GLOBAL: Two thirds of marketers believe they meet customer expectations regarding digital experiences, but very few exceed those expectations as they struggle to keep up with consumers in a fast-changing environment, according to a new study.

Consulting firm Accenture surveyed 702 customer experience decision-makers from companies in 14 countries, including the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, India, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and China.

It found that while half were confident they were ahead of their competitors when it came to providing digital customer experiences, only 7% said their company exceeded the expectations of their actual customers.

"Meeting customer expectations is by no means a small achievement," said Anatoly Roytman, managing director, Accenture Interactive Europe, Africa, Middle East, Latin America.

"However, it's not enough anymore. Customer expectations are changing faster than ever and what people learn to love in one industry increasingly defines what they expect in other areas as well – we call this 'liquid expectations'.

"It's now your customer who's setting the bar, not your competitor," he added.

The study identified a group of customer experience "high performers" (18%) which scored highest across eight key metrics as a result of using digital technology to improve the customer experience.

Significantly more high performers than their peers reported "better than expected" outcomes for increased brand relevance, cost savings, customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, market differentiation, return on investment, revenues, scale and efficiency.

Additionally, more high performers than other companies were able to at least 'meet' customers' expectations (85% vs. 63%).

The characteristics of this group included treating digital customer experience transformation as an ongoing initiative rather than a project, building strategic partnerships that help them achieve that, and being analytics-focused and data-driven around customer experience.

But Accenture warned that "the next wave of customer experience disruption is at hand" in the form of "living services" – smart digital services that leverage the Internet of Things to wrap around the consumer and respond to them in real-time according to their individual needs and environments.

"The next wave of digital services will completely transform customer experience as we know it," said Roytman.

"Every business will have to truly rally around the customer and become even more digitally savvy in order to take advantage of it."

Data sourced from Accenture; additional content by Warc staff