United States

Customer Experience Excellence report 2021

Customer Experience Excellence report 2021

Personalization continues to drive loyalty, whilst Integrity now drives advocacy in the US market, but declining trust means consumers are becoming more reluctant to share their data. COVID-19 has created a shift in focus to Empathy, with those companies that showed genuine care during the crisis winning customers. 

Consumers have developed an increasingly skeptical eye towards personalization, as a Facebook report showed they want more control over their personal data and more information about how it’s used1. Companies are also less willing to invest in the technology necessary to offer truly personalized experiences because of a lack of return on investment.

However, USAA – the market’s top-ranking brand for the second year in a row – maintained its position through a focus on simplified customer experience and increased personalization. The insurance firm grew the SafePilot driving program (behavior-based auto-insurance) by 200% in 2020, allowing customers to earn discounts based on how safe they drive .

Time and Effort and Empathy were also important pillars to the company’s success, with technology helping to speed up the claims process and resolving issues quickly. One customer said: “USAA is simply the best auto insurance company because they are a CO-OP, not a for-profit company. Thus, when you have an accident and need help, they help you as if you are family with resources.”

The value of companies that show genuine understanding has increased during COVID-19, with Salesforce research showing 71% of consumers are more likely to be loyal to companies that show sensitivity to the current climate .

Alaska Airlines moved 28 places into the second spot, helped by a focus on social responsibility and creating a company that values not just performance, but also people, community and environment . In 2020, it moved to waive all change and cancellation fees for fully-priced fares forever . It also combined its rewards program with the OneWorld alliance, allowing redemption of Alaska Air miles on 14 global airlines serving every continent (excluding Antarctica) .

The grocery sector continues to lead the market, maintaining its number one position from 2020, thanks to its position as an essential service during the pandemic. Leading companies such as H-E-B, provide an omni-channel approach that delivers convenient, fast options for customers.

The sector’s response to the challenges posed by COVID-19, such as curb-side pickups, more delivery slots and increased e-commerce options, were crucial for many customers. H-E-B also demonstrated empathy by making it easy for customers to use SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) – a federal program that helps low-income Americans put food on the table – to buy groceries online . The company also created engaging customer experiences online and in store through personalized recommendations.

Moving forward, organizations that have lagged in the digital space are now facing pressure to catch up to best practices and keep in line with those investing heavily in e-commerce and digital customer experiences. The Expectations pillar is rising in relevance, as consumers increasingly have more choice and low barriers to switching when a company does not meet their expectations.

This means organizations must be agile enough to adapt to fast-changing customer needs. While Personalization used to be the go-to differentiator, now companies that show real empathy are the ones that stand out. In the new reality, customers will continue to expect organizations to put their wellbeing before profit.

COVID-19 has cast the spotlight on US brands that are truly on a customer experience journey versus reactive brands. While the former gained and sustained momentum due to prior incremental investments in customer experiences, the latter excelled only in the short term. Customer experience represents a mind-set and a marathon, not a passing management fad or sprint. To win this race and sustain value, brands should be intentional in both how they deliver digital customer experiences and how their organizations grow and accelerate as we emerge from the COVID-19 era.

Julio Hernandez
US Customer Advisory Practice Lead
KPMG in the United States


Leading CX brands in USA




Alaska Airlines




Apple Store


Charles Schwab


Navy Federal Credit Union


JetBlue Airways


Costco Wholesale


Tommy Hilfiger