When the COVID-19 pandemic began, few organizations saw themselves as agile. According to a global survey of 200 C-level leaders conducted by ESI ThoughtLab, only a tenth of businesses ranked themselves as agile across a range of functions and processes, where “agility” is defined as the strategic imperative to survive and thrive in challenging times.
A year later, this value more than doubled to 28%—but chief customer officers are more optimistic about the value of business agility than their peers.
Agile digitization strategies
Although the COVID-19 crisis accelerated digital transformation across verticals, many CCOs were focusing on digitization before the pandemic began. While their peers fought to pivot their time and resources to agility-boosting initiatives like digitization, CCOs were in a good place to weather the crisis.
What explains their foresight? Unlike their peers, CCOs must be intimately in tune with customer needs and desires. In response to customer demands for digital offerings, CCOs began investing in digitization well over a year ago.
As a result, going into the pandemic, CCOs saw digitization strategies as more agile than their peers. Nearly 4 in 10 CCOs rated this area as agile vs. 18% of all executives. That is unsurprising given CCOs’ unique insight into—and focus on—customer experience.
CCOs are optimistic
Compared to their C-suite peers, CCOs are optimistic about their organization’s investment in agility. More than half now rate sales and marketing and digitization strategies as largely or fully agile.
Notably, CCOs give higher ratings than their peers to the areas that their peers control. For example, more than half believe risk management is now agile, which is 20 points higher than their peers. The reason might be that CCOs are more likely to pay attention to the downstream effects of executive policies. If customers are not experiencing negative ramifications of a given policy, then the CCO might rank it higher than their peers.
Uncertain ROI around customer centricity
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the number of customer care executives who saw the sales, marketing, and channel management to be very agile surged (+40 percentage points)—activities that had to move quickly in response to shifts in customer behavior throughout the pandemic. Similarly, nearly 40% more CCOs reported increased agility among IT support and architecture, which stepped up to meet evolving customer needs.
Risk and data management, which bolstered the core business during the pandemic, saw marked increases in agility, as well.
Despite these improvements, CCOs have a few concerns for the future. Quantifying ROI for customer centricity is not always easy. Customer care executives worry that this might make it more difficult to drive agility in the years ahead. Making a strong business case for customer centricity while also keeping up with customer expectations might pose obstacles in the post-pandemic world.