More than nine in 10 companies are struggling to deliver digital customer experiences that exceed their customers’ expectations, according to a new study from Accenture Interactive ( The finding reflects the huge challenge brands are facing as customer expectations are becoming “liquid” and changing at a lightning pace.

The study is based on a survey of 702 customer experience decision-makers from companies in 14 countries. While 52% of all respondents said that they’re ahead of their competitors at providing digital customer experiences, only 7% said their company exceeds the expectations of their actual customers. Another 67% stated they ‘meet’ these expectations.

“Meeting customer expectations is by no means a small achievement,” said Anatoly Roytman, managing director, Accenture Interactive Europe, Africa, Middle East, Latin America. “However, it’s not enough anymore. Customer expectations are changing faster than ever and what people learn to love in one industry increasingly defines what they expect in other areas as well – we call this ‘liquid expectations.’ It’s now your customer who’s setting the bar, not your competitor.”

Shifting expectations require companies to stay closer to customers to learn their needs and preferences directly from them. The reality is that businesses often think “inside out” and take customer experience initiatives without consulting customers directly. While 81% of all respondents believe that it is important to involve customers in customer experience efforts, only 57% actually take this “outside-in” perspective. The findings show that many companies fail at measuring what they know they should, too. For example, 90% see value in churn metrics, but less than 40% capture them.

The study identified a group of customer experience high performers (18%) which scored highest across eight key metrics as a result of using digital technology to improve the customer experience. Significantly more high performers than their peers report “better than expected” outcomes for increased brand relevance, cost savings, customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, market differentiation, return on investment, revenues, scale and efficiency.

Additionally, more high performers than other companies are able to at least ‘meet’ customers’ expectations (85% vs. 63%). These outcomes parallel four distinct behaviors high performers are showing – indicating that customer experience is a mindset:

° High performers’ senior executive sponsorship for customer experience initiatives is fully aligned.

° They have adapted to a state of constant flux, treating digital customer experience transformation as an ongoing initiative rather than a project.
° They are analytics-focused and data-driven around customer experience.

° They have built strategic partnerships, not just vendor relationships, to help them with skills and resources they lack but need in order to continuously transform the customer experience.