NEW YORK: A majority of chief executive officers are planning to involve customers in the development of business strategies, but a third worry that their C-suite colleagues are out of touch with those same customers, a new report has suggested.

The Customer-Activated Enterprise, a study from the IBM Institute for Business Value, part of the technology and consulting firm IBM, interviewed more than 4,000 CEOs, CMOs, CFOs and CIOs across 70 countries and 20 industries.

It found that 60% of CEOs planned to directly engage their customers and proactively apply what they learn to set their business agendas in the next three to five years, up from the 43% who are already doing so.

Further, the report indicated a correlation between those companies that succeed and their levels of external collaboration. Outperforming companies were 54% more likely to collaborate extensively with customers.

"Organizations have steadily shifted to embrace more open, collaborative and reciprocal models," said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president at IBM Global Business Services.

"They're opening up their organizations, breaking down barriers and actively engaging customers – providing customers a seat at the table to help shape their business model and strategy," she added.

Customers were second only to the C-suite itself in terms of the level of influence wielded within an organisation, and ahead of the board of directors and the corporate strategy function.

IBM observed two main routes to achieving greater customer input. One was the use of customer advisory boards, the other new digital-physical innovations.

The C-suite overall expected to be using digital channels extensively in the future to engage with customers. Where 55% indicated they were doing so today, that rose to 88% over the next 3-5 years.

The study also said, however, that around two-thirds of firms had a weak or nonexistent digital strategy. This was a clear focus for CMOs, 87% of whom indicated their intention to create customer touchpoints across all physical and digital channels over the next 3-5 years.

The use of advanced analytics to capture customer insights was also high on their list (83%), along with the use of social networks for collaboration (78%).

Data sourced from IBM; additional content by Warc staff