Customer experience scores weathered the pandemic

Forrester's latest CX Index suggests investment firms, however, managed to improve in tough times.

Customer-experienceCanadian brands held their own when it comes to customer experience quality even in a difficult pandemic environment, though some investment firms, retailers and automakers managed to make improvements that resonated with customers.

That’s according to the 2021 edition of Forrester’s Customer Experience Index for Canada, which benchmarked CX quality across 97 Canadian brands against performance from the pandemic’s outset.

To determine its scores, the research firm looked at how effective a brand was at meeting customer needs, how easy it was to work with the brand, and how interacting with the brand made the customer feel. Among the variables that also helped calculate the index were: how likely the customer is to stay with the brand, how likely they are to buy additional products and services and how likely they are to recommend the brand.

Forrester reports that 88% of brands either remained stable or improved their ratings compared to last year, while only 12% declined. Overall, performance was flat from last year, with 1% moving from “poor” to “OK.”

CX-indexAccording to the report, while the pandemic changed customer needs and expectations in unprecedented ways, brands were overwhelmingly able to keep up, namely those in investment services. While Home Hardware and health and wellness ecommerce retailer Well.ca maintained their “elite” ranking, RBC Dominion Securities, ScotiaMcLeod and TD Wealth all entered the top five for the first time, with RBC achieving a top overall CX score of 76.7, an increase of seven points.

While these three brands helped clients feel secure in their investments during a period of economic uncertainty, the same cannot be said for every financial brand.

Direct banks like Tangerine, Simplii, Canadian Tire Bank and Manulife Bank, typically high performers in things like digital experience and customer satisfaction, had scores roughly in line with last year. Some multichannel banks – namely ATB, National Bank and Desjardins – had significant improvements over last year’s scores. BMO had a significant dip in scores, but managed to stay at the industry average, while the remaining Big Five banks remained below it as their scores stayed stagnant.

Scores for the top retailers were largely in line with last year. While Petsmart dropped out of the “elite” rankings, it still ranked third in the sector behind Well and Home Hardware, followed by Etsy, Costco and Amazon. IKEA, however, took a big hit, slumping from a score of 72.2 in 2020, to 66.2 in 2021. Leon’s also fell from 67.8 to 64.6 over the same period.

Mass market automakers were a mixed bag. Brands like GMC, Subaru, Kia and Chevrolet had significant boosts that put them into the top of the category, while previous top-five brands Toyota, Mazda, Volkswagen, Honda and Jeep all experienced significant dips (though the first three still managed to stay ahead of the industry average).

Forrester’s index reveals that elite brands provide nearly four times more emotionally positive customer experiences, such as feeling appreciated and respected, aspects critical to boosting loyalty. In the retail industry, for example, among customers who felt appreciated, 85% plan to stay with the brand, 82% plan to increase spending with the brand and 85% will advocate for the brand.

According to Harley Manning, VP and research director with Forrester, the pandemic has demonstrated that brands must differentiate themselves by recognizing human emotions. “Our findings validate that, across every industry, how customers feel when interacting with brands strongly influences their loyalty toward those brands,” Manning says.

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