The US vs. UK: Who Takes the 1st Prize in Customer Experience?

We set out to find out exactly how the two nations stack up and which one offers the best customer experience to its consumers. Believe us, being first is not an easy task

Lauren Dowdle
August 09 2017

The United States has its apple pie, football and melting pot of people, while the Brits have their royal family, legendary music groups and, my favorite, fish and chips.

Of course, there’s a lot more to how these two compare than the stereotypical descriptions. For example, people in each nation have their way of running businesses, marketing services and handling customer service. But which one does it better?

Let’s break down how the United States and U.K. stack up when it comes to the customer experience — and what it takes to be the leader.

What Is Customer Experience?

Before you can decide who offers the best customer experience, you need to know what the buzzword(s) actually mean. In the simplest of terms, customer experience is how the customer perceives their interactions with your company.

But the “company” could be anyone they interact with, like a salesperson, customer service representative, or even you. Even if you think your company is providing a stellar customer experience, it really only matters what the customer thinks.

And what they think is pretty darn important, considering 86 percent of buyers say they’ll pay more for a better customer experience.

Some of the ways you can improve their experience is by being attentive towards their needs, personalizing your interactions with them, showing your appreciation, being truthful and transparent in your business practices and going above and beyond when possible.

The importance of providing a positive experience isn’t going anywhere; customer experience is expected to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020.

So, who is doing it better, and what can you learn from both? See who the winner is for various customer experience metrics as we compare the findings from KPMG Nunwood.

Resolving Customer Issues

Customer complaints and issues are nothing new. You can actually find the first known customer complaint in the British Museum in London. It came from a Babylonian customer in 1750 B.C. who carved a clay tablet in which he demanded a full refund for something he purchased. So see, not much is different.

But what has changed is how companies are reacting to customer queries. Of the six pillars of customer experience — which include personalization, integrity, expectations, resolution, time/effort and empathy — the biggest difference between the United States and the U.K. is with resolution.

The United States outperforms the U.K. in resolution by 9 percent. So, when it comes to fixing things that have gone wrong with customers, U.S. companies pull ahead.

Winner: United States

Showing Customers Empathy

Empathy, maybe the most difficult of the six pillars to master, was actually the most improved one for the year. It’s a reminder of how important it is to show your customers you truly care and that a real person is behind the brand.

Both the United States and the U.K. scored the lowest with empathy, even though numbers were up from last year. The United States beat out the U.K. by 7 percent.

Winner: United States

Going the Extra Mile

The other four customer experience pillars — personalization, time/effort, integrity and expectations — are just as important. And the United States makes a clean sweep with all of them, as well.

Personalization could cover anything from a targeted email to remembering the customer’s preferences. It’s just another way to show you care and they aren’t just a number to you. That pillar also ties into time and effort, which is what it will take to provide a personalized experience for your customers.

As for showing integrity, that means you need to be transparent and truthful with your customers. People can see straight through a company that’s fake, so don’t try and deceive just to save a few dollars or pounds. Instead, keep them updated on what’s going on with the company, work to provide the best product or service and admit if you make a mistake. Some common courtesy will go a long way.

Expectations are another important part of the overall customer experience, and the United States beat the U.K. with this one by 7 percent. As the saying goes, “under promise and over deliver.”

Winner: United States

Comparing Results by Sector

The United States leads the U.K. in every sector, except for the public sector — which they trail in by 2 percent.

The top U.S. sectors (with the percentage above the U.K.) are grocery retail (6 percent), restaurants/fast food (6 percent) and entertainment (8 percent). However, the categories with the biggest differences in the United States and U.K. are logistics and utilities, both with an 11-percent difference between the two nations.

With grocery retail holding the top spot in the U.S. market for a second year and companies like Publix and Wegmans are leading the way in the sector. U.S. customers often describe the grocery shopping experience as “an atmosphere like home” or “fun to shop.” Those sentiments tie into several of the customer experience pillars.

Winner: United States

And the Winner is…

The clear winner is the United States when it comes to which nation is leading in providing the best customer experience.

The gap between the two continues to widen, as the United States now leads by 6 percent in customer experience compared to 2 percent in 2016.

So, what companies are helping boost the U.S. numbers? The top 10 U.S. customer champion companies are (from top to bottom) USAA, Disney Parks, InterContinental Hotels and Resorts, Amazon, Southern Company, W Hotels, Publix, Chick-fil-A, Costco Wholesale and Wegmans.

Here’s a recap of some of the main reasons why the United States steals the title:

  • More world-class practices. The U.S. has 15 times more brands that achieved a Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) score of eight or more
  • Key themes are employee experience, customer experience and culture — and they are all linked together
  • Customer experience is a more mature discipline
  • Digital interactions aren’t considered separate from the overall experience
  • The U.S. seems to adopt effective customer experience practices at a faster rate
  • Outperforms the U.K. in all six pillars of customer experience

But before we start a “U-S-A” chant, consider who the real winners and losers are when it comes to customer experience: the customers. Once you figure out how to truly make it about them, your company is going to benefit — no matter which side of the pond you reside.


Lauren Dowdle

Lauren Dowdle is an award-winning writer and magazine editor based in Nashville, Tenn. Her nearly decade-long writing career has covered everything from landscaping to marketing — plus being interviewed by Jay Leno and winning a backhoe-operating contest. When she’s not behind the keyboard, you’ll find her spoiling her four furry babies and exploring the city with her husband.

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