This year it will be the fifth time the research of the Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) in the Netherlands will be published, in which more than 200 brands are evaluated by approximately 5000 Dutch customers concerning customer experience. The ultimate moment to reflect and to look back. We will dive into the changing needs of customers and how brands did their very best to be on top of those needs. What lessons have been learned, which trends are likely to stay and what attention is needed moving forward? 

CEE scores show an inverted U-shape

Over the past five years, the CEE score increased from 7.14 in 2018 to 7.36 in 2020. In 2021 the average CEE score showed a first decline to 7.32, which continued in 2022 to a CEE score of 7.29, creating an inverted U-shaped trend. A second pattern that we have seen in the results is that initially there has been a declining bandwidth of scores from 2018 to 2020 (all brands performed better, so the gap between good and bad performers became smaller). However, that bandwidth increased again in 2021 and 2022. 

Lijngrafiek CEE 2022

What could have been the drivers for these inverted U-shape patterns? Until 2019, we lived in a relatively undisturbed world. With the impact of COVID-19, lives of customers changed considerably. Brands needed to adapt. The true customer experience (CX) champions of that year were the brands that were able to move quickly and stay connected with their customers. Those brands were rated with the highest customer experience scores we had ever seen. However, the pandemic affected us longer than expected and more brands accelerated towards delivering pandemic resilient experiences. Delivering an excellent customer experience became the norm rather than the exception.

Importance of Pillars

A constant factor over the past five years has been the importance of Personalization, which we define as the use of personal data to drive an individual connection. For the fifth time in a row, this Pillar has the largest weighting on the overall CEE score. Even though the importance is on the rise, the average score is on the fall. Compared to 2021, the Pillar of Personalization shows a decrease in score. Even more remarkable is that Personalization is the only Pillar that does not show an improved score compared to 2018. Brands should be aware of this, since it is momentarily the most important Pillar that contributes to a high customer evaluation.

The Pillar of Integrity – being trustworthy and engender trust – also weighs heavily in customers evaluation about brands. In the research of 2022, Integrity determines the CEE score for 17.1 percent, which is the highest score after Personalization. In the current world, trust can be built by focusing for example on your purpose as a brand, ESG, and ensuring strong commitment to cyber security and securing of personal data. However, scoring high on Personalization and Integrity is not the only answer to become a customer champion.

Because a new pillar is on the rise. While in the research of 2022, the Pillar Expectations covers a 3rd place regarding its weight on the CEE score, since 2018 the importance of this Pillar showed an increase of 2.1 percent. This is the highest rise among all Pillars over the past five years. Managing, meeting and exceeding customer expectations is getting more and more important. The results show that brands are on top of this, since the customers’ evaluation also increased most for this Pillar over the past five years. If this trend continues, the Pillar of Expectations might exceed Integrity or even Personalization in the near future. 

Grocery Retail leading sector, Telecoms rises to second place

This year’s CEE report shows that Grocery Retail is again the leading sector when it comes to CX. Only once in the past five years Grocery Retail did not receive the highest average CEE score. On the other hand, the sector in second place has not been as stable over the years. So far, we have seen Non-Grocery Retail, Telecoms and Travel & Hotels in this position. This year Telecoms ended up being the front-runner. In short, multiple industries compete to be among the top when it comes to providing the best customer experience. Shall one of these industries ever overtake the leading position of Grocery Retail?

When one sector moves up in the ranking, another one must have moved down. The sector that experienced the biggest drop in CEE score in 2022, is Travel & Hotels. During the worldwide pandemic, it was not possible to travel the way we were used to, causing economic losses with many redundancies as a result. When restrictions were lifted, customers immediately started to travel again to such an extent that the sector could not catch up in the same pace. Disruption at airports was, and still is, one of the very visible symptoms of that. This, of course, hits the customer experience. Will the Travel & Hotel industry get over this any time soon? 

Horizontal expectations

What we have seen over the past five years, is that customers have horizontal expectations with regard to customer experience. A very positive experience delivered by brand A in for instance retail, becomes the next expectation for brand B in a totally different category. It is therefore key to look more broadly and keep up with the pace of the strong performers in general, rather than looking at your direct peers only. If not, you will automatically fall behind. 

This is what we have seen happening within the sectors of Utilities, Logistics and Public Sector. These three sectors belonged to the three sectors performing weakest in 2018. They almost all invested heavily in order to grow and increase their respective performance. But five years later, now in 2022, they are still behind. They simply have not been able to catch up with the pace of the strong performers in other sectors.

Curious about the customer champions of this year’s research? An overview of the most important findings can be found in the figure below.

Key findings of the 2022 NL Customer Experience Excellence research

  • The average Dutch CEE score shows for the second year in a row a slight decrease (moving from 7.32 to 7.29 this year).
  • While Personalization for the fifth year in a row is the most important driver for an excellent customer experience (importance of 21% of CEE score), the influence of Expectations is on the rise. 
  • Personalization and Integrity remain the key Pillars driving advocacy and loyalty (with Personalization determining advocacy for 20% and loyalty for 22%). 
  • Grocery Retail is again the best performing sector in this year’s research (average score of 7.48). Telecoms taking over the second position (average score of 7.41) of Travel & Hotels, which has dropped to the 7th position (moving from 7.47 to 7.22 this year). 
  • 39% of included brands improved their CX performance since last year.
  • The Keurslager is again rewarded as the best performing brand, scoring highest on three out of The Six Pillars. De Echte Bakker has climbed to a second position. A surprising newcomer in this year’s top ten is, which is ranked third.  

Not only in the Netherlands, but also worldwide, research has been conducted on Customer Experience. When we look at the leading companies , what we see are businesses that are striving to become future ready. These are companies where nurturing and connecting capabilities has become an essential element of organization design, along with the ability to adapt customer journeys as customer needs and desired outcomes change. Below you can download the Global report which shows more than 89,000 consumers worldwide that gave their opinions on customer experiences in 25 countries, and we’ve identified some of the organizations that are leading the way forward. 

Looking forward

This is by no means a moment to sit back and relax. A new turbulent era has already kicked in. Rising costs of raw materials, energy and labor, drive the need for brands to increase prices, resulting in a strongly reduced purchasing power of customers.

Brands do feel the responsibility towards their customers to keep their products accessible and affordable, also to maintain a competitive position. But this balancing act has its obvious limitations. It is leading to serious disruption in all operational levers of customer experience. Currently, it is no longer a case of ‘being there’ for customers and accelerating digital transformation, like during COVID-19. These new challenges require additional capabilities, such as using insights and interventions from behavioral science in the design of your customer experience strategy, but also a continuous test and learning culture. It requires a thorough re-calibration of all The Six Pillars to deal with this new challenge. Are you ready?

Want to know more about the CEE position of your brand? Or what we can offer to help you stand out from the crowd? Please get in touch with one of our experts.


Edgar Molenaars

Partner, Customer & Brand Advisory
KPMG in the Netherlands

Kim van Kaam
Senior Manager, Customer & Brand Strategy
KPMG in the Netherlands

Kay van der Vleuten

Manager, Customer & Brand Strategy
KPMG in the Netherlands


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