Investing in the customer relationship in times of difficulty will be repaid by enduring customer loyalty. Firms that maintain their ethics during periods of catastrophe grow and prosper.

Eleven years of research with 4 million customer evaluations of c.3,500 brands globally have shown that there are six dimensions of customer experience that firms need to excel at if they are to reap the financial rewards that result from loyalty and advocacy. These are Integrity, Resolution, Expectations, Time & Effort, Personalization and Empathy.

In normal times, they are powerful tools for creating successful, sustainable and ethical businesses. When faced with the unprecedented challenges of new reality, they provide an invaluable guide to navigating the changes that will be required by defining excellence in both customer and employee experiences. They show business leaders specifically what they need to create in order to compete for the new reality customer and become or remain high performing CX leaders. This year however we have seen that Value as a determinant of loyalty is second only to Personalization. It has seen an overall shift of 11 percent in importance since 2018.

This year's research shows that The Six Pillars of Experience are more relevant than ever, but now have additional requirements and priorities attached.

As companies demonstrate their commitment to a safe and secure environment and seek to adapt to customers' unique circumstances Integrity and Personalization now play a particularly strong role in in driving both advocacy and loyalty.

  • Integrity is the strongest driver of Advocacy (NPS) across 18 of the 27 markets, whilst Personalization leads across 8 markets.
  • Personalization is the strongest pillar in driving Customer Loyalty in 19 of the 27 markets, whilst Integrity leads across 6 markets.

Global performance has increased across each of The Six Pillars this year.

Overall customer experience performance rose by 3 percent globally in 2020.

The Pillar with the highest growth (4 percent) is Expectations. We surmise that this increase is due to consumer expectations having been reset due to COVID-19. The reaction and innovation of many organizations have given the increased ability to wow and exceed expectations.

Our leaders demonstrate that consistent delivery across each of The Six Pillars remains critical. All the top ranked brands exceeded the market average on each of The Six Pillars. In fact, the top-ranked brand in each market typically outperforms the respective market average score for each pillar by between 10 percent and 12 percent.

Connecting customer and employee experience

Companies around the world are attempting to transform their businesses but only a small number have made energizing their frontline people a central part of their transformation journey. These leading companies are embracing the concept of the "workplace as an experience", where every aspect of work is carefully designed, arranged, and controlled to energize and inspire employees to deliver the prescribed customer experience.

This requires a new covenant between front-office and people leadership, connecting the worlds of customer, HR and general management in a way that most operating models resist. Those that do, start with the design of a competitively superior customer experience and then design the culture, skills and behaviours that will enable frontline employees to deliver such an experience. This is because innovation, creativity, passion, commitment and the desire to do great things for the customer start and finish with the employee.

The Six Pillars can be universally applied to both customer and employee relationships. By seeing all people (and their digital counterparts) through this singular lens, organizations can remove disconnection and unify their colleagues around common ways of thinking.

In short, transforming the customer experience (CX) requires that organizations adopt an equally methodical approach to the employee experience (EX).

The experience an organization delivers to customers reflects the organization and its employees. Employees who are motivated, empowered and enabled with the information, tools and technology they need to deliver on the brand promise can make or break the customer experience. This goes beyond employee engagement. This means taking the design and measurement of employee experience just as seriously as the design and measurement of the customer experience.

Perception of an employee's experience is now an important decision point for customers.

41 percent of customers say that it is now more important to them because of COVID-19. Customers want to be assured that employees are well treated, safe and enjoy their jobs.

The CX leaders in our research go to great lengths to ensure that employees experience their organization in the same way a customer would. For the leading hotel and travel companies for example the induction of new employees involves experiencing the brand as a guest. The target employee experience across journeys and their employment life cycle is carefully crafted to ensure the target customer experience naturally emerges.

For leading retailers ordinary retail roles are elevated through stringent recruitment and training to become consultants, trusted advisors to customers who not only sell products but guide customers to exactly the right solutions for them. Even more important as countries globally ease out of lockdown measures and want to feel safe and secure in their physical purchase experiences.

For online retailers it is how staff can replicate human interactions online and make an emotional connection digitally. This is an area many organizations have been thrust into over the last few months and will need to be careful to maintain and improve as customers will not be forgiving if the experience slacks off.

The unifying factor across each of these companies is that employees and customers alike are infused and enthused by an abiding sense of purpose which, when coupled with The Six Pillars, provides a set of implementation principles that aligns both employees and customers behind a desire to make a difference to the customer and the world they live in.