The effects of COVID-19 continue to be felt: organizations need to anticipate and prepare for constantly changing customer needs, behaviors and preferences. Brands have to further redesign their customer experience (CX), moving away from ad hoc channel based CX to delivering connected end-to-end experiences. This forces brands to intensify their customer intimacy, their knowledge of and anticipation to the needs, and especially to act purposefully. It is those brands that dare to make clear choices and deliver a distinct CX that stand out from the crowd, laying the foundations for future growth.
Simplicity is desired where complexity abounds. Before, during and after the pandemic, companies recognized the importance of customer experience and the need to make things simpler and easier for their customers and prospects to engage. However, the pandemic, shifting customer needs, changing expectations, rapidly evolving technology and organizational fragmentation have created a significant level of complexity for companies.
To further demystify and to design and deliver compelling customer experiences, a high degree of orchestration across the business needs to be obtained, aiming to reduce complexity and break down siloes to align the business around the customer, based on a deep understanding of the customer, their needs, the marketplace and your organization.
Realizing a truly excellent CX that will last in the customer’s mind, requires an additional step though: to stand out from the crowd. Ask yourself the questions: How does your CX distinguish itself from competition? What would make your customers come back for more? What do you want (your CX) to be famous for?
Pursue focused CX excellence
Throughout 2021, Dutch customers continued to experience upheaval in their everyday customer experiences as a result of the global health crisis. With most shops being closed at the beginning of the year, the race was on for businesses to create [CJ2] distinctive experiences in no time at all. Brands that were able to provide truly high-quality products and differentiated experiences are rewarded in this year’s Dutch Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) research, with high CX excellence scores and loyalty (31% of brands ranked are appreciated with a CEE score of 7.5 or above and our top 10 brands all scored higher than a 7.8.) What do these CX leaders have in common? They appear to be better than most at addressing the goals of CX excellence and simplicity. It is their intimacy with the customer, their deep knowledge of their customer’s needs and their bold, but simple choices that enable these leaders to stand out.
Clearly across many regions in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, personalization remains the main motivation of customer loyalty and advocacy. The customer’s perception of personalization nowadays goes beyond ‘know me’ to ‘understand me’. It requires new ways of thinking, new ways of learning and new ways of deploying technology and people for an organization. Taking advantage of sophisticated interaction platforms to reduce the friction of engaging with the organizations is one path to succeed. Our research reveals grocery retail brands are performing best in doing this (the grocery retail sector average score equals 7.54 this year, where travel & hotels takes the second position with a 7.47 on average.) As COVID-19 has changed the strategy of many businesses, now having to meet customers where they want to be met, outside the traditional retail experience, many brands have developed and integrated new channels successfully to (continue to) serve their customers. In fact, they do it better, faster and more personalized than before.
However, there is more to customer intimacy than digital solutions. The strong desire for real, human interaction is also clearly reflected in this year’s top brands ranking. These brands are appreciated for their integrity, the second key driver of CX. Showing an authentic purpose, high-quality products and, above all, a genuine close relationship with their customers is rewarded with ever-lasting loyalty. Brands who were able to stay available and meet these demands clearly benefited. Both Keurslager and De Echte Bakker are successful top 10 newcomers in this category.
I have been a customer at Keurslager for, at least, 50 years . I come here often. They sell good quality products and the people are friendly people saying ‘hello’ as you enter the shop. They offer good advice and have a large range of products available
Quote Respondent 2021, CEE
Comparing the true digital brands to the local offline business models, one thing becomes clear: you do not have to keep all balls in the air. Being on-par on all The Six Pillars of CX excellence is key to be part of the game. A clear, but dedicated focus to dominate on one or two dimensions is what can make a brand excel.
Key findings of the 2021 Dutch Customer Experience Excellence research
- Personalization, again, the most important pillar for Dutch customers (with 2% the biggest driver of the CEE score).
- Personalization and integrity remain the key pillars driving advocacy and loyalty (with personalization determining advocacy for 19.4% and loyalty for 21.7%.
- Grocery retail is the best performing sector in this year’s research, with Travel & Hotels taking the second position (average score of 7.54; respective 7.47).
- The average Dutch CEE score shows a slight decrease compared to last year, reflecting brands’ struggle to constantly adapt to changing customer demands during the continuation of the crisis (moving from 7.36 to 7.32 this year).
- 27 % of included brands improved their CX performance since last year.
- There has been a big refresh of this year’s top 10, with 5 of the top 10 brands being new to our winners’ list (and 12 newcomers in the total top 100 ranking).
Want to learn more?
Want to know where your brand stands in this year’s CEE ranking? Or interested to learn more on what we can do to make your CX stand out from the crowd? Contact one of our specialists.
Optimize your channel mix
If you ask customers what they want, they want it all. In general, they prefer the effortless digitized routes, but they want to be able to call as well, or email, and WhatsApp, and chat. Even drop by. Before you know it, you have an explosion of channels and a huge challenge to deal with this complex fragmentation. A complete omni-channel ‘customer 360’ view is hardly ever optimal for your business, and as the above examples of Keurslager and De Echte Bakker illustrate, it is not really necessary to deliver an outstanding CX.
Asking customers what they want and listening to their needs is important, but this does not mean you need to do develop all possible channels that they might desire. Dare to make decisions based on your strategic customer focus and commit to it.
However, at the same time be aware that managing your channel mix is a delicate process. Be aware that humans feel loss about twice as heavy as the pleasure of gains. While the addition of a new a channel does not necessarily lead to increased satisfaction, taking out a channel will most likely be considered a ‘loss’ and felt much more intense by your customers. You need to have a clear customer strategy in place which is based on your CX focus and which manages these behavioral science effects in the right way to optimize your channel mix. Do this well, and your customers will start to recognize and appreciate you for it.
Branded from end to end
If there is anything that sets you apart from others from the start, it is your brand. Or, at least, it should be. Hence, delivering a different CX should mean delivering a branded CX. Start evaluating your CX journeys and decisions against the brand axis. Success depends on holistic thinking and being clear on how everything connects with the brand across the end-to-end customer journey. Following this mindset, brand specific framing matters for innovations, but also when choosing, designing and integrating industry wide available CX platforms.
When it comes to CX platforms, there is an abundance of choice. The leading platforms offer the utmost in seamless interactions, system integrations, cloud utilization and scalability. There are many proven methodologies and technologies out there. Hence, it is fair to say that choosing the leading platforms will help to accelerate CX performance and reduce the risk of slowing down in contrast to choosing a less mature platform or even a tailor-made product. That is to say, when you are able to make your CX platform fit-for-purpose by differentiating your solution by aligning it to your brand, customer and CX strategy and its journeys. In doing so you prevent a situation from happening that all journeys and interactions become similar to each other, a situation which is becoming more and more common and which is jeopardizing brand equity.
In the end, it is important for organizations to remember that customer needs and therefore CX are always evolving. Keeping pace with technological advancements is a must and how you apply technology is critical for success. Using your brand and CX vision to develop and deliver a differentiated, optimized CX will be key in moving forward.
Organizations increasingly depend on CX to strengthen their brand equity, but the experiences they deliver become more and more alike. We need to be more aware of the importance of creating differentiating and brand specific experiences.
Partner Customer & Brand Strategy
KPMG in the Netherlands
Want to know where your brand stands in this year’s CEE ranking? Contact one of our specialists.
Kay van der Vleuten
Customer & Brand Strategy
KPMG in the Netherlands
Kim van Kaam
Customer & Brand Strategy
KPMG in the Netherlands