How did a bank top the chart for best customer experience?

First Direct defies the stereotype to take the title

A First Direct Visa card

Customer experience in the UK has improved for the first time in three years, with First Direct topping the latest ranking.

The online bank has knocked cosmetics firm Lush from first place, thanks to its 'people-focused' approach and efforts to remove as much jargon and complexity from its processes as possible.

"We're always looking to make improvements to the customer experience and in the last year or so we've made quite a number of positive changes to the way customers can bank with us," says chief executive Tracy Garrad.

"Banking can be a rather dry business, but by making dealing with us as easy as we can, whether this is digitally or by having people on the phones who are genuinely interested in helping you, we try to make dealing with us a memorable experience for the right reasons."

However, it's grocery retailers that have shown the most improvement over the last year, says David Conway, director at KPMG Nunwood, which compiled the report.

M&S Food performed best, ranking seventh in the overall brand analysis, followed by Waitrose in 12th and Ocado in 13th.

"Customer experience success is always a work in progress and there is scarcely a company in the world that is not concerned about the quality of customer experience they deliver," says Conway.

"For the grocery sector, the ongoing price war has resulted in customer service being the new differentiator."

Surprisingly, though, nearly a quarter of the top-100 brands were from the financial sector - despite all the problems caused by lower market confidence caused by the EU referendum vote and tighter regulatory demands.

Nationwide Building Society made it back into the top 10 this year, for example, and TSB became the first major high street bank to break into the top 50.

Brands in the travel and hotel sector showed some of the biggest improvements on last year. American Airlines climbed 156 places in the rankings, for example, to reach 70th place. Meanwhile, Emirates topped the league table in the travel and hotel sector, ranking fourth overall.

"In the UK and globally, we are seeing the travel sector leading both customer experience innovation and the delivery of experience quality through people," the report's authors conclude.

"Indeed, within this sector there is something of an arms race, as companies work hard to woo the more affluent passenger or customer, in particular."

Customer experience: the top ten
1. First Direct
2. John Lewis
3. Lush
4. Emirates
5. Amazon
6. Richer Sounds
7. M&S Food
8. giffgaff
=9. Nationwide Building Society
=9. Apple Store

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