Financial Times
5 June 2023

US groups ‘fail to understand customer needs’ – BPM Forum Sudy.

By Francesco Guerrera

US companies are failing to respond to fast-changing markets because they are unable to understand and adjust to what their customers want, according to a study to be published today.

The report, by the Business Performance Management Forum, an industry organisation, suggests US businesses are struggling to meet the demands of increasingly competitive international markets and sophisticated clients.

“Looking at the business from a rear view mirror is still very much the vantage point of most companies,” the study, based on interviews with executives from more than 300 US-based companies, concludes.

The findings of the report are a warning to US companies that their recent run of record profits could come under threat unless they become more nimble and more responsive to their customers’ needs.

More than 60 per cent of the companies polled, which include Pfizer, a drug group; Xerox, a copier maker; and Deloitte, a professional services firm, said they were ill-equipped to respond to changes in the market.

Among larger companies with yearly sales of more than Dollars 500m, only one in four executives said they were satisfied with their company’s ability to be ahead of markets and competitors.

The majority of executives interviewed by the BPM Forum, whose members come from more than 1,000 companies, blamed the lack of good information technology systems for their failure to “read” their markets. Fewer than one in three executives said they were able to get real-time views of their businesses’ operations and customers’ expectations – a surprising result considering most companies’ stated focus on logistics, supply chain and customer service.

Nearly half of all large companies polled, which made up one-quarter of the total, admitted that their IT departments had “significant problems” or could “not keep up at all”.

They named budget constraints and a lack of understanding of the business as the main reasons for the IT specialists’ failure to help the organisation.

Companies said their top priorities were getting more accurate information about their customers’ needs and better intelligence on their competitors as well as developing more effective ways of measuring their own performance.

The increasing internalisation of many sectors and the threats posed by low-cost rivals from developing countries only deepened companies’ desire to be more in tune with their markets, according to the report.

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