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CEOs turn to customers for business strategy – study

8th Oct 2013
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Forget the misconception that CEOs are out of touch with customers. According to new research, business leaders are set to extensively collaborate with customers over the next five years.

In fact, a third of CEOs are concerned that the rest of the C-suite is out of touch with customers. That’s according to a new study from IBM, based on discussions with more than 4,000 C-suite leaders, including CEOs, CMOs, CFOs and CIOs from 70 countries and 20 industries worldwide.

The survey also found that 60% of CEOs plan to directly engage their customers and proactively apply what they learn to set their business agendas in the next three to five years – this figure up 17% from last year’s study.

Bridget van Kralingen, SVP of IBM Global Business Services, explained: “Our research with C-suite leaders over the past decade has shown that organisations have steadily shifted to embrace more open, collaborative and reciprocal models. Today, CEO’s recognise that they can’t do it all alone. They’re opening up their organisations, breaking down barriers and actively engaging customers – providing customers a seat at the table to help shape their business model and strategy.”

So how exactly are CEOs opening the door to customer collaboration? According to the research, business leaders are looking to collaborate far further than simply developing new products, with outperforming companies 54% more likely to collaborate extensively with customers.

Instead businesses are looking to work with customers on business strategy development, pricing structure and social and environmental policies, said IBM, and to do this are increasingly turning to customer advisory boards to set strategic direction, share best practices, better understand market segments and fine tune business models.

Additionally, the research found that organisations are blending their digital and physical strategies to create an integrated approach for their technology-savvy customers. Over half of CEOs (52%) are using digital channels to interact with customers, according to this year’s figures.

David Stokes, chief executive of IBM UK and Ireland, added: “In today’s digital era, the customer is empowered by technology and transparency and is accustomed to a personalised experience.

"Our survey results clearly indicate that the most successful business leaders are those who recognise and embrace this shift in customer expectations. Successful leaders also understand that the customer influence can, and in many cases should, help determine business strategy."

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