Achieving customer experience best practice is not an easy task for UK brands. In 2018, the vast majority have seen little change in their overall scores, with the country experiencing just a one per cent rise in the average CEE result. A significant factor in this is the relentless escalation of customer expectations - which many brands struggle to stay abreast of - but what really separates the strongest players from their peers is an intense focus on customer insight, and a propensity to understand and anticipate customers’ ever-changing needs.


In KPMG Nunwood’s 2018 UK Customer Experience Excellence report - which covered 10,000 consumers across 10 business sectors - it’s clear that there are many stand-out brands that are flying the flag for CX excellence in Britain, and they are all champions at using insight to ‘get under people’s skin’ with customer experience designs that truly put the individual at the front and centre. Three of these brands are discussed in this piece.



One of these is the online grocery retailer Ocado, which landed in sixth place in this year’s CEE and became the highest-scoring brand for its sector with a rise of two positions since 2017. Without any physical stores for shoppers to visit and peruse, Ocado’s customer experience relies solely on the effectiveness of its online presence, and in satisfactorily fulfilling people’s orders. And this is something that the brand is not complacent about; Ocado affirms that “data and insight are critical to everything we do,”[1] and it uses its pool of knowledge to better understand customers’ interactions and purchasing habits.


Of course, the world of grocery retail is in a state of flux, with people’s shopping habits evolving regularly. Ocado seems aware of the fact that its CX strategies may enjoy only temporary effectiveness, and its ongoing stream of customer data allows it to quickly meet – and often exceed – the shifting expectations of shoppers.


For instance, Ocado is mindful of the prevalence of the smartphone in many people’s lives, and its bespoke app has been designed to deliver a seamless shopping experience, with a one-click feature that enables customers to amend an order without having to check-out again. In addition, its latest update for iOS software allows people to ask Siri (the device’s voice-activated artificial intelligence) to tell them when their next delivery is due.[2]


Metro Bank

The financial services sector, meanwhile, has been a particularly strong one in 2018, with three such brands appearing in this year’s top five. One of these is a newcomer to the UK CEE. Known as Metro Bank, it’s a brand that brings a fresh perspective to the world of money management, with a commitment to customer experience best practice that’s rooted in insight, technological innovation, and artificial intelligence. As the brand itself says: “We’ve built a different kind of high street bank… A bank where you can walk in without an appointment and walk out with a working account, debit card and all… A bank that puts you first.”[3]

Indeed, Metro Bank is redefining what best practice looks like in its sector, and whilst it might be a cliché to describe it as a brand that ‘thinks outside the box,’ Metro Bank is undoubtedly one such organisation – although it’s careful to ensure that its innovations are rooted in the knowledge it has collected about the customer. For example, Metro Bank learnt that 24 per cent of the UK population owns 8.9 million dogs[4], and that 19 per cent of the population are young children. Moreover, the brand recognised that families often care for both children and dogs and will likely visit a bank at some point during their time together. Because of this, Metro Bank made the decision to provide free food and water for dogs in each of its branches, together with a special Kid Zone with magic money machines to keep children occupied whilst their parents conduct their business.


first direct

The customer experience champion of 2018 is the bank first direct, which tops the tables of this year’s CEE. Like its counterparts in the UK top 10, first direct is conscious of the important role customer insight plays in its CX design, and has gone to great lengths to paint an accurate picture of the people that it serves. For instance, in 2017 the brand published a detailed study titled ‘How to Turn Your Quarter-Life Crisis into Quarter-Life Catalyst’ which took a deep-dive into the millennial generation with the help of psychologists and academics.[5] Millennials are typically people who were born between the mid 1980s and mid 1990s, and first direct undertook this investigation with a view to finding financial solutions that would help to meet the specific needs experienced by this age group.


Such an undertaking highlights the importance of the pillar of Expectations for customer experience excellence. This is one of six such pillars that represent the universal characteristics of all great experiences - the others being Personalisation, Time and Effort, Integrity, Resolution and Empathy. And Expectations has a notable impact on a person’s relationship with a brand, as it’s a pillar that carries an 18 per cent weighting for advocacy, and a 16 per cent weighting for future loyalty. For first direct, meeting people’s expectations is a core consideration of customer experience best practice, and because of this it’s currently beta testing an online platform known as fdesign, which is helping the brand to garner people’s feedback and redesign customer journeys. It’s also worth noting that first direct’s score in the pillar of Expectations is 13 per cent ahead of the industry average.


The power of customer insight

Is any of this to say that other UK brands are not conscious of the power of customer insight? Not necessarily. Many UK brands are acutely aware of the importance of data and the impact that it can have on the quality of the customer experience, but what makes brands such as Ocado, Metro Bank and first direct stand out is the intense focus and intimacy; these top performers have a closeness and a deep understanding of their customers, and are aware that people’s lifestyles and sensibilities can change rapidly. It’s this ‘customer obsession’ that elevates the higher scoring brands, and they have set a standard which should be an inspiration to other brands wishing to realign and improve their customer experience strategies. 


Download the 2018 UK Customer Experience Excellence Analysis in full.