Enterprises in the region identify customer experience as a strategic imperative for survival and growth.

Enterprises in the region identify customer experience as a strategic imperative for survival and growth, with more than a third (35%) saying service excellence is now their primary source of value and differentiation.

This is according to a SAP regional study, Digital, resilient, and experience-driven: How enterprises in Southeast Asia can prepare for the new economy, which the enterprise software company released on 1 April. 

Customer experience is a top priority for SMEs in particular in the region: 44% of respondents have cited as such, making it a large jump from the second most cited priority – growth – at 31%.

Positive customer experiences have also become the foremost strategic consideration for businesses in the region, with key factors being personalisation for the customer (59%), providing high-quality products and/or services (55%), ensuring data protection and privacy (53%) and offering competitive pricing (51%), the company said in its findings.

Furthermore, companies said customer experiences depend on doing everything right, from providing a personalised (58% at SMEs; 63% at larger enterprises) and seamless (49% at SMEs; 57% at larger enterprises) experience to delivering high-quality products and services (54% at SMEs; 56% at larger enterprises). Relative differences between the factors, which ranged from personalised experiences  (58% at SMEs; 63% at larger enterprises) to fast and convenient delivery of products or services (30% at SMEs; 32% at larger enterprises), were given similar weight across the board in the survey.

The survey found that CRM is seen as most important for customer experiences (44% at SMEs and 42% at larger organisations).

Among the challenges, those surveyed said an evolving marketplace is the top external pressure for them. 40% of respondents cited changing customer wants and needs as a dominant challenge for them.

To secure quick growth, enterprises surveyed are employing short-term actions to improve customer experiences, with many investing in user-friendly digital experiences (39% have made this change across the organization), reducing prices (38%) and increasing after-sales maintenance (37%). Yet, the study found, just 58% say they have made at least moderate progress towards digital transformation, despite the ability of such tools to grant them insights into opportunities to improve their customer experiences; among SMEs, even fewer— just 45%—say they have made moderate progress towards transformation.

Conducted in collaboration with Oxford Economics, the study surveyed 600 senior executives—including 400 from SMEs with less than $500 million in revenue—across Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines.