How do the best companies in the UK do it?


We looked at recent research into over 600,000 customer comments across 550 brands. It showed that companies who provide the best customer experience have 6 key characteristics:

Personalisation – Tailoring the experience  to the needs of the individual and their circumstances. Lush customers like the diagnostic conversations they have with staff before a recommendation. Amazon customers love how the recommendation engine finds items that appeal to them. This is worth $30 billion a year to Amazon.

Integrity – When customers believe the firm is trustworthy and acts in their best interests. First Direct and John Lewis customers see them as putting customer’s needs before profits. First Direct encourages open feedback via social media demonstrating they have nothing to hide. For John Lewis the needs of the staff, shareholders and the customer are intertwined. Front line staff (partners) are the shareholders. They know what customers want.

Time and Effort: How easy do firms make it for consumers to buy from them? Amazon is the best example. Intuitive recommendations coupled with one click ordering mean rapid delivery. Amazon has  removed every obstacle to buying. First Direct customers value getting through immediately to a real person. It’s a better option than a call handling machine with options to choose from.

Expectations: These are set through the brand promise and interactions. Green Flag members value the one hour response promise. They particularly value times when this is shorter. Ocado customers value the one hour delivery slots and the consistent reliability of these.

Resolution: Things will go wrong in any company. What sets the top companies apart is how they deal with problems as they occur. Their start point is to assume the customer is right. They do not waste time, they just get on with fixing the problem. For these companies this means seeing the process end to end. They take ownership of problems even when third parties are part of the process. They empower staff to act fast to put the customer where they would have been if the problem had not happened. Heroic recovery as John Lewis describes it.

Empathy: Each of the top companies talks about empathy. It’s the ability their people have to put themselves in the shoes of the customer. First Direct customers talk about how their agents see the world from their point of view. Green Flag customers talk about how the agents always empathise with their situation. For Waitrose and John Lewis customers it is the value of advice. For each of these companies empathy comes with reassurance, advice and a solution.

Some more examples:

Waitrose – they allow their customers to choose 10 items to get 20% discount. This means the discounts specific for each customer.

KLM – the world leading airline in customer experience, are different. They use a sniffer dog at an airport (Sherlock the beagle) but not like other airlines. Sherlock goes on a plane when all passengers have disembarked. He sniffs out any items the passengers have left then follows their scent to return their goods. We know it’s strange, but we like it!

First Direct – measure all staff against customer relationship goals. The Chief Exec even phones customers who complain. They also hold a Voice of the customer forum every month, reviewing all feedback and insight.

Charles Tyrwhitt are online tailors. Founder Nick Wheeler invites direct e-mails, complaints or compliments. He aims to make it as easy as possible to do business with them. All staff (at any level) spend time when they start in the customer service department. That is so they  understand just how they make their customers feel.


Keep in touch for regular advice and practical examples about customer experience.

Get in touch to see how we can help your business.

Ask an expert if you have a specific question about customer experience.