SYDNEY: Australian businesses take customer experience (CX) seriously, to the extent of investing in specialist departments, and they think they are meeting consumer expectations, but that's not what consumers themselves say, a new study reveals.

The 2017 Starcom Media Futures Report, which surveyed national advertisers, key media executives and consumers across Australia, noted a 150% increase over a 12-month period in the number of businesses boasting a specialist CX department. And it observed that 55% of Australian businesses now believe they are advanced in CX.

But marketers scored themselves significantly higher (61% higher) on their ability to meet consumer expectations than consumers did. And they were also far more likely (40% higher) to consider they were engaging with consumers on their terms, Media Week reported.

The study went further and identified those categories where the gap was the biggest – and hence most at risk from disruption. These included alcoholic beverages (63%), airlines (61%), banking (52%) and beauty (48%).

"Customer experience is failing the customer," said Tony Barbour, Starcom chief executive. "We can see those businesses leading in CX are achieving six times more growth than the laggards."

"But CX in its current form is not tailored to consumer needs in 2017," he added, in remarks reported by Mumbrella.

"Businesses are at risk of prioritising data over people," he argued. "In asking customers for data we set an expectation, and this creates a gap if we don't then add a perceived value for them."

In his view, that means shifting from a 'customer' experience to a 'human' experience, moving from measuring past customer behaviour to predicting human motivations and desires.

Talking to Warc recently, Luke Brown, CEO of data-driven marketing agency Affinity, observed that "you need to be able to measure real-time behaviour - not stated behaviour - in order to be really excellent at CX."

It's an area that is emerging as a new branding battleground and has been given added impetus by companies like National Australia Bank and Telstra tying net promoter scores to financial incentives for staff.

Data sourced from Media Week, Mumbrella; additional content by Warc staff