For the last 14 years we’ve looked at how the world’s best organisations connect customer experience excellence to lower costs and faster growth. In 2023 we’ve reached a tipping point in business adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), which is radically re-writing the rules of the game.
As with any paradigm shift, business leaders and society are still coalescing around a consistent way of managing AI. Many different models have emerged, but in this report we explore how the world’s leading brands are thinking about AI as a new, game-changing type of colleague. One with unique management challenges, integration risks and strategic advantages.
By examining emerging best practice in AI implementation, we provide an early view of what CEOs and other business leaders need to do to deliver real human value, at a low cost, as safely as possible.
In this year’s report we explore:
- Customer excellence: Who leads for CX in the age of AI?
- Best practice: Where are AI colleagues delivering results?
- Implementing AI: How do we safely navigate to an AI future?
About the Excellence Centre
Years of research
Brands evaluated globally
2023 UK brands ranked
2023 UK consumers interviewed
UK 2023 Top 10
1 first direct
3 American Express
4 John Lewis & Partners
6 Hilton Hotels & Resorts
9 Coventry Building Society
10 Vision Express
Source: Based on the views of 13,143 consumers in the UK CEE 2023 research
The Six Pillars
For the last 20 years, offers have been synonymous with experience. The Six Pillars of experience excellence have been repeatedly established as the universal set of emotional qualities. They define every outstanding customer experience which can create loyalty and drive growth. More relevant than ever, these pillars are providing businesses with an essential way to navigate the coming change.
Organisations that understand and deliver against The Six Pillars have always showcased enhanced outcomes, quick growth and greater shareholder value.
Being trustworthy and engendering trust
Integrity is an outcome of consistent organisational behaviour that demonstrates trustworthiness. There are trust-building events where organisations have the need to publicly react to a difficult situation, and trust building moments where individual actions by staff add up to create trust in the organisation as a whole. For all customers, it is the degree to which the organisation delivers on its promises that is consistently top of mind.
Turning a poor experience into a great one
Customer recovery is highly important. Even with the best processes and procedures things will go wrong. Great companies have a process that not only puts the customer back in the position they should have been in as rapidly as possible, but also make the customer feel really good about the experience. A sincere apology and acting with urgency are two crucial elements of successful Resolution.
Managing, meeting and exceeding customer expectations
Customers have Expectations about how their needs will be met, increasingly set by the best brands they have encountered. Understanding, delivering and, if possible, exceeding Expectations is a key skill of great organisations. Some organisations are able to make statements of clear intent that set Expectations (e.g. “never knowingly undersold”) while others set the Expectation accurately (“delivery in 48 hours”). And then delight the customer when they exceed it.
Time and Effort
Minimising customer effort and creating frictionless processes
Time and Effort
Customers are time poor and are increasingly looking for instant gratification. Removing unnecessary obstacles, impediments and bureaucracy to enable the customer to achieve their objectives quickly and easily have been shown to increase loyalty. Many companies are discovering how to use time as a source of competitive advantage. Equally, there are clear cost advantages to saving time, as long as the other Pillars are not compromised.
Using individualised attention to drive an emotional connection
Personalisation is the most valuable component of most experiences. It involves demonstrating that you understand the customer’s specific circumstances and will adapt the experience accordingly. Use of name, individualised attention, knowledge of preferences and past interactions all add up to an experience that feels personal.
Achieving an understanding of the customer's circumstances to drive deep rapport
Empathy is the emotional capacity to show you understand someone else’s experience. Empathy creating behaviours are central to establishing a strong relationship and involve reflecting back to the customer that you know how they feel. Then going that one extra step because you understand how they feel.
The shift online has weakened, high levels of inflation mean costs have escalated, shifting consumer demands and loyalty in the wake of rising prices have driven an intense focus on margins.
The battle for consumer attention continues. The value for money demands of consumers coupled with ever increasing service expectations is leading to a focus on costs and technology-enabled productivity.
With the UK in the midst of an energy crisis, energy and natural resources companies are facing big challenges. How do they keep the lights on and bills down? And how does that impact their efforts to accelerate the energy transition?
Evolving regulatory change, pressure on cost management and growth, and increased investment in technology and data are dominating the banking sector. To add, disruption from non-traditional players and changing customer expectations have been top of mind across the board.
Tightening regulation, escalating cost inflation, and rising premiums are leading to declining consumer trust. These point to a difficult road ahead for the UK insurance industry.
Healthcare, government and public sector organisations and services need to modernise and adapt in a rapidly changing world. With budgets under pressure and value for money paramount, more must be delivered for less.
Case studies in customer excellence
Regains #1 overall position
Over the past 12 months first direct have seen significant improvements in Personalisation and perceptions of value.
Chris Pitt, CEO of first direct provides an insight as to why he thinks they have performed so well.
#1 leader in the grocery sector
Ocado continues to perform well in our customer experience index and it is also a leading company in our AI adoption index.
Hannah Gibson, CEO of Ocado Retail, explains what lies behind their success.
Moved 22 places up to 5th position
As always it is not just one thing but a number of initiatives that have collectively driven the improvement across each of The Six Pillars resulting in higher advocacy and loyalty
Stephen Noakes, Nationwide’s Director of Retail, outlines the actions they have taken.
UK top 100 results 2023
John Lewis & Partners
Hilton Hotels & Resorts
Coventry Building Society
Marcus by Goldman Sachs
InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
The Body Shop
Leading Online Retailer
Leeds Building Society
Yorkshire Building Society
Waitrose & Partners
Skipton Building Society
The White Company
Miller & Carter
Principality Building Society
Selfridges & Co
Holiday Inn Express