The first post in a series based on the research report Digitizing the Customer Experience: Are We There Yet? by the National Center for the Middle Market, this blog post explains the importance of customer experience and how middle market firms are taking steps to digitize it.

In the competition for business, middle market executives rank customer experience second only to quality and more important than price, according to our latest research findings. And that experience is happening more and more in the digital realm. In fact, more than half (57%) of firms say that digital solutions play a very or extremely important role in their customer experience models, and nearly half (49%) at least somewhat agree that their customers demand a digital enabled overall experience.

Given these findings, it’s not surprising that customer experience (CX) digitization is happening in most middle market firms. But the degree to which it’s prioritized is not as high as one might imagine. Only about one out of five firms is truly digitally strategic, consciously investing in both the tools and the talent to deliver against a well-thought-out digital CX strategy. And only about a quarter of these firms has achieved an end-to-end omnichannel digital customer experience across all platforms. For many middle market companies, CX digitization is reactive, or just sort of happening, without an intentional initiative to drive it forward.

4 CX Digitization Clusters

Middle market companies fall into four categories when it comes to their approach to CX digitization:

  1. Digitally Strategic: As described above, 21% of firms approach CX digitization in a strategic manner. They have a clear digital strategy in place specifically designed to change and improve the customer experience, and that strategy is communicated and embraced organization-wide.
  2. Digitally Advanced: 26% of middle market firms are Digitally Advanced. They believe in the importance of digital CX, but they may lack the right people, expertise, or possibly even the desire to bring it to life at all levels of the company and all customer touchpoints.
  3. Digitally Reactive: The largest segment, representing 32% of middle market firms, is made up of companies that have a reactive versus proactive approach to digitization. Though they have digitized some aspects of CX, their efforts are often ad hoc and done based on competitive or customer pressures, rather than being part of a defined digital strategy.
  4. Non-Digital: 21% of firms are decidedly non-digital, feeling that digitization has little impact on their business.

Conflict and Confusion May Be Holding Digitization Back

While some firms consciously choose to remain non-digital, others may be facing hurdles in their digitization efforts. Executives tell us they often struggle to capture the financial return from their customer experience digitization efforts. Many also must manage conflict between digital and analog areas of the business, for example brick and mortar sales versus web sales.

However, given the extreme importance of customer experience and the increasing expectations among customers for at least some of their experiences to happen online, middle market companies may be wise to invest time in solving these issues. A good first step may be to approach CX digitization in a more strategic fashion and to more thoughtfully invest in how they wish to interact with customers in the digital space.

See How Middle Market Companies Are Integrating Digital Tools Into Customer Touchpoints

Learn more about the importance and benefits of CX digitization, and how to make it work for your company, in the Center’s full report, Digitizing the Customer Experience: Are We There Yet?

Next in this series
Post 2: Customer Experience Digitization: Being “All In” Pays Off

Others in this series
Post 3: What’s In Your CX Digitization Toolbox?
Post 4: 5 Ways to Make Your Customer’s Experience More Digital

The NCMM examines its latest research report on digitizing the customer experience with Jeff Sharritts, Senior Vice President of Cisco's U.S. Commercial Sales. Listen to Episode 19: Digitizing the Customer Experience: Are We There Yet?