Like the rest of the world, Romania has had to deal with swathes of uncertainty brought about by COVID-19. It's been a deeply unsettling time for many people, but there are signs that it's had a positive impact on customer experience. Many sectors in this year's Romanian research saw increased scores across The Six Pillars.
This is symptomatic of a wider global trend, with customers experiencing a heightened emotional response towards those companies that reflect their core values, such as safety and security. In concert with this, many sectors 'upped their game' to deliver better, more adapted and consistent customer experiences, and it's unsurprising that the pillar of Integrity leads in Romania for customer loyalty and advocacy.
Moreover, the non-grocery retail sector has been at the forefront of this success, seeing some of the best Six Pillar scores in the country. This is partly because of how much data has been collected; non-grocery retail brands tend to garner a lot of information about consumers, helping them innovate quickly and find solutions to meet their evolving needs.
At the same time, the sector is also very competitive in Romania. The increased pressure to win customers' hearts has incentivized many brands to invest more heavily in customer experience management. They recognize a focus on The Six Pillars can help drive revenue growth, and secure long-term customer loyalty.
The sportswear retailer Decathlon is a good example of this, ranking at number three in this year's study. It's clear from the way the brand presents itself that the customer is at the heart of its operations. Decathlon states that its mission is to make sporting equipment available to as wide a group of people as possible, without compromising on quality. "Every person deserves the chance to enter the field, to shoot at the target, to climb a mountain, to swim, to ride or to get as far as possible," the retailer says.1
To achieve these goals, Decathlon acknowledges that the collection of customer data is essential. It's committed to innovating, and the brand registers dozens of patents every year for new products.2 At the same time, Decathlon knows that there is much sensitivity around this issue, and that the misuse of data can seriously hinder consumer trust. For this reason, it has extensive explanations available on its website which state how this information is used in clear non-jargon.3
This customer-centricity can also be seen with Romania's second highest ranking brand — the book retailer Carturesti. The brand sees itself more as a cultural community than a shop, saying "we are proud to bring you closer to what we love most — culture — and we invite you to join us."4
And like Decathlon, customer insight plays a big part in Carturesti's vision. "Tell us what you think and you will find that your feedback really matters!" the brand says.5
Carturesti certainly stayed true to this mission during COVID-19 recognizing the growing importance of its online stores and the need to be efficiently connected across all channels. At the time of writing, it offers a 24 hour delivery service on over 63,000 products, together with a range of payment options including its own Culture Card service.6 In addition, Carturesti has an app which helps customers to feel part of the broader brand community. Via the app — known as the Carturesti Passport — customers can accrue loyalty points for discounts, create and manage wishlists, and receive updates about upcoming events and workshops, as well as stay on top of emerging book trends.7
However, the leading brand in Romania is the financial services organization ING Bank. It achieves its highest pillar score in Time and Effort, and it offers a number of digital services which are designed to save time for the consumer. Its mobile app, for example, allows people to pay bills, and send money to individuals in the user's contact list.
There is also a feature called Round Up, which rounds people's shopping totals up to the nearest figure, and adds the difference to the customer's savings account.8 It also operates a 24 hour a day, seven day a week phone line to handle customer enquiries.
Looking ahead, the biggest challenge for Romanian brands is staying present and relevant.
With COVID-19 driving many consumers online, organizations need to be ready, and available. Those that have managed this transition to digital are the ones who have seen the best performance across The Six Pillars. The onus now falls on the other brands to do the same, and offer a truly omnichannel experience which is ready to handle the uncertain world of 2021.
“Brands, and even entire sectors, that have previously and historically scored poorly in our Six Pillar ranking, have now performed very well due to the clients' dramatic change of needs due to COVID-19. For instance, logistics & delivery companies as well as pharmacies have achieved record scores. While these changes are intrinsically linked to the customers' core values such as safety / security, many companies managed to raise their game during this crisis and deliver better, more adapted and consistent customer experiences." ”
Dr. Victor Iancu
Director, Strategy & Customer Advisory Lead
KPMG in Romania