While the majority (60%) of respondents anticipate modest economic expansion over the course of the year, 80% indicate they will reign in spending and investments; most respondents from Australia expect to increase spending and investment by 8% or less. Where investment will ramp-up most is in areas designed to drive the biggest improvements in customer satisfaction.
These include in ranked order:
- Developing new products and services (73%) – a significant increase from 30% of respondents in 2018;
- Adding capacity for production or service delivery (57%);
- Sales and marketing activities (53%); and
- Protecting customers,’ suppliers’ and employees’ data (53%).
Big business focuses on wooing Gen Z
The survey reveals Generation Z is an audience of particular focus among big business. Ninety-percent (90%) of respondents from Australia say they have explicit strategies in place to appeal to this younger demographic of customers, signalling a growing realisation that a tailored approach is required to engage this progressively influential segment of the population.
“Corporations are increasingly realising that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to addressing the needs of their customers is no longer effective,” said Geoff Begg, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Global Commercial Services Japan and Asia Pacific. “Our research shows that big business is becoming less interested in what the competition is doing, and more concerned about what they can do themselves to drive greater levels of customer satisfaction, address unmet needs or ones likely to reveal themselves in the future. We’re witnessing high levels of business transformation and innovation across industries as a result.”
Shifts in planning processes
According to the research, 80% of respondents claim that over the past few years they have shortened their planning, budgeting and forecasting horizons. The same proportion also reports increasing the number of people from diverse parts of the organisation to help shape their approach to business planning.
“The pace at which consumer demand and preferences is changing is one factor that’s forcing companies to place less emphasis on what’s on the horizon and instead consider what’s around the corner to ensure they remain relevant. There’s a hunger for fresh ideas aimed at creating a better customer experience and a greater appreciation that innovation can come from all parts of the organisation – not just the C-suite”, said Geoff Begg.
Staffing challenges stymie companies’ efforts to achieve goals
While a customer-centric mindset might be driving their spending priorities, Australia’s largest corporations admit they’re finding it difficult to hire and retain staff for critical business functions. This difficulty is having a negative impact on their ability to meet their goals.
Australia, more than any other market in the region, says filling sales and marketing positions presented the biggest frustration (83%). Shortfalls in other roles included:
- Administrative and support staff (77%);
- Production/operation staff (73%); and
- IT staff (70%).
And yet only 20% of companies say they planned to address the issue by raising wages. This is in significant contrast to last year’s finding, where close to two thirds (63%) of companies believed improved remuneration was the best strategy for recruitment and retention. Twelve months on and the tide has turned, with the same number, 63%, turning to greater use of flexible working arrangements instead – a result that is 23 percentage points higher than the average across the Asia-Pacific region.
Other hiring and retention strategies include:
- Improving the working environment such as reconfiguring working spaces or adding amenities (57%);
- Improving health care, family leave or medical benefits (53%);
- Improving retirement benefits (47%); and
- Expanding career development opportunities (47%).
SOURCE: American Express