‘Customer Excellence is here: it’s just not evenly distributed yet’. A fantastic quote that I wish I could claim was mine! Whilst it is not, I can recognise a particularly relevant and accurate quote when I see one. The quote is in fact the very first line of the executive summary of this years Nunwood UK Customer Experience Excellence Report – a report that should be essential reading for any customer experience professional in the UK.

The reason why I think the quote is so apt is because I personally agree very much with its sentiment. In 2014, it is very difficult to find an organisation who does not believe that the customer experience or being customer centric is NOT of value. It is far easier to find companies who might say it, but demonstrate something completely different! At a time when even Ryanair CEO, Michael O’Leary, has publicly linked improving the customer experience with improving financial performance, we are possibly living in the most customer centric society ever (that may be a subject for a future blog post!).

Ryanair do not feature in the top 100 of Nunwood’s report into the Customer Experience Excellence of 250 companies operating in the UK – maybe Mr O’Leary will make entering the top 100 an objective for 2015! The report is a fascinating assessment of the customer centric nature of brand names that we interact with on a daily basis. Focussed around 6 pillars that Nunwood use to assess ‘excellence’, the brand names that are considered to be ‘customer champions’ will probably not surprise you. I am often asked who the most customer centric brands in the UK are – the 2014 top 10 are a very good reflection:

0 nunwood top 10

It is difficult to disagree with this bunch – although I am sure some will try!! As I have already stated, Nunwood produce the listing using their 6 pillars of Customer Experience Excellence. What is important to remember here is that their study does not just produce a league table – it more critically gives you an insight into exactly why these brands are at the top of the list. So let us look at what makes an ‘Excellent Customer Experience’ in a little more detail:

1. Personalisation

Described by Nunwood as – using individualised attention to drive an emotional connection. This is so important and a pillar that has become necessary as we, the consumer, are demanding more emotionally engaging experiences every day. It is absolutely true to say that emotionally engaged customers will interact with you more often – the Nunwood top 10 are demonstrating excellence in achieving this.

2. Expectations

Described by Nunwood as – managing, meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Not difficult to understand – it does what it says on the tin. To be at the top of the Nunwood list, you need to be consistently good at delivering both the basics and the ‘sprinkling of fairy dust’, as I and my colleagues like to describe it!

3. Time and Effort

Described by Nunwood as – minimising customer effort and creating frictionless processes. Now that would be nice! If you read my blog post last week, you will understand just how important this is in delivering ‘excellent’ customer experiences – maybe it is not a surprise that the companies involved in my experience are not in the Nunwood top 100.

4. Integrity

Described by Nunwood as – being trustworthy and engendering trust. Integrity is a word that few would associate with many industries in 2014 – it has been eroded so significantly since 2008. However it should be noted that the brand that has come top of the pile in 2014 (and was also third in 2013) is one that comes from the industry that many of us still trust the least. The fact that First Direct have maintained their integrity whilst the industry around them have failed to do so in such dramatic fashion, is absolute testament to their unrelenting focus on the customer.

5. Resolution

Described by Nunwood as – turning a poor experience into a great one. Recovery of poor experiences is well known to have a potentially galvanising effect on loyalty. The ability to respond to an issue is a vital skill for any business. However, I would argue that it is still better to have to recover as an exception!! Interestingly, my experience last week saw one of the organisations involved responding in ‘best in class’ fashion – I was very impressed. Yet despite this, my opinion of their brand has not changed. Do not get me wrong – the ability to resolve is vital – but getting things right in the first place should take precedence.

6. Empathy

Described by Nunwood as – achieving an understanding of the customer’s circumstances to drive deep rapport. Getting the emotional component of the experience right is still the thing I see most commonly missing from the organisations I interact with. Understanding and empathising with customers is a critical competency that drives the most customer centric of organisations.

To get into Nunwood’s top 10, your business needs to demonstrate excellence in all 6 of these pillars. Some might be good in one or two – yet competency in all 6 is what makes you a Nunwood Customer Champion.

Wherever your business sits today, it is wonderful to see how the excellence pillars are becoming more commonly embedded in businesses all over the UK. The report makes it clear that there is a demonstrable shift in the upward direction in 2014 – this is echoed by reports from other agencies in the US. As customers we are receiving improving customer experiences – some businesses are better than others. Some are improving faster than others. What is important is that the improvements we are seeing are maintained and even more importantly sustained.

If you want to read the report in detail, or find out more about it, please have a look at Nunwood’s Customer Experience Excellence Centre.