Who Are the UK’s 2013 Customer Experience Leaders And What Can We Learn From Them? (Part 1)

I have been studying the 2013 UK report by Nunwood’s Customer Experience Centre and in this post I share with you what shows up for me.

Which are the UK’s Top 10 Customer Experience brands and why?

CEE Top10 2013

Comparing to last year I notice that:

1. Amazon has dropped to fourth place. Why? The report suggests that this is due to two factors: reputation damage related to tax avoidance and performance of delivery companies.

2. QVC (TV centred shopping channel) comes in at no 2. It appears that in previous years the responses failed to meet the minimum required and so QVC was excluded.

3. The Co-operative Bank has not just fallen out of the Top 10, it has fallen out of the Top 100. Given it’s much publicised troubles centred on its finances this does not come as a surprise. Above all, it occurs to me, that a bank has to have a reputation for being financially sound.

4. M&S, one of the UK’s traditional and loved brands, has moved into the Top 10. 

5. Four out of the Top 10 positions are held by two organisations – The John Lewis Partnership and M&S: organisations that have a reputation for caring about their people, caring about their customers and showing this through the quality-range- vfm of their products, and the quality of their service.

Which industries dominate the Top 100 Customer Experience brands?

Given that Nunwood has not done an analysis by industry, it occurred to me that it would be useful to do one. Here is what shows up:

CEE Top100 by Industry

The retail industry leads in the sense that 44 out of the Top 100 places are filled by retail brands. And 10 of the Top 22 customer experience brands are in retail (as classified by Nunwood).  Please note I have not listed all of the retail brands in the Top 100 – too many brands.

The supermarkets take 3 out of the Top 10 places, 7 out of the Top 20 places, and 11 out of the Top 100 places. That is quite some domination given the relatively small number of players in this category.  It’s interesting that all of the big names are in the Top 20 except for Tesco (47), Morrisons (29) and Lidl (53).

The food & eatery industry takes 14 out of the Top 100 places. None of the brands in this category is in the Top 50. It is interesting to note that Starbucks is missing from the Top 100. Could this be due to the brand damage that Starbucks has suffered due to the tax avoidance issue that has hit Starbucks much harder than say Amazon? Who says life is fair?

The travel & tourism industry takes 16  out of the Top 100 places. There is only one brand in the Top 10 (Virgin Atlantic) and three in the Top 20 (Virgin Atlantic, Butlins, Emirates).  Looks like airline travel experience is not that hard to get right if you are committed to getting it right like Virgin Atlantic and Emirates.  The surprise appearance (for me) is Butlins. It looks like Butlins have invested in their staff and their hotels and this is paying off.

The telecoms & media industry only takes 3 out of the Top 100 places.  Do you notice who is missing? All the big brands like Vodafone, Sky, EE, BT, O2, TalkTalk, Virgin Media …… yet these are the very brands that do much talking about customer service, customer experience, customer-centricity. Seems to me that all this customer talk could just be ‘marketing talk’.

The financial services industry takes 12 out of the Top 100 places. And like the telecoms industry none of the big brands – Barclays, RBS, Lloyds, Santander – are present.  It will be interesting to see how much headway the supermarket brands  – M&S Bank (23), Sainsburys Bank (83) – can make in this industry.  Given the shift to digital-mobile banking, it would be interesting to see what will happen when the likes of Amazon decide to go into that market.

The energy & utilities industry. Have you noticed that not one of the energy and utility players is in the Top 100?  No British Gas, no EDF, no Npower, no E.on, no Thames Water, no Severn Trent ….. If the energy industry proves anything it proves this, you don’t need to pay attention to customers when you have structured the industry into an oligopoly and customers have to come to you to buy an essential product.

What does it take to be a Customer Experience leader? 

If there is one thing I am clear on it is this, one cannot become a customer experience leader by bolting on customer experience trinkets to the existing way of being-doing.  This is about as effective as taking a  frigate, adding bits and piece of a fighter plane (say wings), and expecting the frigate to be a great fighter plane. That is just stupid. Most of us can see this stupidity when it comes to warships and fighter places. When it comes to organisations, it is amazing how few see the stupidity of taking this route. What does the Nunwood report say?

Culture and climate are the foundation stone of great experiences. Experiences are delivered through people, the above companies are focusing on creating a culture and climate that starts with meeting all of the customer’s needs, emotional, rational and transactional and then replicating across channels.

Customer experience has many moving parts the key is an integrated approach across a business. It demands an intense focus over the long term. It has to be kept on everyone’s daily agenda. 

This requires customer experience to be woven into the fabric of the company, reward, performance management and planning.

Coming next

Enough for today. In the next post, I will take a more detailed look at some of the more interesting brands in the Top 100.  Until then I wish you the very best.

What is the most potent way of creating an unforgettable customer experience? Sandy Carrannante shows the way

PwC has a point of view on how to go about generating customer loyalty

I have been reading an article by PwC  titled “The Key to Customer Loyalty: The Total Shopping Experience” and in this article one particular paragraph caught my attention:

“The most potent way to create an unforgettable customer experience is by investing  in knowledgeable staff and making the most of front-line employees. In fact, PwC found that staff members’ product knowledge and recommendations accounted for almost one third of all good experiences related to service support. Contrastingly, only 1% of the shoppers surveyed ranked rewards programs alone as the top influencer of purchase.

How do you make the most of front line employees?

My experience shows me that my most potent (memorable) customer experiences have ALWAYS involved effective front line staff.  In these encounters I have noticed something that stands out: it really helps if the customer facing staff (that have served me) are knowledgeable and yet that really is a secondary factor.

The primary factor (for me) has been the being of the front line staff: being present, being patient, being considerate, being generous with their time and knowledge, being helpful.  I have noticed that my most delightful customer experiences have occurred in the presence of front line people who LOVE people – they are people people.  And my most disappointing customer experiences have occurred in interacting with front line staff who have occurred as being indifferent, inhuman – treating me as any object and not as a fellow human being.  I have also noticed that there is vast difference in the context from which front line staff operate and therefore how I, the customer, show up in their world and how they treat me.

We are always operating from a specific context and often we are simply not present to the context which gives us being and thus determines what we do and importantly how we do what we do.  Sounds abstract, right?  So allow me to make this concrete by showing you an example – please take a look at the following picture:

Do you notice that the central ‘figure’ in the ‘ABC’ sequence and the ‘121314’ sequence is ambiguous?  The interesting thing to note is that when we are embedded and operating in the context of the alphabet the central, ambiguous, figure automatically shows up for us as B – we do not have to think about, it happens automatically.   What happens when we are embedded in or coming from the numeric context?  Then the central, ambiguous, figure shows up for us as 13 – automatically.   Context is like hidden magic – it determines what we perceive, how what we perceive is interpreted by our minds,  gives us being and shapes/drives our behaviour.

In my experience front line staff that have delivered delightful customer experiences (for me) have been coming from the context of ‘being of service to their fellow human beings‘.  That really should not be a surprise for any of us.  If you are the kind of person who comes across as ‘loving people’ then you are likely to operate from the context of ‘being of service to my fellow human beings’ – they go together like two sides of the coin.  More accurately they are one and the same.

What does that mean for business?  Go to great lengths to make sure that ALL your customer facing staff ‘love people’ and operate from the context of ‘being of service to my fellow human beings’.  AND make sure that you put in place a organisational climate (management style, business policies, HR practices, environment, tools…) that calls your customer facing staff to operate from the context of ‘being of service’ and put into play their love of people – their customers, their fellow employees…

Sandy Carrannante delivers another delightful experience

I drove my son to Edgbarrow Sports Centre this morning, like I do just about every Saturday morning so that he can do Archery and Karate. As it is the first day of the ‘new term’ I needed to pay for his archery lessons for this term and it was my good fortune to be served (again) by Sandy Carrannante – the Deputy Manager.  As soon as I saw Sandy I found myself to be in a great mood why?  Because I remember that about a year ago I turned up around 8:30 was greeted by Sandy and she helped me out.  You might be wondering what is exceptional about that?  allow me to illustrate:

1) Sandy’s eyes sparkle, her face glows and she smiles.  Her whole being says “I am happy to be here doing what I am doing including being right here to help you. How can I help you?”  When I say ‘being’ I am referring to the total condition – physical, cognitive, emotional, spiritual – the whole person is present and all the parts are congruent.

2)  The way that Sandy makes eye contact, asks questions, talks with me and goes about doing her job shows that she cares about people and nothing is too much when it comes to serving / helping her customers out.  She likes her customers.  She likes serving her customers.  Even more – she is open to striking up a conversation with customers (if they are so minded) and if customers enter into the dance of conversation then Sandy is a great partner to dance with.  She keeps the customer informed and apologies if something is not working or taking to long.

3)  Sandy has high standards.  She insists on doing the job at hand right.  When I am with Sandy I can tell that whatever task Sandy takes on it will be done right by Sandy.  There is a certain attitude and commitment about how this work and that they should be done perfectly.

4)  Sandy is knowledgeable.  That is to say that Sandy knows what there is to know.  How do I know?  Because when I ask her questions she provides credible answers first time and without hesitation.  She knows how the sports centre operates, she knows how the IT systems that she needs to use (to serve customers) operate.  Even more delightful she know me – she remembers our previous interactions.

5)  Sandy knows (at an intuitive level) what matters to us customers – that extra that creates the human bond / generates delight.  She is attentive.  And today she blew me away by sharing her point of view on my son.  I left our encounter thinking “Sandy sees and know my son.  And that was great compliment that she made about my son!”


People matter especially the people on the front line serving customers.  Make sure that recruit people like Sandy to do the front line role and then do EVERYTHING in your power to let them be great with customers.  And one thing that you should definitely do is to thank them (now and then) for being great (day in, day out) and making a positive contribution to the lives of your customers, their customers.


How many Sandy’s joined your organisation and then wilted due to the management style, business policies, pay and working environment that you have put in place?