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Six in 10 business leaders at large companies believe that it’s extremely important to deliver real-time customer interactions across touch points and devices today, and 8 in 10 feel that it will be extremely important in 2 years’ time, according to a SAS-sponsored study [download page] conducted by Harvard Business Review (HBR) Analytics Services.

But while business leaders recognize the importance of real-time analytics, they haven’t attained strong levels of success. In fact, respondents were twice as likely to say they’re not effective (30%) than to say they’re very effective (16%) at delivering real-time customer interactions across touch points and devices.

In an effort to change that, 7 in 10 have increased their investments in the past year, including one-third who have spent significantly more. These investments are being made primarily to scale customer-centered decisions and actions across business functions and to design contextual customer engagements across their journey.

Presumably those business drivers are also looking to combat the main obstacles to real-time customer analytics, which revolve around the legacy systems, data silos and organizational silos that have become a common refrain in data-driven initiatives.

Which Customer Systems Are Critical?

If legacy systems are a hindrance, then it stands to reason that organizations will need to invest in new technologies to achieve their desired real-time customer analytics. As the report notes, H&R Block took the approach of investing in a new customer relationship management (CRM) system, and then layered other technologies on top of that.

Having the CRM as the foundational system seems to be the consensus viewpoint from the business leaders surveyed, a logical response given the focus on customers and their interactions. Indeed, 73% view the CRM as very important to their organization’s ability to deliver tailored, targeted, and timely interactions today, and 80% see it as being very important in 2 years’ time.

Next on the list is predictive analytics, which 61% view as very important today and 74% as that important in a couple years’ time.

Interestingly, a recent report from Adobe found that while CRM data remains enterprises’ most common approach taken to augmenting data-driven marketing, reliance on CRM data is diminishing in favor of increasing use of predictive analytics.

Meanwhile the SAS and HBR study finds that social media monitoring is almost as important as predictive analytics today, and will continue to be over the next couple of years.

Among the other systems predicted to grow in importance over the next couple of years are text analytics, intelligent assistants/chat bots, and speech/voice analytics.

While it may seem that there’s a lot of complexity to managing those technologies, the payoffs are large. A majority (58%) of organizations have already seen significant increases in customer retention/loyalty as a result of their use of customer analytics, and around half have also significantly improved their understanding and strength of the customer journey.

Perhaps most importantly, 44% have enjoyed significant growth and revenue generation.

About the Data: The results are based on a survey of 560 business leaders at companies with more than 500 employees (54% at companies with at least 10,000 employees). Respondents came from a variety of industry sectors and job functions, with the North Americans (37%) and EMEA (35%) regions most heavily represented.

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