Personalization is everything in the Netherlands. Typically, Dutch consumers know what they want, and they want to be heard; services should be customized to their particular needs, and they appreciate having more control with selfservice initiatives. It's no longer possible for brands to get away with a 'one size fits all' approach to customer experience, and indeed the pillar of Personalization is again the biggest driver of Loyalty and Advocacy in the Netherlands.
With the arrival of COVID-19, this presented a problem as digital channels rose in importance. Consumers still wanted a personal connection with brands. It is of course possible to achieve this with minimal human interaction but requires a high level of consumer insight. Leading CX brands typically draw on large pools of real-time data, and analyze it to understand their customers more thoroughly, leading to higher scores in the Personalization pillar. Consumers also aligned Value with Integrity.
Brands that were able to demonstrate their brand values, integrity and their ability to move quickly and stay connected with their customers, in the midst of COVID-19 have been rewarded with strong and growing customer loyalty.
It is the relentless focus on Personalization and Integrity the financial services sector did best in 2020, and it currently dominates the Dutch rankings. Customers valued financial services more highly during COVID-19 — as it represented security during a time of uncertainty. The financial services sector was one of the quickest to respond to COVID-19, offering services such as payment holidays and emergency loans. Companies such as PayPal also promised to refund customers' shipping costs, which increased for many at the height of COVID-19.
The leading organization in the Netherlands is ASN Bank which is particularly concerned with sustainability, and indeed one of its highest pillar scores is Integrity. It builds its customer experience on the principle of 'sustainable banking,' believing that money can be used to create happiness. The brand says: "With money you can exert a lot of influence to make the world a better place. For ourselves and for future generations. So the more people join ASN Bank, the stronger we stand for a better world."
ASN Bank also achieves a high score in Personalization — a key factor for Dutch consumers.
During lockdown, ASN Bank has offered a wide range of contact options for customers to choose from such as a web chat touchpoint, and a telephone service which many employees managed from their homes.1 The brand was also flexible in its repayment services, offering one-to-one consultations for people struggling to cover their mortgage costs. ASN Bank promised not to let any customers lose their homes, if at all possible.2
That being said, non-FS brands also responded well to the crisis. The health food retailer Holland and Barrett — which ranks at number three — decided to stay open during COVID-19, making its stores 'destinations' for people to get individualized advice and the necessary vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. Holland and Barrett's 'experience bars' also played a part in this — designated sections of its shops where customers could try new products and find the ones best suited to their needs.
As the brand explains: "Because everyone is different and therefore has different wishes and needs, we attach great value to providing customer-specific advice. We like to take the time with our customers, and tailor our advice to your personal situation."3
The retailer also performs well in the Integrity pillar, with Holland and Barrett being particularly mindful of sustainability. It was the first brand to introduce a 'zero waste' beauty range4, with products such as unpackaged shampoo bars, washable cotton pads and bamboo toothbrushes.
The retailer promotes the idea that even the smallest of changes can make a huge difference, and it describes much of the packaging that usually dominates people's bathrooms as "unnecessary."5
Undoubtedly, as Dutch brands head towards 2021, Personalization is going to be the key pillar for them to focus on. As mentioned previously, this will be a difficult undertaking with customers' heightened dependency on digital channels, which typically offer few real human interactions. Moreover, at the time of writing the COVID-19 continues to necessitate a 1.5m social distancing rule, impacting every aspect of the customer experience — including the experience of the employees, which is an integral part of CX design.
Despite this, COVID-19 also gives many Dutch brands the chance to re-evaluate their operating principles and discover what it means to be a sustainable, truly customer-centric organization.
“As COVID-19 swept across the Netherlands, the true customer experience champions moved quickly to respond, reacting to their customers' needs and challenging themselves to lead by example. With a significant rise in the importance of the Integrity pillar in this year's survey, it seems clear that Dutch consumers are telling brands to go back to the basics: the foundation of Customer Experience Excellence, where brands lay the groundwork for a personalized, empathetic relationship." ”
Partner, Customer & Brand Advisory
KPMG in the Netherlands
Holland & Barrett
Van der Valk Hotels
4 Retail Insight Network