCStrategies, provided another explanation for CX’s drop in priority. “It comes as no surprise that productivity & profitability are now at the forefront of CEOs’ concerns, given our turbulent times.” he wrote on LinkedIn.

“What baffles me is the fact that CX has fallen to the third position, trailing behind technology modernization.

Anecdotal discussions suggest one possible explanation. CX has become too many things claimed by too many initiatives.

“This dilution might have prompted its transition from a specific priority to an overall strategic imperative.”

Customer experiences scooped 44 percent of the vote to determine priority business areas, dropping a hefty 14 percentage points from last year.

Meanwhile, tech modernization received 45 percent of the vote, and “productivity or profitability” grew to 48 percent, making it the biggest priority for CEOs.

Although productivity and profitability are the top priorities, the biggest challenges were listed as cybersecurity and sustainability.

Dom Black, Director of Research at Cavell Group, compared IBM research to insights from his own company’s research: “I think it’s a sign of the times where a lot of CEOs and large corps are still struggling with the transition to hybrid working and how they measure productivity. Profitability [is] a big concern for obvious reasons!

“From a CX point of view, we did a similar survey last year on communications priorities, interestingly enhancing CX came highest in the sub-50 employee segment, whereas larger businesses were focusing on enabling better collaboration internally.”

The rise of AI has also proved a game-changer this year, adding further complexity for CEOs to grapple with, as IBM explains in its research: “Chief executives are making decisions faster than ever in a world that has moved beyond looking solely at shareholder value.

“In a world where we are debating the ethics and feasibility of AI-driven decision-making versus human involvement, where previously unknown generative AI brand names now roll off the tongues of businesspeople around the world, how do top-performing CEOs make the right calls?

“Particularly given the fact that they—like their less successful peers—are compelled to focus on the very areas where they are least experienced and likely have the smallest amount of historical data.”

AI Enters the Stage

It seems that AI is at the forefront of business leaders’ minds right now, with 66 percent of board members pressuring to accelerate AI adoption and 75 percent of CEOs believing it can provide a competitive advantage.

Workforce disruptions have been cited as one consequence of implementing AI, with 28 percent of workforce potentially impacted as a result.

Teams are also not sharing in the enthusiasm for AI as they remain wary of the new technology and their workforces’ internal capacities.

There are also major barriers to adopting AI, including concerns voiced by 61 percent of participants around data lineage and provenance, 57 percent felt security could be problematic, and 53 percent saw regulation and compliance as an obstacle to implementation.

This research report adds to one of the most action-packed weeks for customer experience AI so far.

Also this month, CX Today explored contact center AI, providing a long list of tips, benefits, and opportunities.



Artificial IntelligenceDigital TransformationWorkforce Management

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