United Kingdom

Customer Experience Excellence report 2021

Customer Experience Excellence report 2021

Accelerated and amplified by COVID-19, digital technology has moved to the center of customer interactions. Artificial intelligence, machine learning, Cloud, edge computing, blockchain and robots are all steadily being applied to everyday customer tasks.

For several companies, artificial intelligence has moved from test and learn to mainstream.. Identification, recommendation, chatbots and automated conversations are just some of the new AI use cases that UK consumers have been exposed to this year.

This coincides with huge changes in the way the consumer behaves: increasingly digital, environmentally focused and keen to deal with companies who share their values. Consumers are more concerned about the environmental and social behaviors of the companies they place their business with than ever before.

Expectations have heightened as these priorities have shifted. As a result, what was previously considered to be a good customer experience is no longer good enough and almost all UK businesses have been thrust into reinventing their approach to customers.

An example of the new breed of digitally based, socially and environmentally concerned organizations is the new UK number one for customer experience in 2021, Starling Bank.

The digital-only bank has a goal to put customers in control of their money and data, providing easy ways for them to give feedback1. It also aims to cater for a broad audience and its services reflect its varied consumer base2. For example, it has partnered with the Post Office to offer ‘in-branch’ banking3, while launching a new online service and an ‘Apply by video in minutes’ feature.

One respondent to the UK research described Starling as “a real mobile bank with laptop capability as well. It’s all so easy; they help you set up and you get great information once you start using it. Everything is under your control.”

Cruelty-free cosmetics company Lush ranked second in our research, following the relaunch of its website and app. New features such as an improved search function, 24-hour live chat and a new checkout process have helped to improve its scores in the Expectations pillar5. The company also continues to improve in Integrity and Empathy, with several moves to further strengthen its brand as an ethical retailer. The Lush Lens AR app allows customers to scan products with their smartphone for ingredients and instructions to minimize packaging, while its new subscription letterbox service delivers personalized boxes direct to customers6.

Offering personalized goods and services continues to drive loyalty in the UK, while demonstrating Integrity will persuade customers to recommend brands to their friends and family. The grocery retail sector is still leading the charge, proving the importance of reacting swiftly to COVID-19. Those that offer fast, flexible delivery of a wide range of goods are winning the race for the customer. 

M&S Food’s (#8) partnership with Ocado (the UK’s biggest moving brand this year, now ranked 37th) has proved successful, with both brands performing well in our research. Ocado has also partnered with several other third parties to improve its digital offering: Orlo combines its social, live chat and CRM into one streamlined customer service tool, while Foodmaestro allows online shoppers to set up a personalized Food Profile7. And the company isn’t stopping there – it has also rolled out a rapid delivery service, Ocado Zoom, trialing electric and pedal-powered vehicles as part of a target to reach net zero by 2035.

This combination of personalized products, streamlined digital services and ethical brand values is a powerful one. But it requires organizations to really understand their customers. COVID-19 has led many consumers to change their requirements, motivations and priorities, so it’s no longer enough to base customer decisions on historical understanding and assumptions. They must use customer data to uncover their needs and adapt accordingly.

Those organizations that do not invest in new technology such as AI and machine learning will get left behind. And while personalization matters, so does a company’s purpose and values. Organizations that make an authentic contribution to society and the environment will ensure customers continue to do business with them.

Many approaches to customer experience are fast becoming obsolete. Post-pandemic consumers are profoundly different and intrinsically digital. Growth demands agility, technology and seamless orchestration: capabilities most businesses have yet to build.

Tim Knight
Partner, Customer Advisory
KPMG in the UK


Leading CX brands in United Kingdom


Starling Bank




John Lewis & Partners




American Express






M&S Food




Samsung Store


1 https://www.starlingbank.com/reviews/

2 https://www.wired.co.uk/article/starling-bank-review

3 https://www.starlingbank.com/news/post-office-deposits/

4 https://www.starlingbank.com/blog/introducing-online-banking-for-personal-customers/

5 https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/lush-digital-ethicals-redesign-digital-sponsored-content-220621

6 https://www.independent.co.uk/extras/indybest/fashion-beauty/beauty/best-lush-products-cosmetics-beauty-b1880246.html

7 https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/foodmaestro-powers-ocado-new-