NEW YORK: Chief executive officers in the US are intending to make their businesses more customer-focused over the next few years, with many preparing to involve themselves closely in the process, a new survey has shown.

KPMG, the management consulting firm, polled 400 CEOs for its report, Setting the course for growth, asking them to rank their organisational priorities and found that "interacting more with clients and customers" came top.

While most planned to delegate this responsibility – 44% had charged their senior leadership with investing more time with customers and 55% were training junior staff earlier to better interact with clients and customers – some 19% of CEOs surveyed indicated that they personally were going to spend significantly more face time with their customers.

"In this era of digitally savvy customers and clients, the idea of being more customer-centric has taken on a new meaning," said Alton Adams, KPMG's national lead partner, Customer Strategy and Growth, who noted that consumers were now well-informed thanks to the internet.

"They have higher expectations for the entire customer experience including product features and performance as well as post-sales service and support," he said. "Companies will need to work harder than ever to make the customer feel 'special'."

After customer interaction, the next priorities were, in order, "promoting and advancing the brand," "fostering innovation" and "focusing on regulatory matters".

Alongside these priorities CEOs also expressed their concern about the fast-changing environment in which they now operated. Almost three quarters (72%) of respondents worried about whether their products and services would still be relevant in three years' time.

Beyond that there were widespread anxieties over the competition (90% feared losing business to rivals) and new entrants (59% were apprehensive about new players disrupting their business model).

"New technologies are changing the way all companies go to market," said Adams "To sustain and increase relevancy of their company's product and services, CEOs need to shepherd the adoption of technologies to better understand customer needs (data and analytics) and the implementation of technologies (digital and mobile) to meet those needs."

Data sourced from PR Newswire, KPMG; additional content by Warc staff