Three Things That High-Performing CEOs Of Midsize Businesses Do Differently

Timo Elliott

Running a midsize business requires more than just excellent execution against key financial performance indicators. In today’s fast-changing environment, it’s also about focusing on higher-value tasks and making decisions that capture customer value faster than the competition.

Most CEOs of midsize companies place building revenue and profit, reducing cost, and increasing productivity at the top of their agendas. However, “The CEO Role in Best-Run Midsize Companies: Strategically Leveraging Intelligent Technologies,” the IDC InfoBrief sponsored by SAP, revealed an entirely different set of priorities for leaders running businesses on a high-growth trajectory. Their top three areas include: augmenting the customer experience, improving business agility and responsiveness, and introducing new business models.

Why the disparity in business approach and priorities? It all comes down to contributing to significant, long-term growth.

Midsize Company CEO Top Priorities by Segment

Source: “The CEO Role in Best-Run Midsize Companies: Strategically Leveraging Intelligent Technologies,” IDC InfoBrief sponsored by SAP, 2019.

Retire legacy thinking to deliver customer experiences that matter

In a world that demands social transparency, the end-to-end customer experience is the ultimate differentiator. In just a matter of a few clicks, customers can discover the real quality of your products and services and the sustainability and ethical standards of your operations.

High-performing CEOs know that the insight they need to improve their customer experience cannot be derived from financial figures and other internal operational metrics alone. They must also mine customer feedback to explore new areas for improvement, new needs that require attention, and new opportunities to strengthen relationships. Essentially, the only way to get high-quality feedback on the customer experience is to ask customers.

One of the advantages of being a midsize business has long been the ability to maintain closer relationships with customers. But as relationships increasingly shift online, feedback must be gathered by using more structured approaches, not the traditional method of sporadic, manual, and anecdotal feedback and expensive consulting services.

An experience-management platform can streamline feedback gathering into a cost-effective, consistent, and scalable process. The technology automatically triggers feedback opportunities as part of a seamless and smooth customer journey. Plus, with embedded artificial intelligence, it extracts common trends from survey forms, social media, and voice conversations. It can provide insights that can help shape and refine the customer experience more holistically, while addressing customer issues in real time.

For example, an organization can turn a routine complaint about missing information on a website into a new sales opportunity. With a holistic approach, account managers are systematically notified about any situations involving their customers. This automated approach is a vast improvement, compared to having to wait for an annual review survey to be completed and submitted. By the time the surveys are analyzed and reported, it’s typically too late to respond to the real issues.

Pay attention to your employees’ experience, too

Feedback from all roles and organizations is a highly valuable source of insight into the customer experience. Your employees are uniquely qualified to help you improve the business because they understand the full context of business processes – knowing why specific activities are done a certain way, which ones work well, and what can be improved.

An experience-management platform can help gather and synthesize this information at scale – as well as improve employee engagement. For example, a finance institution can use experience management to find out what their employees really care about in the work environment. Even moving toward a less formal dress code for non-customer-facing roles can provide the same boost in morale and engagement as a considerable financial bonus.

Design and deliver business models that resonate far and wide

Perhaps the biggest area where experience management can add value is by accelerating innovation. After all, the one thing we can be certain about in the future is that it will be different from what we expect today.

Innovation is an innately human activity. People constantly think of new scenarios that can help get stuff done better. In the business environment, innovation requires a cycle of testing those ideas against customer opinions, conducting trial experiments, getting more feedback, implementing improvements at scale, and reorganizing the company around new processes.

Smaller organizations have a massive advantage over larger enterprises, in that they are more flexible and adapt to situations faster. Using an experience-management platform, decision-makers can more quickly spot changing customer tastes or expectations and try out new ways of dealing with those demands. They can spot cross-selling opportunities, new product or service opportunities, and better payment methods just as quickly as larger competitors.

Take, for example, Kaiserwetter Energy Asset Management. The independent and international provider of renewable energy asset-management services created a data-as-a-service business model. By leveraging the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine connectivity, and Big Data mining, the 30-employee workforce innovated a groundbreaking digital platform called ARISTOTLE.

The first-of-its-kind platform aggregates and analyzes technical, meteorological, and financial data from all over the world. Constantly refined based on customer feedback, the technology reports its findings to users in the form of customized dashboards with tailor-made figures. And in return, clients gain the peace of mind from knowing the performance of their renewable energy assets portfolio is maximized and associated risks are minimized.

Let feedback guide improvements in agility and responsiveness

Running a business is like riding a bicycle – if you’re not moving forward and adapting to changes throughout the trip, you’re going to fall over. As the lifespans of companies continue to shorten, CEOs need to have their eyes firmly on the road ahead and quickly maneuver around obstacles or risks. In fact, the latest research shows that approximately two-thirds of businesses survive two years, half of all businesses survive five years, and one-third survive 10 years.

Again, there’s only one way to spot the changes ahead and guide the next step: feedback. With honest criticisms and praises from customers and front- and back-office employees, high-performing CEOs have a clear view of what the future can bring by taking the right actions today.

Want continuous growth? Get ready to dig a little deeper

Revenue, profitability, and productivity are undoubtedly critical parts of maintaining a healthy, growing business. But they alone cannot fuel your success for very long.

As high-performing CEOs shared with IDC’s survey, it takes an engaging customer experience, ground-breaking business model innovation, and fast-paced operational agility and responsiveness to make the magic of lasting growth happen.

We invite you to read the IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by SAP: “The CEO Role in Best-Run Midsize Companies: Strategically Leveraging Intelligent Technologies.”

Timo Elliott

About Timo Elliott

Timo Elliott is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP and a passionate advocate of innovation, digital business, analytics, and artificial intelligence.