This time of year there is a plethora of articles summarizing 2015 and making recommendations and predictions for 2016. What really catches my attention are the articles and research studies that amplify the customer’s voice and talk about the customer experience.

The stakes for investing in the customer experience could not be higher. The industry research from the experts highlights that brands are scrambling to meet customer demands. Data, technology and digital talent are the biggest challenges facing CMOs. I agree, and I would add that culture is a contributing factor, and it is even harder to address.

These five articles are worth reading because they explore the challenges and give sound advice for how to deliver the customer experience consumers demand.

1. Intent Data Can Sharpen Your Competitive Edge — Forrester Consulting, May 2015

This report offers tactical ways for marketers to use data. Based on research conducted by Forrester in 2015, the paper explains the benefits of utilizing data and adopting intent-driven solutions for prospecting and retention. We use intent data constantly and have been for the past 10 years. It is indeed a sweet spot when it comes to retaining customers. In the auto industry, gathering data on customer intent is a critical touchpoint 90 days before the end of a lease or loan. Once customers have indicated their intent, we provide that information to the dealer, brand and finance company so they can act on the data before customers start to shop for a competitive brand.

2. Customer Service Trends of 2015 and Looking Ahead to Customer Service Predictions for 2016 — MHI Global, 2015

This study validates our experiences. Many leaders did not understand the depth and breadth of the change necessary for digital transformation. The research says nearly 88 percent of companies feel they deliver great customer experiences, while only 8 percent of customers feel the same way. Even with a majority of companies agreeing that investing in the customer experience is a priority and differentiator, many struggle to deliver. In addition to a succinct summary of 2015, this study offers forward-looking statements on omnichannel, mobile and investing for the future.

3. World Banking Retail Report 2015 — Capgemini and EFMA

Is it good news or bad news for banks that over 50 percent of consumers still want to use the branch? It depends on whether you are listening to the customers or the bankers. This study clearly shows the gap between what bankers think their customers are thinking and what customers are actually thinking. With over 16,000 customers sharing their opinion, this is a solid report. In its 12th year, the year-over-year comparisons add extra value to the data and provide insights for the future.

4. World Insurance Report 2015 — Capgemini and EFMA

Like the World Banking Report, this report is based on extensive research. It summarizes the opinions of 15,500 consumers and over 100 insurers. Rising consumer expectations have resulted in a drop in positive insurance industry customer experiences. It thoroughly covers insurers’ struggle with becoming customer-centric and provides recommendations.

5. Getting big impact from big data — David Court, McKinsey & Company, January 2015

This lengthy article is all about accelerating an organization’s transformation into a best-in-class digital brand. It gives a high-level overview of how to start realizing the advantages of digital. The strategy is one we have deployed with brands, and it works well. The article also gives concrete advice on how to scale technology. It does a great job of breaking down data, technology, talent and culture issues and is still relevant a year later.

Happy reading!