Companies that reimagine their entire business through the lens of experience outperform their industry peers by six times in year-on-year profitability.

A large majority (77%) of CEOs said they will fundamentally change how their companies interact with customers as a priority to drive business growth, according to a new report released by Accenture.

The report, titled “The Business of Experience (BX)” and led by Accenture Interactive, is based on survey research with over 1 550 executives across 21 countries and 22 industries to understand the role that the customer experience plays in driving long-term business growth, durability and relevance.

According to the research, companies that focus their entire organisation around delivering exceptional experiences for their customers, employees and society outperform their industry peers by six times in year-on-year profitability.

Covid-19 has pushed experience further into the spotlight, accelerating its significance through every function and employee,” says Brian Whipple, group chief executive of Accenture Interactive. “Simply put, when you improve the experience, you improve lives and in turn, you improve business.”

While a focus on customer experience (CX) has traditionally been based on transactions with customers, being experience-led is a new way of working that is increasingly being backed by the C-suite, according to the research. Accenture Interactive calls this new holistic approach – which is becoming an urgent business imperative – the business of experience (BX).

The report notes that, while CX has historically been part of the domain of the chief marketing officer (CMO), BX has become a CEO priority as it ties back to every aspect of a company’s operations.

And it’s not just the CEO: more than half of chief operating officers (COO) (56%), chief strategy officers (CSO) (53%) and chief financial officers (CFO) (51%) said their company will fundamentally change the way it engages and interacts with its customers.

“To grow in the coming year, every company and leader will need to think about experience differently – especially as nearly everything we do, from how we shop, to how and where we work, to how we interact with others – has been structurally upended,” says Baiju Shah, chief strategy officer of Accenture Interactive. “An experience renaissance is afoot, and the companies that put experience at the heart of their organisation will ignite growth and be our new category of leaders into the year and decade ahead.”

Haydn Townsend, MD of Accenture Interactive in Africa, adds: “There is no question about it, BX will become the gold standard. It is a significant mindset shift, and we believe that over the years to come, it’s going to be an incredible engine for meaningful disruption, market differentiation and customer satisfaction.

“For South African businesses to remain relevant and to succeed in the post-pandemic world, they need to become businesses of experience. From a front office and back office perspective they must focus their entire organisation on delivering a better experience to their customers, employees and society,” he adds.

The research shows that leading companies (that is, companies that are independently performing well in terms of financial growth and business cycle endurance) think about and act on the customer experience differently than their competitors.

These leading companies are far more likely to take the following BX approaches, enabling them to consistently outperform their peers.

* Become customer-obsessed. Customer needs will likely continue to evolve, often unpredictably, beyond the fallout from the pandemic. As a result, companies should invest in ways to uncover customers’ unmet needs, both big and small. The research found that leading companies are twice as likely as others (55% versus 26%) to say they have the ability to translate customer data into actions. But many of these same leaders say that there are limits to their data and what they can do as a result. That’s why it matters — to be truly customer obsessed, companies need better ways to dig deep and uncover these needs.

* Make experience innovation an everyday habit. Our research shows that leading companies feel better prepared to take advantage of the opportunity to innovate at scale as they are more than twice as likely to have the agility to pivot towards new models that deliver value and relevance to their customers versus their peers.

* Expand the experience remit across their organisation. Experience is not the responsibility of just the CMO or COO — it’s everybody’s business, from the C-suite down. Every person and every part of the business should be interconnected and collaborative, functioning as one cohesive, customer-obsessed unit, with delivering the best customer experience as its north star.

* Synch the tech, data and human agenda. Becoming a business of experience is not about investing more but investing differently. Leaders redirect data, tech and people to enable agility that continuously unlocks efficiencies that can be reinvested in new opportunities for performance and growth. Among leaders, 61% said their company has a clear view of which technology platforms they need to leverage to remain competitive and relevant to customers, compared with only 27% of their peers.