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Key findings of first ever Irish Customer Experience Report

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Credit Unions tops poll followed by National Concert Hall and Dublin Zoo

Retail and Supermarkets comprise 13 of top 30 places

Many Irish companies failing to bridge expectation gap

Irish customer experience five years behind USA

Credit Unions have emerged as the big winners in the first ever survey of Irish brands based on the experiences of customers.

The National Concert Hall and Dublin Zoo took second and third place respectively in the survey which has been published in an in-depth report by Dublin based company Customer Experience Insights (CEXi.org).

According to CEXi, the purpose of the report is to raise the game of customer experience management in Ireland, to establish a league table by which companies can benchmark their progress in this area and to measure how customer experience in Ireland compares internationally.

The survey was carried out by Amarách Consulting for CEXi.org based on a template provided by KPMG Nunwood, which has published similar reports in the UK, USA and Australia.

The top ten ranked companies and their scores are:

Chart

Inga Ryan a Director of CEXi said the success of the Credit Unions was due to their ethos and culture.

“Credit unions are deeply embedded in the communities in which they operate. They are member owned organisations which provide a personal financial service to their customers. Like most of the top performers they scored very highly on empathy, which is something you can’t buy or recreate through advertising” she said.

Trends

Gerard O’Neill of Amarach said one of the clear trends in the survey was the strong performance of retail and several supermarket chains. “Overall they took 13 of the top 30 places. Notable here was the strong performance of the pharmacy sector which scored very well in the survey. We think this comes down to the personalised attention they give customers and the fact they are growing their area of expertise.”

“The strong performance of Aldi, Penneys and Lidl is also interesting. If the survey was focused solely on price this wouldn’t be a surprise but they scored well across several customer experience categories including quality of service and empathy. So being cheap and cheerful does not mean you can’t also deliver great customer experience and that is a great lesson for everyone in retail” he said.

“Some of the newer travel companies such as Aircoach and Luas also performed well. Hailo, which you could also describe as a tech company performed very strongly. It’s a new young brand which has successfully embedded itself in the Irish landscape and it wouldn’t surprise me if this brand does better next year” O’Neill added.

Utilities have scored poorly in customer service surveys globally and the situation is no different in Ireland. While An Post made the top ten – largely based on its valuable social role – Irish water failed to make the top 100 and was the back marker in the survey. It clearly has the most ground to make up. Given the economic climate of recent years the poor performance of the banking and financial sector wasn’t a surprise.

The CEXi survey and report is based on the six pillars or core elements of customer experience as derived by KPMG Nunwood. These are personalisation, integrity, time and effort, expectations, resolution and empathy. The survey was based on the responses of over 2,700 people in different age groups all round the country.

Key Messages

According to CEXi the three key messages which emerged from the survey were the expectation gap which Irish consumers experience, the fact that great customer experience doesn’t necessarily mean high prices and that motivated staff provide the best customer experiences.

“Irish companies recorded the lowest scores in the ‘Expectations’ category and its clear many are failing to live up to their own promises or undertaking. Basically they are overpromising and under delivering and not surprisingly customers are underwhelmed with the results. Customers want simplicity, straightforward delivery and easy access to assistance. They also want them to under promise and over deliver” O’Neill said.

According to the report while Irish people generally have a reputation for the personal or human touch – and this is what consumers crave – it turns out that in many cases they don’t get it. Too often technology is allowed to interfere with the customer experience and people are put off by automated voice recordings or emails or time consuming applications processes on websites or apps. CEXi says we must now transfer our natural ability to form positive personal relationships to the digital age, if we are to thrive in the era of omni-channel interactions.

CEXi predicts that those companies who excel in humanising omni-channel interactions, who cherish customers by meeting and exceeding their expectations and who nurture their staff will become customer experience leaders.

International Comparison

Michael Killeen of Dialogue Marketing said he expects to see a fair bit of volatility in the customer experience area in the short term.

“Businesses in Ireland are only getting to grips now with their customer base and we will see a fair bit of churn in the next few years. During the recession many companies cut back in this area because they believed it was a non-essential cost. However the game has moved on and customers are increasingly savvy and continue to benchmark their experience against the best in the world. A quick turnaround is possible and Ryanair provides an apt example of this. In the UK their new customer centred approach has led to the company jumping between 25 and 30 places”

“The evidence in this survey shows that Ireland is behind the curve in this area and there is definite room for improvement. With customer experience currently improving at approximately 1% per annum, we predict Ireland is two and a half years behind the UK and five years behind the USA.”

“Irish brands must look less for inspiration locally and focus more on learning from their counterparts abroad. The fact is only three Irish brands would have made the UK top 10 and zero would make the USA top 10. In the States they do excellence really well and they also fix thing really quickly when they go wrong. That is a something we could learn here” Killeen concluded.

The full report can be downloaded here

CEXi will hold a ‘Stories Festival’ on 29 October, where Irish consumer’s views when making purchases will be presented to business professionals. Attendees in this workshop environment will consider strategies to win support for better CX at Board level and work together on a list of actions for their companies. See http://cexi.org/storiesfestival for more information.

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