Ireland's CX Champions 2019

Ireland’s overall Customer Experience (CX) score has fallen by over 4% for the second year in a row according to the fifth annual survey of Irish brands based on customer experience.

While the retail sector continues to perform strongly, and the insurance and restaurant sectors improved their position, telecoms and utilities were once again the worst performing sectors in the survey which was carried out by Amarách Research on behalf of the CX Company.

Once again, the Irish Credit Union emerged as winners - for the fifth year in succession- with Laya Healthcare in second and PhoneWatch in third. The remainder of the Top 10 is made up of retail brands with Peter Mark, Arnotts and Oxendales among the biggest movers.

Describing the findings as a ‘wake-up call’ Michael Killeen, Chairman of the CX Company, said he hoped the findings would encourage most Irish companies to rethink their approach to CX.

“First of all, we have to congratulate the Irish Credit Union for their consistently high performance and for completing the ‘Drive for Five’. It really is a fantastic achievement to remain the Irish leader in CX over a five-year period. In fact, it is one of only three organisations to remain in the top 10 over that period – Boots and An Post being the two others. Many Irish companies, particularly those in the financial sector could learn a lot from the credit unions, especially their member or customer-centric approach.”

“Unfortunately, the Credit Union is the only representative from the financial sector in the Top 100. While the banks have all shown an appetite for big advertising campaigns, there’s a clear disconnect in their customer promise. To be fair this is something we have seen across all sectors this year. Basically, companies are selling one vision to an ‘ideal customer’ while delivering something completely different to ‘real customers’.

“The reality is that less than 10% of the 160 brands surveyed this year improved their CX score. This contrasts with the situation in the UK where the figures are improving. We believe the approach to CX there is more mature, more strategic, and you can see that in the consistent CX performance of UK companies based here such as Boots, M & S, Mothercare and Lush. In fact while the number of Chief Customer Officers in the UK is growing exponentially, Irish companies are struggling to keep pace. They need to act quickly to ensure that the customer has a voice at board level.”

“CX is not just for Christmas, neither is it a box ticking exercise, a one-year pilot project or something that can be delivered solely through digital or technological solutions. It has to be part of a company’s long term, core business strategy with the customer at the centre and leadership coming from the top to trusted and empowered staff” Killeen said.

The Sectors - Retail and Supermarkets

The retail sector remains the strongest performing one with seven brands in the top 10 and over 50 in the Top 100. Of the top brands Peter Mark has done very well, up 65 places as has Arnotts up 33, Oxendales up 25 and Mothercare up 51. Electrical retailers such as Powercity (up 46), DID Electrical (up 47) and Harvey Norman (up 70) are leading the way by creating a very positive online/instore experience for customers.

Although the supermarket sector is still number two the German discounters Aldi and Lidl appear to have become victims of their own success to a degree as they struggle with supply chain and capacity issues. This is the first time since the survey began that there has been no supermarket in the top 15.  M & S Simply Food is the highest ranked at 26.

Insurance and Restaurants

In 2015 the insurance sector had no brands in the top 50 and the highest ranked brand came in at 71. There are now two in the top 10 and seven brands in the top 50. In 2015 and 2016 the insurance sector was ranked 10th out of 10. Now it is third. This highlights the progression companies in the sector have made with the three biggest movers since the survey started in 2015 being Post Insurance (up to 17 from 128), FBD (up to 25 from 125) and PhoneWatch (up to 3 from 94).

“Previously they were all about acquisition, now they are looking after their existing customers and using CX to hold onto them and differentiate their offering from their competitors’ CX mediocrity” said Killeen.

Most restaurants have improved their ranking with coffee shops and traditional takeaways leading the charge. Interestingly Deliveroo are the biggest casualty in the sector, dropping 50 places with customers seemingly having a better experience when they go direct to the outlet.

Travel and Financial

Route changes, fare increases, and unreliable apps have all contributed to the decline of several travel companies, especially bus companies. Citylink was the biggest faller this year, down 79 places but Aircoach was down 30 while Dublin Bus fell 25 places. Irish Rail fell 34 places. Ryanair has continued to drop, propelled by annoyance over changes to bag charges and the fact that ‘priority’ queues are often longer than ‘regular’ ones. It fell another 24 places in 2019 and is now, like Dublin Bus, outside of the Top 150 brands. Aer Lingus, by contrast remains inside the top 50.

The financial sector has also slipped, driven by declines from AIB (down 51 places), Permanent TSB (down 45) and KBC (down 30).

Entertainment and Public Sector

Entertainment was another to lose ground in the past year with YouTube dropping 66 places, Google dropping 25 places and Netflix falling 21 places. Customers are dissatisfied with the quality of service, choice of content and levels of advertising. After doing well last year the public sector has had a disappointing year, dropping two places in the sector rankings. The passport service is now the only public sector brand in the top 100.

Telecoms and Utilities

Both these sectors could learn from the insurance sector and focus more on what they can do for existing customers rather than offering multiple discounts to new customers. For example, utility companies, Electric Ireland, Bord Gais Energy and Energia have all dropped between 39 and 55 places, with Panda a notable exception, jumping 50 places in the ranking.

In the telecom sector eir’s dire customer service has seen it drop out of the Top 150.

Happy staff = Happy customers

One of the co-authors of the report, Cathy Summers, believes Irish companies need to adopt a cross functional approach to CX to achieve the necessary cut through.

“CX initiatives often struggle to get traction because they require people from different departments to work together. Many companies are quite siloed and are not set up to do this effectively and this acts as a brake on CX development.”

“In the first three years of our survey we saw positive results, but we have regressed over the past two years and many companies need to rediscover their CX mojo, particularly as customer expectations continue to rise.”

“Other companies throw money at technological solutions, but these are not always designed with the customer in mind. Even if initially successful they can in time become just hygiene factors. That’s where you need well trained, engaged frontline staff who are empowered to deal with customer issues quickly and effectively. It’s a cliché but happy staff equals happy customers and the brands which harness their people power, will, in time, reap the rewards.”

The full report is available at 


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