Who are the UK’s 2012 Customer Experience Leaders and What Can We Learn From Them?

Why have I been making such a big fuss of leadership, management and employee engagement? 

Some of you – especially those of you that focus on strategy, process or technology – might have noticed that I have increasingly made a big thing of leadership, management, employee engagement and organisational effectiveness.  Why?

This is the third year of the Nunwood Customer Experience Excellence Index in the UK and here is what the 2012 report says:

“For many of the Top 10 it is their focus on employee engagement, training, development and motivation even for seemingly mundane jobs that differentiates the service experience.”

“There is generally a movement to empower front line staff to step outside procedure and make sensible decisions in favour of the customer.”

“The role of the retail in-store employee is moving from transactional to information, education and building a relationship.”

What else does the  Nunwood CX 2012 report tell us?

Aside from the critical importance of employees and employee engagement engendered through the right leadership and management practices, the following four points caught my attention:

1. In a price dominated shopping context, many companies are looking to non price based factors to compete;

2. Companies have focussed on making it easier for customers to do business with them by “removing time and effort from business processes as firms seek to get the basics right”;

3. Increasingly attention is shifting to the human/emotional factors that “make a deeper connection with consumers”; and

4. “The leaders achieve consistently excellent delivery of the basics but also deal with the unusual – unusually well.”

Who are Nunwood’s UK Customer Experience Excellence leaders?

Amazon stays in top place followed by John Lewis (multichannel retailer) and First Direct (non branch bank).  Green Flag (car breakdown service) and The Co-operative Bank are the two brands making the biggest improvement since 2011. Here are the Top 10:


What can we learn from these CX leaders?

I have gone through the Nunwood report to figure out what made each of these companies/brands stand out.  And to list the key characteristics that contribute to them being CX leaders. Here is the table – please click on it to see it more clearly:

Nunwoods CX2012 Top 10 MastersAnd finally

In the top 10 there is only one company/brand where marketing as in ‘promotion’ (which sadly is what marketing has become in too many organisations) has contributed significantly to the customer’s experience. And as such is mentioned by the Nunwood report.  If you read the table above you will find that it is the the £10 dine for two promotion from M&S Food that spoke to / found favour with customers.

Have you noticed something deeply significant?  These companies are actually operating from a powerful context (‘do right by the customer’) and thus putting in place the people, the cultural norms, the processes, the metrics and the technology that enables them to do ‘right by the customer’.  I am clear that requires leadership from the top (walking the talk).  And the right management practices: recruiting the right people; encouraging them to delight customers by rewarding them for building relationships/delighting customers; listening to customers as people of integrity; allowing employees the space to bypass policies, processes and procedures when it is necessary to do so; encouraging employees to own the resolution of customer problems; and putting in place the process and technology that enables customer facing people to quickly/easily deal with and resolve stuff that matters to customers.

If you still don’t get it then I will spell it out.  I say a genuine commitment to service in the broadest sense of service is what drives customer experience excellence and generates customer advocacy/loyalty. And marketing can contribute provided marketing shifts its focus from ‘spin’ to genuine service to customers through information, education and seduction – seduction that is based on the ability of the organisation to deliver the promise that is used to seduce the customer.   If this speaks to you then I recommend that you read a post I wrote a little time ago:  Transforming Service through the radical reconceptualisation of Service

Author: Maz Iqbal

Experienced management consultant. Passionate about enabling customer-centricity by calling forth the best from those that work in the organisation and the intelligent application of digital technologies. Subject matter expert with regards to customer strategy, customer insight, customer experience (CX), customer relationship management (CRM), and relationship marketing. Working at the intersection of the Customer, the Enterprise (marketing, sales, service), and Technology.

5 thoughts on “Who are the UK’s 2012 Customer Experience Leaders and What Can We Learn From Them?”

  1. Interesting tables Maz

    It fascinates me that most organisations just “spin” in the name of saying the right thing when all they really want to do is make money, yet the organisations in your table appear to be making plenty.



    1. Hi Maz,
      I would echo James’ comment. My only question would be to better understand why Ocado is still not profitable and keeps having to raise money (another £100m in Nov that bought it another year) to prove it’s business model works.



      1. Hello Adrian

        I say that there is a distinction between ‘being loved by customers’ and having in place a ‘viable business model’. I know of many corner stores that were ‘loved by customers’ – the personal interaction, the convenience, the opening hours, even allowing some customers to buy on credit. And eventually, most of them have died out due the supermarkets taking over. Why? They simply could not compete on price. And convenience did not matter that much when shoppers changed their shopping behaviour – buy once for the whole week. And this in turn was enabled by more and more people having cars (to shop with) and bigger refrigerators. As well as smaller families.

        Furthermore, I say that there is a distinction between ‘short-term’ and ‘long-term’. Amazon is a great example of this. Amazon burnt through cash in the early years whilst it was building its customer base. And it kept telling investors that if they were interested in the short-term then Amazon was not the stock for them.

        Finally, I wish to point out that evolution does not select the ‘best’. The ‘experiments’ that are selected are the ones that are the most adapted/suited to the new/changing landscape/environment/context. That is to say selection is blind – there is no morality nor any sense of progress along a specific dimension. Which is my way of saying that good companies (great service) can and do go bust. For example, when a competitor comes along with a better product.



    2. Hello James
      Yes, I find that fascinating. It occurs to be that life is paradoxical in so many ways.

      Take life itself. The paradox is that only those who are not attached to living truly live – as in experience living fully and get joy out of being alive. Or take Apple, Apple has become the most valuable company precisely because Jobs was fanatical about the product, beauty and the customer experience. He was into zen and not into the money – though he was happy to take it and use it when it arose. The point is that money was not the driving force, the raison d’etre of his existence.

      The same phenomenon is showing up here with these companies. Those that look to serve – to genuinely enrich lives – find themselves enriched. And this is something that the mind of the engineer-economist simply cannot get. Why? They are ‘people/humanity illiterate’.



  2. Maz

    Good blog, thanks for sharing

    The results of our research (soon to be published – make sure you subscribe!!) shows a different league table – but similar outputs – and tell us that the leading brands understand the customer journey and deliver consistently great customer experiences across elements of the journey.

    All have highly evolved digital and online propositions, and all deliver consistently good customer experiences irrespective of the channel used.

    Traditional retailers who have evolved their digital propositions to take advantage have been able to do by in part applying the sound principles of merchandising and personalised service. The leading online retailers have leveraged the growth of digital mediums and internet enabled devices to innovate in respect of the services and support they offer consumers…. more to follow!

    or as Brian Solis puts it … Digital Darwinism “When technology and society evolved faster than the ability for companies to adapt”

    the ones that change and adapt will win… Comet didn’t ….



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