Demonstrating integrity and empathy as more interactions moved online amid COVID-19 defined the top-performing firms ranked by consulting firm KPMG in its U.S. Customer Experience Excellence Report.
Based in New York, KMPG launched the report, titled New Reality, New Customer Relationship, on Monday. The research took survey responses from more than 11,000 customers and matches them against six different ‘Pillars of Excellence. Besides integrity and empathy, the pillars include setting expectations, personalization, reducing time and effort and problem resolution.
In its introductory chapter, the KPMG report’s authors noted how the pandemic created unforeseen obstacles that made it difficult or impossible to stand out from a CX perspective.
“(With firms such as) Southwest Airlines, it was difficult to sustain customer relationships when they were not flying . . for retail outlets like Polo Ralph Lauren, and LL Bean, having to close their doors meant putting the relationship on hold,” the report says. “The simple truth is, if you don’t interact, there is no experience, and if there is no experience, you struggle to maintain the relationship.”
Perhaps as a result, the brand taking the top spot was United States Automobile Assitance (USAA), one of the few that focuses specifically on assisting customers in times of trouble. KMPG said the firm moved from fourth to first this year.
Other top categories included those in the restaurant industry such as Chick-Fil-A and In-And-Out Burger, as well as grocery firms such as Costco Wholesale and Publix.
While the ranking was largely occupied by brands that are household names and operate nationally, the No. 2 brand was H-E-B, a supermarket chain based in San Antonio.
KPMG said H-E-B demonstrated 18 per cent more empathy than other firms in other markets based on programs such as “Texans Helping Texans,” which included setting up stations to gather donations for local charities and partnerships with a food delivery service to ensure seniors could get meals without laving their homes.
“It is this sense of local pride and belonging that their customers buy into,” the report’s authors noted.
The common lesson to be learned from the firms that made the top 10 list was a focus on consistent communication with customers, along with an agility that let them adapt to digital processes and migrate the impact of the pandemic.
“What is particularly interesting about these leading companies is their holistic, integrated approaches,” KPMG said. “Every aspect of what they do is not only mutually reinforcing, but it makes a clear contribution to the delivery of their purpose.”
The report also looked at brands whose CX accomplishments are on the rise. These included Sephora, Zappos, Ruby Tuesday and TD Bank.