3 Key Lessons From Australia's CX Leaders

Last month, professional services firm KPMG published its annual Customer Experience Excellence Report 2019, which surveyed 2503 Australian consumers for their views of the performance of 114 domestic and global brands operating Down Under.  

KPMG identified three key characteristics of leading customer experience (CX) brands in Australia: 

  • Service with integrity at the core – brands that foster trust by considering not only customers, but the community in which they operate.  
  • Holistic, enterprise-wide consumer transformations – the front, middle and back offices are aligned in order to deliver  
  • Seamless digital experience – delivering authentic and seamless digital experiences is paramount 

Using key criteria such as personalisation, conflict resolution, and empathy, KPMG created a Customer Experience Excellence (CEE) rating for each company it covered. 

The average CEE rating in the Australian market was 7.14, with about three quarters of companies scoring between 6.5 and 7.5. 

“The overall CEE rating in Australia was only marginally higher (0.04 points) than last year’s result, suggesting more impactful investment and effort will be required if brands want to reap the benefits of a truly excellent customer experience,” KPMG said. 

Below we will take a closer look at lessons from three of the CX leaders from KPMG’s report. 

#1 Train your staff – Singapore Airlines 

Topping the list is Singapore Airlines. They do many things right so it is hard to pick just one aspect of their operations, but a key way they differentiate themselves is through customer service. 

At the end of the day, this becomes a question of how well the staff are trained. The best insight we have into this is a paper published in The Journal of Air Transport Management. A pair of researchers studied Singapore Airline’s strategy over a seven-year period, with a particular focus on the airline’s ability to deliver excellent service. 

In the paper, the researchers said that senior managers at Singapore airlines believe that “training is next to Godliness”. Flight attendants undergo 15 weeks of training, which is longer than any other airline and almost double the industry average. 

“This training includes not only functional skills such as food and beverage serving and safety training, but also soft skills of personal interaction, personal poise, grooming and deportment, and emotional skills of dealing with consequences of serving very demanding passengers,” the study said. 

In addition to this training, the airline encourages its flight attendants to participate in extra-curricular activities such as wine appreciation groups, leadership courses and language training.  

Going back a step, the airline also makes an enormous effort to hire the right people in the first placeIt receives about 16,000 applications a year for cabin crew and hires around 500-600 after three rounds of interviews. The new recruits are carefully monitored for the six month period by a supervisor. After this period, around 75% get “confirmed”, 20% get an extension, and 5% leave. 

The lesson is simple – you cannot separate great CX from employee experience (EX). Train your staff and empower them to deliver the best CX possible. 

#2 Be customer-centric – Bendigo Bank 

With a CEE score of 7.78, Bendigo Bank took the number two spot in KPMG’s study for local brands, behind only RACQ Insurance which scored 7.83.  

It is often said that for a CX initiative to be successful, it must come from the top and filter its way down through the organisation and Bendigo Bank is a good example of this practice in action. 

Bendigo Bank embarked on a customer-centric strategy in the late 90s when it established its Community Bank® model to differentiate itself from the ‘big four’ (CBA, NAB, ANZ and Westpac). Today, there are 324 of Bendigo’s Community Bank® branches across Australia which have since inception shared $205 million in profits that are reinvested in Australian communities.  

In 2019, contributions from Bendigo’s Community Bank® have included $7.2 million for sport and recreation, $4 million for infrastructure and facilities, and $3.2 million for education and research. 

Ian Jackman, Head of Customer Voice, Bendigo Bank, told KPMG last year that the model is based on “the belief that successful customers and successful communities create a successful bank – in that order”. 

Bendigo Bank is able to provide excellent CX because the organisation is aligned along the goal of being a community-orientated bank “for the people”. It is a powerful mantra that permeates the entire organisation. 

For example, Annalise Hewitt, Branch Manager, Bendigo Bank, Ormond/McKinnon, told KMPG that her mobile number is printed on our marketing materials and that she is happy to hear directly from customers. 

“Every 3 months I call my home loan customers to ensure they have the best rate,” she said. 

This customer-centric approach should be at the heart of any company looking to create impactful experiences.

#3 Listen to your customer – The Iconic 

These days there is perhaps nowhere more competitive than the online shopping space, which puts retailers up against the likes of CX king Amazon. 

However, one local company, The Iconic, has been successful in the highly competitive online fashion space in Australia and New Zealand. 

Founded in 2011, The Iconic provides customers with access to more than 1,000 brands and over 60,000 products. KPMG ranked The Iconic at 11th, making it the top online retailer after Dan Murphy’s, which came in at 8th. 

The Iconic website has more than 13 million visits per month and the company prides itself of its ability to listen to what customers want and then deliver that experience in a seamless way. 

Speaking at the Online Retailer conference in Sydney last year, The Iconic COO Anna Lee said that The Iconic actively listens to its customers and delivers monthly reports of its Net Promoter Score (NPS) to every employee in the company. 

“We don’t have the luxury in this retail market of being arrogant players, we just need to focus on our values and ensure the product is there for our customer,” she said. 

To this end, The Iconic runs many experiments based on customers feedback regarding their needs and desires. 

“Our customers range in age from 18-80, and different customers have different needs,” she said. “We do a lot of testing; we have about 100 data scientists constantly testing and experimenting with different groups of customers about what they actually want.” 

Using customer feedback, The Iconic has been able to build new tech features such as ‘Snap to Shop’, which allows customers to take a photo of something in the real world and do a visual search of The Iconic’s store. It is essentially a “Shazam for fashion” and, according to Lee, it was designed based on a customer pain point of wanting to be able to find products more easily. 

Who are Australia’s CX leaders?

According to KMPG’s report, the top 10 CX leaders in Australia in 2019 are as follows: 

  1. Singapore Airlines 
  2. RACQ Insurance 
  3. Bendigo Bank 
  4. PayPal 
  5. Afterpay 
  6. ING 
  7. NRMA Insurance 
  8. Dan Murphy’s 
  9. RACV Insurance 
  10. Subway 

The full top 50 list is available on KPMG’s website. Fifth Quadrant also actively conducts CX research for a range of clients across a number of verticals in Australia. To see a sample of our recent CX case studies, click here. 


Stefan Kostarelis

Written by Stefan Kostarelis

Stefan is the Content Manager at a Sydney-based investor relations firm, and a freelance writer whose work has appeared in Techly, Paste Magazine, Lost at E Minor and Tech Invest.

Topics: Customer experience customer centric CX Articles & Insights

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