Life as an Australian citizen isn't always easy. In recent years, customers have been faced with considerable uncertainty generated by natural disasters and health crises. Historically, Australians have responded to this by looking to organizations for reassurance, and the arrival of COVID-19 has continued this trend; people have sought timely, reliable information which is free from ambiguity — something that can guide them through the chaotic uncertainty that sometimes engulfs their lives.

In the latest round of research, it is clear that a number of Australian brands have successfully embraced the challenge. This is certainly true for the gas and electricity provider Red Energy, which has landed at number seven in this year's customer experience rankings. It's particularly strong in the pillar of Integrity, and has fostered a healthy degree of trust amongst its energy users, largely due to its responsive customer service and Australian heritage.

Similarly, the sportswear and apparel retail chain Rebel has performed well in 2020, ranking at number five in this year's study.

This organization scored highly for Empathy, recognizing the growing need amongst its customers to set up home gyms. This manifested in Rebel's consistent availability of products and seamless online experience.

Despite this, it's the financial services sector that has demonstrated the strongest performance across this year's research as a whole, and although grocery retail leads for CX in Australia, the achievements of brands such as Afterpay cannot be overlooked.

It's a payment platform that operates in a similar way to a credit card, allowing customers (via a smartphone app) to split purchases into four instalments across four weeks. Indeed, at a time when many Australians feel the financial pressures applied by COVID-19, this has become a popular payment method, and Afterpay has bolstered consumer confidence through its clear setting of customer expectations. Shoppers are in no doubt as to how the process works, and when late fees will be incurred. It's perhaps unsurprising that Afterpay landed at number three in this year's research.

Non-grocery retail brand IKEA ranks second. Like Rebel, IKEA quickly identified the shifting needs of its customers, with many rushing to set up home offices in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. Many depended on IKEA to deliver a fast, seamless customer experience and this was clearly in evidence in the brand's digital offerings; many respondents described the transition to online shopping as "relatively straightforward" and pain-free, and a number even noted IKEA's strengths in the pillar of Personalization.

The brand's website became a place of inspiration for many shoppers, with one describing it as an "absolute lifesaver" for picking out furniture.

Another noted that they "saw lots of cool ideas and stuff I would never imagine myself."

These qualities were echoed in Australia's leading customer experience brand — the beverage retailer First Choice Liquor. As with IKEA, one of First Choice Liquor's biggest strengths was in helping shoppers to find products that were ideally suited to their preferences, with respondents citing its product range and availability as determining factors.

Moreover, First Choice Liquor also offered an appealing in-store shopping experience. Respondents praised the brand's friendly, cheerful and helpful staff, as well as the outlets' wide layouts that allowed for social distancing, helping shoppers to feel safe. As such, First Choice Liquor highlighted its person-centered approach to CX design — a quality that is shared amongst the top performers in this year's research. Services have been designed from the point of view of the consumer, such as its online offering; First Choice Liquor fulfilled its internet orders through the Click & Collect service, which was positively received by consumers. Indeed, the brand's overall digital proficiency is even more impressive when it's remembered that customer expectations towards digital channels have increased since the arrival of COVID-19.

And moving forward, the organizations that have provided the best support during COVID-19 may be the ones that customers remain loyal to on the other side. In the meantime, Australian consumers are looking to brands to help redefine normal, and provide some muchneeded consistency. Shoppers are reticent to hurry back to their previous spending habits, wary of the economy and the lingering presence of COVID-19.

When customers spend money, they expect value, and 90 percent of respondents across the whole 2020 study indicated that they were willing to pay more for ethical retailers.

So as Australia heads towards 2021, the key focus must be on Integrity and Personalization first and foremost. But it's the uniting power of all Six Pillars that will really separate the customer experience champions from the rest.

“Faced with crisis, Australian consumers have experienced a loss of confidence and control on mass. Organizations that have excelled in this environment have played an important role in helping create a sense of stability amidst volatility, helping customers retain a sense of routine through continuity of service. The challenge moving forward will be the role organizations play in helping Australians define a new normal and support customers to adapt their lives accordingly." ”

Amanda Hicks
Partner in Charge, Customer, Brand and Marketing Advisory
KPMG Australia

Leading CX brands in Australia


First Choice Liquor






Boost Juice






Red Energy


Dan Murphy's




Best & Less