Customer experience: UK brands are 2-3 years behind the US – Interview with David Conway of Nunwood

behind race

Today’s interview is with David Conway who is a senior partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Nunwood, an international customer experience consultancy focused on ‘full-service’ customer experience management (CEM). David joins me on the podcast today to talk about Nunwood’s US Customer Experience Excellence Report 2015 that they have just released, some insights into what the leading players are doing to help them stand out, some examples and what the main differences are that exist between CX in the UK and the USA.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Scaling customer and employee trust – Interview with Peter Muhlmann of Trustpilot – and is number 140 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to their customers.

Highlights of my interview with David:

  • About five years ago Nunwood start doing research into who the world’s best performers are in terms of customer experience, particularly in the eyes of their customers, and how they were doing it.
  • They now have around half a million verbatim comments that cover around 900 brands across three continents.
  • Their new report is called ‘Have a nicer day’ and is focused on the best performing and largest brands in the US and what they are doing to outperform their competitors.
  • In broad terms the US is probably 2-3 years ahead of the UK in customer experience terms.
  • What that means is that the top US brands are about 5% ahead of their UK counterparts across a number of dimensions and Nunwood estimate that it will take UK brands 2-3 years to catch up.
  • There are probably four key themes underlying this:
    • One, the rapid resurgence of the customer service/customer experience culture/agenda in the US, particularly at boardroom level, following the crash of 2007/8.
    • Two, the customer experience agenda is largely driven by the CEO and the executive team and that is a key difference between the US and the UK, where the customer experience agenda is being driven in large part by the operational team.
    • Three, US firms are doing some very interesting stuff around innovation, particularly when it comes to use the use of new technology and how that drives changes in their business.
    • Four, in the US they don’t really see digital and other parts of their business as being separate but see their as a whole.
  • One of the main reasons why UK brands and their CEOs are not in the same place has a lot to do with the historical values of the leading companies, where the current US CEOs see themselves as ‘custodians of the flame’.
  • The repeated mentioning of leading names like Amazon, Zappos, USAA etc can lead to a degree of fatigue from the chasing pack or those looking to drive improvement in their own performance.
  • However, these leading brands are also under increasing pressure from fast improvers like:
    • Ally Bank – an online bank that is using some very sophisticated technology and focused on re-establishing trust in the banking sector.
    • Chili’s – a restaurant chain who have just introduced 50,000 Ziosk’s, a tablet platform, into their restaurants that allow their customers to order at their their table, pay at their table but also entertains kids through their interactive video games.
    • Panera Bread – a chain of bakery-café fast casual restaurants in the US that is growing very rapidly through their customer experience particularly through how they have responded to their own success by introducing technology that allows their customers to order and pay in advance and minimise queuing.
  • UK firms, and the people that work for them, need to get over any cultural issues that they face (shyness, British reserve etc etc) when it comes to going out, talking to and spending time with their customers if they are to compete and catch up.
  • USAA calls this ‘customer surround sound’, where all parts of their business are talking to customers all of the time.
  • David’s top tip for UK firms wanting to drive customer centricity is to ‘bring the customer into the room’.
  • This may require a fundamental change in mindset for many UK businesses.
  • Customer listening is not enough. Listening, learning and then acting is where it is at.
  • USAA is at vanguard of the use of technology in customer experience in banking and financial services and have introduced technology that allow customers to photograph cheques and deposit them via an app as well as the introduction of an app that allows customers, if they have a car accident, to take photos of the scene, dictate their versions of events, record location and weather details etc and automatically submit a claim/report.
  • Check out Nunwood’s Customer Excellence Centre – all of their data is free to access.

About David (taken from his Nunwood bio)

David ConwayDavid is a senior partner and Chief Strategy Officer at Nunwood.

David co-manages the company’s global customer experience management practice and oversees Nunwood’s Customer Experience Excellence Centre, an on-going approach to systematically identifying global best practise.

David is a former PLC board director of N&P Building Society, Liverpool Victoria Group and The Co-operative Bank, where he was responsible for 3,500 staff charged with delivering world-class experiences to more than 6.5 million customers. He also led the design, set-up and launch of the group’s Smile brand.

David is based out of the United Kingdom, but continues to work directly with clients around the world.

You can find out more about their work and the report here, connect with them on Twitter @Nunwood and connect with David on LinkedIn here.

Photo Credit: Sangudo via Compfight cc

6 comments On Customer experience: UK brands are 2-3 years behind the US – Interview with David Conway of Nunwood

  • Adrian, I’m more than happy to believe that the difference between companies approach to customer service is the action of the CEO and Executive team. But I am not sure that this is really driven by British reserve.

    The staff in John Lewis are frightfully British, but it doesn’t appear to effect their approach to service.

    Is there something else at play?

    • James,
      I think the difference in John Lewis’ case is that the CEO and the Exec team completely ‘get it’ and do see themselves as the ‘custodians of the flame’. They are also the exception and not the rule.

      The comment about British reserve is that it can hold us back from doing things the first time as we often wonder too much about what other people will think and say. However, once done for the first time then repeating a new act becomes much easier. John Lewis are much further down the line culturally than many other UK firms.


  • Adrian,

    I wish there were more companies in the US where the CX agenda was driven by the C-suite. Someday.

    The point about bringing the customer into the room is huge, especially the fact that it’s not just about listening but also about acting on what you hear.

    Annette 🙂

    • Annette,
      Say thanks that you seem to be farther down the line than the UK is.

      But, putting the ‘customer in the room’ is something that is not done at all often enough. I’d like to see much more of that happening too.


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