Who’s taking it to the next level in customer experience? Well, nobody, says Forrester

James has a passion for how technologies influence business and has several Mobile World Congress events under his belt. James has interviewed a variety of leading figures in his career, from former Mafia boss Michael Franzese, to Steve Wozniak, and Jean Michel Jarre. James can be found tweeting at @James_T_Bourne.

Amazon may have stolen the crown as the world’s most valuable brand, but who are the companies pushing the boundaries with regards to customer experience?

According to the latest analysis from Forrester, Lexus, Regions Bank and USAA are among the best performing US brands – but nobody is taking things to the next level.

The 2019 US Customer Experience Index ranked brands out of 100, with 75% or above being designated as ‘good’, and 85% or better as ‘excellent’. Not one organisation achieved this latter category, with the industry averages – 74.3 for luxury auto manufacturers, 73.5 for banks – usually equating to slightly above average performance.

A noteworthy outlier was airlines, whose industry average slumped to 61.9 with only three making the cut of 65 or above. Federal government (average 59.7), health insurers (65.3) and rental cars (64.2) also performed poorly.

The good news is that averages have gone up slowly over the past 12 months. Wireless service providers, banks, and health insurers saw healthy changes; yet airlines saw the only major drop, to 61.9 from 63.1 in 2018. Ultimately, the report noted, despite these small changes the industry still holds a ‘leadership gap’; brands that have risen to the top of the rankings have remained mostly stagnant.

The good and the bad – and a lesson for brands

Two interesting case studies leapt out from the analysis showcasing improvement and decline respectively. Whole Foods, having been bought by Amazon, improved from a 2018 rating of 68.7 to 72.3 this time around, moving above the industry average in the process.

According to Harley Manning, vice president and research director at Forrester, the good ultimately outweighed the bad with the acquisition for users – as well as providing an interesting note for brands.  “The changes included many price cuts but also some serious digital/physical integration,” wrote Manning. “[The score] is a serious vote for taking a strategic approach to connecting digital and physical channels.”

At the other end of the scale was Southwest Airlines, which dropped from 72.4 to 69.5 despite remaining in the top three airlines overall. Manning cites the troubles regarding the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft – of which Southwest is the biggest US customer – as key to the downturn, noting the customer experience ecosystem includes everyone, from suppliers, to partners and employees, as well as customers.

According to Rick Parrish, principal analyst and report author, the key to getting CX right is emotion. “How an experience makes customers feel has a bigger influence on their loyalty to a brand than effectiveness or ease – in every industry,” Parrish wrote. “Brand performance in the US CX Index 2019 reflects this: elite brands provided an average of 22 emotionally positive experiences for each negative experience, while the lowest performing 5% of brands provided only three emotionally positive experiences for each negative experience.”

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