Social media giants and Ryanair tumble in 4th annual Customer Experience Survey - But Credit Unions score four in a row

18 Oct 2018

After three years of continued growth, Ireland’s overall CX Excellence score drops over 4%


Credit Unions claim top position for fourth year in a row


But social media giants and Ryanair suffer big falls


Insurance sector makes strides - Laya Healthcare the first insurer to make it into the Top Ten – Post Insurance the highest climber


Telecoms and Utility Sectors continue to perform poorly


Despite drops in scores, Retail remains the top performing sector for 2018


Authors of reports say it’s time to put the human touch back into Customer Experience


Mytaxi and Luas the biggest fallers since survey began


Passport Office one of the bright lights in improving Public Sector



Tuesday October 16th 2018. Credit Unions have emerged as the winners for the fourth year in a row in an annual survey of Irish brands based on customer experiences (CX) but Ireland’s overall CX Excellence score has fallen in 2018.


In a Top 10 where retail brands predominated, Amazon claimed second place while hotel group Radisson Blu moved up 28 places to claim third in the survey which was carried out by Amarách Research on behalf of The CX Company.


The CXi Ireland Customer Experience Report is published annually to raise awareness of CX Excellence in Ireland.


Despite a drop in its scores, Retail remains the top performing sector with sixty-one brands in the top 150 and four in the Top 10.


Michael Killeen, Chairman of the CX Company said the remarkable success of the Credit Unions was down to the fact that they put their members at the centre of everything they do.


“Trust is at the heart of the relationship and they pride themselves on keeping their products simple and always acting in the members best interests. This is evident in the commitment of their employees, over 70% of whom are volunteers from the local

community. Not surprisingly customers rank them highest in scores for Empathy and Time and Effort. It is interesting to note that in America the US Navy Federal Credit Union occupies number one position”.



Ranking 2018

Ranking 2017

Ranking 2016

Ranking 2015

Irish Credit Union












Radisson Blu












Laya Healthcare












An Post













Entertainment & Leisure













Reality check as CX score declines


However, the news was not so positive elsewhere. After three years of continuous growth in Ireland’s overall CX Excellence score, this year saw a decline of 4%, with only 11 of the 156 companies surveyed improving their score. A similar pattern emerged in the UK and the US in recent years. Killeen believes one of the key reasons for the decline is down to the absence of the human touch in the digital era.



The Human Touch


“People’s expectations are higher now and what was good enough in the past is not now. Digital is playing a bigger role and that brings more choice and cheaper prices. While this is good for consumers, digital also creates a more level playing field by disrupting customer loyalty – more easily done with ‘Generation Tinder’ - and narrowing gaps between competitors. This of course brings a host of challenges for businesses and makes it harder for brands to stand out. It also raises the question that we might be simply setting the bar too low”


“Digital of course can also lead to a rather functional and clinical experience and in some ways, it has gone from being a means to an end, to being a barrier to a better customer experience. It’s fine at a functional level but not at a brand connection level. This is where the emotional or human touch can transform the customer experience and brands which have done this successfully - either through the use of data to create a highly personalised experience offering such as Netflix or Amazon, which has set the benchmark for online shopping – score really well. Others who have combined the human touch with technology in a seamless manner include Radisson Blu, Ikea, Boots and Laya.”


“For other top performers such as An Post, Citylink and Lidl, the emphasis may be more on the warmth of their staff, the fact that they provide vital and valued services and are seen as supporters of the community. Through thick and thin these brands have delivered great experiences to their customers and that is something to celebrate” Killeen said.


Social media giants drop


Quite a number of social media companies have been making the headlines for the wrong reasons for some time now, mainly related to security issues, and this clearly has had a huge impact on trust in them. Google has fallen 45 places to 64, YouTube has fallen 46 places to 61 while Facebook has dropped out of the Top 150 altogether.


Killeen says this is because the balance of power between customers and business has shifted. “If customers feel it is leaning more towards the provider or a lack of fairness has crept into the relationship, this will clearly have a negative impact on the customer experience and this is reflected in our findings. If you add fears over data protection into the mix people will begin to question the exchange value of the relationship and may well vote with their mouse.” 




Travel – Ryanair’s ‘Annus Horibilis’


Of the ten sectors surveyed, Travel, a better than average performer overall, provides some of the best examples of the good, the average and the plain ugly in CX terms. At the upper end you have some brands we have already mentioned along with others such as Aircoach, Airbnb – straight into number 22 - and Aer Lingus. Others such as Irish Rail and DAA are moving in the right direction and then you have Luas, Dublin Bus, the Dart, Mytaxi, Ryanair and Bus Eireann which is the backmarker of our Top 150.


“While Luas has actually recovered a little this year, industrial action, over-crowded trams and the disruption caused by the ‘Cross-City’ extension have all left their mark. Ironically while new users with low expectations probably view their ‘Cross-City’ experience as positive, existing customers only see the drop in service.”


“Ryanair – now in 132nd position - has had a terrible year largely due to strikes by staff across Europe and changes to their cabin baggage charging policies. You have to wonder is their model becoming more redundant for more people here as the recovery gains ground and customers are prepared to pay more for better service. They have the potential to be world class but until they start engaging with their staff and treating them properly – not to mind their customers – it won’t happen” Killeen said.


Treating staff properly is also a key issue in the Restaurant sector. While still one of the better performers, the sector saw 32% of its brands slipping out of the Top 100. With the VAT rate restored to 13.5% in Budget ’19 the sector is clearly facing more challenges.


“As Irish people travel more so too does the bar rise for warm welcomes, ambience, exciting menus and a free farewell drink. The reality here is that for too long the sector has not been a happy one for staff who are often overworked and underpaid. This in turn has contributed to staff shortages which has a huge impact on the end users experience” Killeen said.



Insurance and Public Sector on the up


Laya Healthcare is the first representative of the Insurance sector to make it into the Top 10 and the strides it has made – up 23 places – reflects an industry-wide improvement. It’s main competitor VHI has moved up 44 places to 24 and both companies are among the biggest movers since the survey started. VHI was back in 114th position in 2015 while Laya was 71st. While Irish Life, Aviva and Zurich made notable progress over the past year, it was Post Insurance which actually claimed the title of biggest jumper of the year - from 132 to 68 (64 places) while Axa claimed second – moving from 136 to 81 (55 places).


Another sector which saw its fortunes rise was the Public Sector with the Passport Office and Revenue leading the charge and even the NCT managing to make it into the Top 100. The Passport Office is up 30 places to 12 in our table while Revenue was the third highest jumper, moving from 125 to 72 (53 places) while the NCT moved up 40 places to 98.


One of the co-authors of the Report, Cathy Summers, who is Head of Insights & Planning at The CX Company points out that of the ten sectors, Insurance was the worst performer in the first survey back in 2015; now it is up to joint fourth.


“The numbers here really tell the story about a sector which is turning itself around and has gotten over its obsession with switching customers and finally said let’s look after our existing ones. Price cuts and extra supports also helped. While we think it will continue to improve it does have the lowest level of customers whose issue was resolved satisfactorily, so some work remains to be done there. The Passport Office has been the top ranked Public Sector brand over the last three years. Last year it issued 800,000 passports but the key to its success has been its relentless focus on listening to customers across all channels.”


“When customers said they would like to renew online, the Office set about establishing one of the first online renewal services for passports in Europe. Over 260,000 have used it to date. As well as developing digital innovation and offering new services such as the Passport Card, the office trains staff to show high levels of empathy and understanding in what are often difficult and complex situations” Summers said.



Telcos, Financial & Utilities


While Utilities continue to sit at the bottom of the class, some companies like Electric Ireland and Bord Gáis are making progress.  Irish Water remains outside the Top 150, but customers did give it the highest improvement score of all companies surveyed this year.


Telecoms continue to have the lowest consumer tolerance level of any sector. This is partly due to its complexity and the greater impact which phone or TV breakdowns have on our daily lives. While Three Mobile were one of only eleven companies in this year’s survey to actually increase their score, most companies in this sector placed well down the scale.


Although the Credit Union remains this sector’s standout success, positive moves by other companies in the Financial Sector helped it move to 4th overall. AIB jumped 27 places to a ‘PB’ of 79 while PermanentTSB, KBC and EBS all improved their position.


But as Summers points out, all three face serious challenges.


“The Telcos are fixated on prices and switching customers. Then when customers want to talk to them they are uncontactable. Until the decisions are taken at C-Suite level to give Irish people the services they deserve, the sector’s problems will persist, as will its low CX scores. The main problem for the Financials is their focus on technology and process within a highly regulated ‘silo culture’. As a result, they treat CX as a process driven project rather than focusing on the end game and what they want to achieve.”


“Utilities are probably further ahead of the Telcos in terms of moving from the switching focus and as a result may well move ahead of them in CX scores next year” Summers said.


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