Acquiring new customers is the top priority on the executive agenda for 2004, according to a global study released by Accenture. This research comprised interviews with 439 senior executives at leading organizations in North America, Europe and Asia to identify and prioritize the issues of greatest concern to senior management, understand how their priorities shift over time, and identify key forces behind the issues.
When asked to select their top priorities for 2004 from among a list of 40 business issues, the greatest number of respondents (35 percent) selected acquiring new customers. Using information technology (IT) to reduce costs and create value and managing risk tied for second, each selected by 30 percent of respondents, followed by increasing customer loyalty and attention, selected by 29 percent.
In addition, four of the top 10 priorities centered on workforce-related issues, indicating that while the economic recovery appears to be fueling a shift in priorities from bottom-line cost cutting to top-line revenue generation, senior executives also believe that their people are key drivers to the growth and success of their organizations.
While the economic downturn has placed enormous pressure on companies to keep their operating expenses down, executives with vision also know that the economy will turnaround eventually, said Michael Sutcliff, global managing partner of Accentures Finance & Performance Management practice. Companies that have maintained strong workforces poised for the upturn are likely to come out ahead.
On a geographic basis, the study identified striking differences in issue priorities between executives in the nine countries represented in the study. Even within Europe, wide differences exist. The top business issues in each of the nine countries are:
- Australia Managing risk (54 percent)
- France Increasing customer service capability acquiring new customers and increasing customer loyalty (48 percent each)
- Germany Managing risk (47 percent)
- Italy Acquiring new customers (46 percent)
- Japan More effectively leverage the supply chain for competitive advantage (37 percent)
- Spain Improve productivity with information technology and acquiring new customers (41 percent)
- United Kingdom Attracting and retaining skilled staff (45 percent)
- United States Acquiring new customers (40 percent)
- Canada Using IT to reduce costs and create value and managing risk (40 percent each)
This years survey along with Innovating for the Upturn should be a wake up call for companies to re-energize and re-commit to competing at the highest levels or risk watching the gap between winning and average companies widen exponentially as the economy turns around, said Sutcliff.
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