2020 KPMG U.S. customer experience excellence report

Explore differentiators for ten companies, what they did to improve their rankings and eight common capabilities that build resilience.

Julio J. Hernandez

Julio J. Hernandez

Global and U.S. Customer Advisory Lead, KPMG US

+1 404-222-3360

Jeffrey Mango

Jeffrey Mango

Managing Director, Customer Advisory, Customer Experience, KPMG US

+1 770-853-7020

2020 Executive summary

New reality: New customer relationship 

At the core of an enduring relationship between a business and its customers is a commercial cadence, a rhythm of positive experiences—transactions and interactions—over time. In the COVID-19 environment, the need to keep the commercial cadence going has moved to the forefront.

Our 2020 customer experience excellence survey finds that leading companies are the ones most able to continue interacting with their customers in spite of COVID-19. Companies unable to engage are suffering in their performances. When the very basis of the relationship depends on physical presence, transitioning suddenly to online interaction can be difficult for some and impossible for others.

"With COVID-19 and the move to online, the nature of the relationship between brands and their customers has changed, bringing the need for commercial cadence to the forefront," says Julio Hernandez, U.S. Customer Advisory Practice lead at KPMG LLP.

2020 Key findings

Key findings

Empathy and integrity are the strengths of top 10 companies

While all companies in the top ten of the 2020 survey were able to maintain relationships without much COVID-19 adjustment to customer experience, it was not simply the ability to interact that earned their rankings. It was their attitude toward customers—and employees—that provided winning experiences. Each of these companies is founded on understanding their customers' circumstances and acting in customers' best interests.

Digitally superior businesses were the highest risers

Digitally prepared companies that responded to the COVID-19 crisis with innovative customer experiences made dramatic leaps upward in the 2020 rankings. Some remained open during shutdowns and leveraged technology to improve the physical experience. Others did not have physical presence under stay-at-home conditions yet were able to accommodate new online customers with a human touch or become more deeply embedded in their customers' lives with new relationship-building programs.

Financial services, restaurants & foods, and grocery retail brands dominate the top 10 this year, leaving all other sectors in their wakes; however, rising tides don’t lift all boats when it comes to performance

There is a misconception that, because certain sectors have rising profits during the COVID-19 challenge, every company in that sector will succeed. But this has not proven to be the case in this year’s results.  For example, not all grocery retailers delivered an outstanding experience during the pandemic. What separated the leaders from the followers? How can differentiation play a part in determining a successful approach?

Successful organizations think more and more about end-to-end transformation that focus on internal customers—their employees—as well as external ones

In a parallel research program 41 percent of respondents said they would be strongly influenced in their choice of provider by how a company treats its employees. The employee experience drives the customer experience. But what aspects of the employee experience really make a difference to customers. How does this play out in the digital world when a customer may never speak to an employee?




Customer experience excellence surveys are conducted via an online survey methodology with nationally representative consumer sampling targeted in terms of age and gender, while also targeting regional representation. To participate in the research and respond to questions on a specific company, respondents must have interacted with that company in the previous six months. An interaction is defined as making a purchase, using the company’s products and services, contacting a company with a query or even browsing their website—so not all respondents are existing customers of the brand they evaluated. In order to be included in the final rankings for a country, each brand must have achieved a minimum of 100 consumer responses.


KPMG customer experience excellence research spans 


years of consistent research



countries, regions and jurisdictions




unique cross-sector brands


individual brand evaluations

Six pillars of customer experience excellence

Six pillars of customer experience excellence

The six pillar model was developed to provide a precise and practical definition of the kind of emotional outcome a successful experience needed to deliver. Based on over 3 million detailed customer reviews, the six pillars have been validated in 20 markets in 2019 and modeled against the commercial outcomes of retention and recommendation. The pillars are inextricably intertwined and, in combination, provide a powerful mechanism to help organizations understand how well their customer experience is delivered across channels, industries and company types. The leading organizations demonstrate mastery of these pillars and are outstanding at all of them.



Being trustworthy and engendering trust

Integrity comes from consistent organizational behavior that demonstrates trustworthiness. There are trust-building events where organizations have the need to publicly react to a difficult situation, and trust-building moments where individual actions by staff add up to create trust in the organization as a whole. For all customers, it is the degree to which the organization delivers on its promises that is consistently top of mind. 

Trust and integrity originate in the organization's sense of purpose and how it ethically, morally and socially discharges this purpose.


Achieving an understanding of the customer's circumstances to drive deep rapport

Empathy is the emotional capacity to show you understand someone else's experience. Empathy-creating behaviors are central to establishing a strong relationship and involve reflecting back to the customer that you know how they feel, then going that one extra step because you understand how they feel. 


Using individualized attention to drive emotional connection

Personalization is the most valuable component of most experiences. It involves demonstrating that you understand the customer's specific circumstances and will adapt the experience accordingly. Use of name, individualized attention, knowledge of preferences and past interactions all add up to an experience that feels personal. 

But what distinguishes world class personalization is how the customer is left feeling after their interaction. Do they feel valued, importand and more in control?

Time and effort

Minimizing customer effort and creating frictionless processes

Customers are time-poor and increasingly looking for instant gratification. Removing unnecessary obstacles, impediments and bureaucracy to enable the customer to achieve their objectives quickly and easily have been shown to increase loyalty. Many companies are discovering how to use time as a source of competitive advantage. Equally, there are clear cost advantages to saving time, as long as the other pillars are not compromised.


Managing, meeting and exceeding customer expectations

Customers have expectations about how their needs will be met, and these are increasingly being set by the best brands they have encountered. Great organizations understsnd that expectations are set strategically by the brand promise, and everyday through touchpoint interactions where they need to be met and --if appropriate-- exceed expectations. Some are able to make statements of clear intent that set expectations, while others set the expectation accurately and then delight the customer when they exceed it.


Turning a poor experience into a great one

Customer recovery is highly important. Even with the best processes and procedures, things will go wrong. Great companies have a process that puts the customer back in the position they should have been in as rapidly as possible. But the "service recovery paradox" teaches us that just fixing problems is no longer good enough; the customer has to feel great about the recovery experience. Some companies call this "heroic" recovery. 

A sincere apology and acting with urgency are the two crucial elements of successful resolution.


Request our full 2020 survey report to explore differentiators for top ten companies, what some big movers did to improve their rankings and eight common capabilities that build resilience for leading companies.