Priorities for today's CEO: Customers and the market | KPMG | IE

Priorities for today's CEO: Customers and the market

Priorities for today's CEO: Customers and the market

In this year’s research, we see CEOs understanding their customers’ needs and desires on a highly intuitive level.


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Head of Restructuring & Head of Private Enterprise

KPMG in Ireland


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CEOs want to increase penetration in their core markets. They also want to disrupt those markets. Meeting these ambitions relies in large part on their ability to manage their relationships with the market, understand what their customers are looking for, and protect their brand. As seven in ten respondents worldwide tell us, CEOs feel a growing responsibility to protect the best interests of their customers.

For Safra Catz, Oracle’s success relies on understanding what their customers need. “You have to understand,” she says, “especially with a product like ours that you can’t physically see, that the only way to measure the success of our company is by understanding the success of our customers.”

In this year’s research, we see CEOs understanding their customers’ needs and desires on a highly intuitive level. This is particularly pronounced in both the Republic and Northern Ireland where over 90 percent of CEOs believe they are effective at sensing market signals compared with their global peers (64 percent).

The ability to understand what customers’ value is critical to improving their experience of the company’s services and products, which plays a key role in protecting brand reputation at a time of heightened reputational risk. We see businesses implementing changes to improve the experience they provide to customers with three in four CEOs (Republic of Ireland 73 percent, Northern Ireland 76 percent), tell us they have aligned their middle and back office processes to reflect a more customer-centric approach to front-office operations.

Data concerns

For many, enduring success with customers – and the ability to introduce successful new services and products – relies on an ability to balance human understanding with a mature capability in data and analytics. But it appears there is still some way to go. A universal concern of CEOs is that customer insight is hindered by a lack of quality data and many express concern about the integrity of the data they base decisions on.

“It’s a question of balance – trying to combine actual evidence with gut feel,” says Kieran Wallace, KPMG’s Head of Private Enterprise. “The instinctive nature of entrepreneurship, that sixth sense for the market that the best entrepreneurs have - it so often makes all the difference.”

Yet some businesses are making strong progress in generating new value out of data, particularly in how it can support R&D activity. At Tata Motors Worldwide in India, CEO and Managing Director Guenter Butschek says his company is “harnessing the power of advanced analytics to get ahead of customer trends, by using the insights and feeding them directly into our product development. We see AI as a business imperative and an important tool to forge a real time interface with our customers.”

Nonetheless, it is clear that, without greater confidence in data, many other CEOs will find it harder to provide innovative products and services that are truly game-changing. “Previously, we’ve relied heavily on historic data,” says KPMG’s Global Head of Advisory, Mark A. Goodburn. “Data has become much more nearterm and can be predicted more easily. Now it’s not about how much data you have, it’s how predictive that data can be. What are the interests, trends and desires of our customers in the near term or further afield?”

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