European Brands Fail to Deliver on Customer Experience

Not a Single Brand Rated 'Excellent' in Forrester Survey

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Adam Powers
Adam Powers Credit: Rory Lindsay

Customer experience is the top strategic priority for more than 70% of business leaders in in France, Germany and the U.K. – but not one of them is delivering on their goals, according to research by Forrester.

At a time when social media makes it more important than ever for businesses to have good relationships with consumers, the majority of brands in the U.K., Germany and France are mediocre when it comes to customer experience, and not a single brand was rated excellent in the survey. Forrester surveyed 13,451 consumers in those three countries about the quality of their customer experience with a total of 203 brands, focusing heavily on financial services, wireless and retail.

Adam Powers, chief experience officer at Bartle Bogle Hegarty London, said, "Getting joined up customer experience is hard. For businesses that have grown in silos and often don't have shared [key performance indicators], then it is really hard to mobilize an entire organization around the change required to get a single customer view and a brilliant, cohesive experience that feels seamless to the customer."

Financial services providers did best in all three markets, and in the U.K. made up ten of the top 13 brands. Digital-only retailers also did comparatively well, with Amazon voted best in its category in all three countries.

Mr. Powers, whose clients include Barclays Bank, one of the brands that rated in the top 10 in the U.K. version of the survey, suggested, "Banking and online-only businesses share the fact that they are largely trading in the intangible (admittedly online retailers ship physical product but, without bricks and mortar, the customer experience is mostly behind a screen) and therefore the customer experience is everything. The banking sector appears to be one that broadly understood this earliest, so they are ahead of the game, and the likes of Barclays have been working tirelessly to transform themselves across every channel in order to succeed."

Internet and TV service providers fared worst -- often, according to Forrester, due to a lack of competition that can make businesses complacent.

Not a single brand in France even achieved even a "good" rating, although 12% made that grade in the U.K. and 14% in Germany. This means that 88% of U.K. brands, 86% of German brands and 100% of French brands were rated as average, poor, or very poor.

Emotional connection was the most important factor in driving customer experience and loyalty in the U.K. and Germany, but the French were inspired more by effectiveness.

The power of native brands remains strong in Europe – they dominate their national lists in Germany, France and the U.K. Amazon was the only non-local brand to feature in all three, while American Express and Spanish bank Santander also made the U.K. list.

In the U.K., the top-ranked three brands for customer service were National Building Society bank, American Express, and Marks & Spencer Bank, which was started by retail giant Marks & Spencer in 2012. In France, the top three were insurance company MAIF, beauty brand Yves Rocher and Credit Mutuel, a bank whose friendly slogan is "The bank to speak to."

The eight industries included in the survey provided services in banking, TV, internet, wireless, traditional retail, digital-only retail, auto and home insurance, and credit cards.

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