Excellent CX Eludes Most Brands

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New research from Forrester finds that the quality of customer experiences is largely at a standstill.

Forrester’s 5th annual U.S. Customer Experience Index report found that the overall quality of the U.S. customer experience grew only by an anemic 0.4 points, to 70.2 from 2018 to 2019. According to the report, 81 percent of customer experience stayed the same, while only 14 percent of customer experiences improved, and 5 percent declined.

In addition, elite brands remain stuck. Eleven of the 16 frontrunners were repeats from last year.

“This year’s CX Index results clearly show that brands are on the right path but still have a long way to go,” Forrester Chief Research Officer Carrie Johnson said in a press release.

The report surveyed over 100,000 U.S. adult consumers and tested 260 U.S. brands across 16 industries.

The CX Index is divided up into five categories; very poor, poor, OK, good, and excellent, measured by consumer rankings of CX quality and customer loyalty. Most companies – 65 percent – were ranked as OK, a drop of one percent from last year. Only 17 percent were ranked as good, 16 percent as poor, and 2 percent as very poor. No companies were ranked as excellent.

According to the report, although some brands scores increased or declined, the change in points never exceeded 5 points.

Broken down by industry, health insurers went up by 1.5 points, moving from 14th place to 13th place, while direct banking, hotels, wireless service providers, mass market auto manufacturers, and multichannel retailers all increased by one point. The airline industry’s CX score dropped by one point and luxury auto manufacturers took first place from multichannel banking. According to the report, this change resulted from statistically insignificant score fluctuations, not real changes to CX quality in either industry.

Because there were no CX leaders, Forrester divided brands up into four categories: languishers, lapsers, locksteppers and laggards. Languishers were brands that rose high then stalled -- 20 percent of the CX Index were considered languishers. Lapsers -- brands that rose then fell back down, represented four percent of brands. Of note, 17 percent of direct brokerages were lapsers, making them the industry with the highest percentage of lapsers.

Locksteppers were brands that moved up and down in the pack -- 52 percent of brands were in this category, including 70 percent of the direct banks on the list. Lastly, laggards were brands that stayed at or near the bottom, representing 24 percent of the CX Index. 73 percent of airlines and U.S. federal organizations fell into this category.

Make customers feel something about their experience

The report noted that the key to achieving CX differentiation is through customer emotions; feeling appreciated, happy, and valued boosts loyalty the most.

For elite brands, for one emotionally negative experience there was 22 positive ones, but for bottom brands, for one negative experience there were only three positive ones.

“With customers in the driver’s seat and heightened consumer interest in organizations’ corporate values when making buying decisions, how an experience makes customers feel has a bigger influence on their brand loyalty than any other factor,” said Johnson. “That’s why it’s critical to understand the intersection of in-the-moment customer feedback and which CX drivers matter most to customers and your bottom line.”

Key CX takeaways

The report sheds light on the importance of the customer experience, particularly individual moments that matter. Here are three takeaways to remember during CX transformation:

  • Lead with humanity. You cannot automate your way past good CX. AI is fantastic for the simple, everyday interactions, but customers are people. And people prefer to interact with humans sometimes, especially for emotional or complicated interactions.
  • Voice of the customer will help drive better experiences. Customers want to be heard and understood. Utilize voice analytics to explore conversations across multiple channels to provide coaching opportunities for employees and gather customer insight. Every win and loss with a customer is an opportunity to grow, if you listen closely.
  • Customer experience is a never-ending journey. Your organization’s work is never done. Customer expectations continuously evolve. Create a nimble organization that can adapt, react, and anticipate change in customer behavior. There are far too many examples of age-old brands that were too slow to adapt and fell to irrelevancy.