6 Ways Brands Deliver Great Customer Experiences

What can we learn from the UK’s leading CX brands?

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Customer experience, or CX, is increasingly being recognized as one of the main battlegrounds for ambitious brands to compete, and distinguish themselves to consumers. But which brands are leading the way? Customer experience consultancy Nunwood has revealed the factors that define truly great CX today.

A Nunwood study, surveying over 7,500 consumers and evaluating 263 UK brands, has revealed that the top 10 UK brands delivering exceptional CX have yet again increased their lead. The study revealed how the top 10 performing brands for customer service, on average achieved 10 times greater share price growth in the past year than the industry average.

The top performing brand in the UK was online-only consumer banking provider First Direct, which has built a great reputation in recent years for delivering fantastic customer service. According to the study, “customers praised their personable service, staff knowledge and ability to answer the phone quickly without the need to navigate a telephony routing system.”

Lush, a handmade cosmetics brand, came in fourth position. With an impressive, highly sensory in-store experience, visible corporate ethics, and helpful staff, the brand is a great example of well architected in-store CX.

(Source: Nunwood)

Joining First Direct in the world of finance is building society Nationwide. The institution enters the CX top 10 for the first time, with the brand benefiting from a continued investment in its customer experience proposition, which has seen the introduction of a 24/7 Twitter response team, a serious overhaul of the mobile app, and the digital roll out of in-branch video calls for mortgage applicants, all driven by positive support for CX initiatives at a board level.

For the building society, customer experience is very much a reflection of the company’s internal culture, as Jenny Groves, Nationwide director of customer experience, explained:

“Our people and culture make the difference: we aim to engage and enable our people to deliver an exceptional member experience.”

In the retail space, John Lewis remained in their position as the top UK retailer, continuing their tradition as one of the leading customer experience brands in the UK. Survey respondents specified their satisfaction with immaculate in-store experiences, and consistent cross-channel services from the partnership. The brand’s supermarket arm, Waitrose, scored a seventh-place ranking.

Exceptional CX Reflects Company Culture

Nationwide and John Lewis are somewhat unique among British brands in that neither operate as limited companies. Nationwide operates as a mutual organization, and John Lewis and Waitrose both operate under the same partnership. In both cases, the number of internal stakeholders runs deep within the business.

As the study reveals, in the cases of these two brands, this dynamic is intrinsically linked to the provision of excellent CX. Specifically, employees at all levels within Nationwide and the John Lewis Partnership recognize that true value is created at the point of interaction between employees and customers, and exceptional CX naturally follows as a result.

An overused saying in management speak is that “happy employees make happy customers” and in this case the adage seems to have proved true. Without exception, all of the members of in the CX Top 10 also ranked highly in The Sunday Times best places to work survey.

Digital Players

Amazon maintained a high score in Nunwood’s customer experience rankings, although they have slipped in the rankings for the third year in a row, in the presence of greater competition and online performance of traditional British brands.

AO World is the newest player to enter the rankings, in sixth place. The brand has been rewarded for their daring digital strategy, which combines a clear value proposition for consumers, alongside a excellent service culture. The brand goes as far as displaying competitor prices and publishes third-party reviews, providing a level of authenticity that has really spurred customer responses to the brand.

John Roberts, AO World founder and CEO, also likened the provision of exceptional CX to the internal culture which defines a brand:

“If I look at the top three important things in the business, number one would be culture, number two would be culture and number three would be culture. It’s the one thing we obsess about at ao because it drives everything else.”

6 Pillars Of Great Customer Experiences

Nunwood’s study defined six pillars that unite the top performing brands. Brands can accelerate delivery of great customer experiences in these six ways:

  1. Personalization: As a brand, you must demonstrate that you understand the customer’s specific needs and circumstances. There won’t always be a one-size-fits-all strategy for all consumers, and brands will need to develop sophisticated models and analysis that are capable of delivering personalized customer experiences.
  2. Expectation: Increasingly, customers have expectations about how their needs should be provided for, and these are being driven raised by leading brands. For brands, understanding, delivering, and exceeding expectations to delight customers is what separates the top 10 from the rest.
  3. Time & Effort: The efficiency of service delivery is constantly being improved by leading brands. Customers will set a benchmark based on their speediest, most convenient experience, and this sets a level which all brands then have to aspire to and meet. Excelling in service efficiency is becoming a key characteristic of leading brands.
  4. Integrity: Integrity is won by consistent organizational behavior that engenders trust among consumers. This can be the culmination of thousands of trust building moments built by individual members of staff, that creates an greater sense of trust for the organization as a whole. For consumers, the level which the organization is able to deliver trust remains top of mind, which builds integrity.
  5. Resolution: Resolution comes into play when things, inevitably, go wrong. Having a provision and process that can win over customers who have had bad experiences, and mitigate any collateral negativity. For retailers, there are two crucial elements of successful resolution: a sincere apology and addressing disputes with urgency.
  6. Empathy: Empathy plays a crucial role in CX provision, as it means being able to understand and express a consumer’s experience with the brand. Empathy helps builds strong relationships with consumers and contributes to the way consumers feel, and ultimately consider a brand.

Final Thoughts For Brands

Nunwood’s study proposes that brands that perform well on all six pillars are the ones creating the best customer experiences – and achieving the strongest commercial returns and potential as a result.

We’re now seeing the link between customer experience and business growth gaining widespread acceptance across industries. It has, as the study states, “moved from being a marketing theory to a fundamental principle of management.”

With the leading players setting the CX bar higher and higher, remaining brands will have to meet rising consumer expectations. This response may start slow (across all 263 brands analysed, the overall improvement in performance was less than 1 percent), but is beginning to gain momentum - with the financial services sector being a notable mover in improved CX, and brands seek to repair damaged reputations as a result of the financial crisis.

Ultimately, providing excellent CX is a long-term commitment that must be imbued within the culture of an organization, built on the six pillars defined above.

You can read Nunwood’s full study here.

Do you agree with the findings of the study? What do you think are the pillars that define exceptional CX?