Lisa Gordon-Miller
New York
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June 21, 2004
Acquiring New Customers to Be Top Priority for Senior Executives Throughout 2004, Accenture Study Finds

Human Performance Issues Also Seen As Key

NEW YORK; June 21, 2004 – Acquiring new customers is the top priority on the executive agenda for 2004, according to a global study released today by Accenture.

The study, which Accenture conducts annually, 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 Accenture’s 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)

In a related Accenture study titled “Innovating for the Upturn,” the research revealed that companies that outperformed their markets following the recession of the early 1990s were those run by business leaders who ignored conventional wisdom to hunker down and wait for the upturn, but saw the downturn as an opportunity to innovate.

“This year’s 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.

About the study
As part of an annual study to identify senior executives’ top concerns, Accenture conducted a Web-based survey of 439 senior executives at many of the world’s largest organizations across all major industries and the public sector in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Japan and Canada. Respondents included executives at the highest levels of senior management ("C-suite" executives) as well as heads of key functional areas, such as human resources. For this year’s study, fieldwork was conducted between September 2003 and January 2004.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With approximately 95,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$11.8 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2003. Its home page is