Technology is driving digital transformation across industry verticals, according to a new KPMG 2019 Customer Experience Excellence Report, which ranks US companies on their customer experience delivery. Among the companies that saw the biggest jump in ranking from last year are those investing in digitally-enabled technology to support personalization.

The report asks and answers: how can companies invest in technology to improve customer experience through personalization? KPMG said the answer is the ability to architect and engineer intelligent digital services, technologies, and platforms to deliver on the customer promise in an agile, cost effective and scalable manner.

It may surprise you to hear which US business clucked its way to the top by addressing the very issues noted in the KPMG survey. Despite the negative publicity surrounding the company’s LGBTQ policies, Chick-fil-A ranked third overall in the Customer Experience Excellence 2019 list and first in the Restaurants and Fast Food Category. Does this prove that boycotts are ineffective? It may be in this case: Chick-fil-A, which opened its first restaurant in 1967 in Atlanta, launched a customer-services driven app which now drives 20% of its sales from digital orders. And, this summer, the Texas state legislature passed what’s dubbed “Save Chick-fil-A,” which forbids government entities from taking “adverse actions” against businesses because of those businesses’ “religious beliefs and moral convictions, including beliefs and convictions regarding marriage.”

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The report cites five companies which they describe as “fastest risers” and 10 companies as overall winners in customer experience.

Among the faster risers, UnitedHealthcare tops the list, and it is investing heavily in new technology. “There is a lot more focus on consumer digital, a lot more focus on personalization, and a lot more focus on giving control back to the people that we serve,” Phil McKoy, CIO at UnitedHealthcare, said in the report.

Kate-Lin Dennis, a UnitedHealthcare senior customer care representative, added, also in the report, “With the new technology, if somebody calls in and needs diabetic education, we’re able to look up local pharmacies for them that service diabetic supplies, and set them up with home health agencies. We can set them up with programs that help guide them through those processes.”

Coming in second is PNC, a financial services company. Among other innovations, the company has a digital team for the report asserted, “greater project flexibility and responsiveness.”

State Farm insurance company ranked third, and the company, the report concluded, is focused on making its next-gen customer experience across digital and offline channels available throughout the company. “Automated data capture and synchronization into new CRM platforms has enabled State Farm to provide actionable insights to its agents, improving the customer experience and presenting agents with opportunities to grow their book of business,” noted the KPMG report.

The movie theater chain AMC Loews was fourth, thanks to theaters featuring the upgrade of premium sight and sound formats and the continuation of its successful Stubs program (a credit-card styled membership for accumulating points and rewards with 15.8 million members), and introducing the subscription program, A-List, for customers who frequent the movies.

Lastly, the membership retail store Sam’s Club was ranked fifth among faster risers. Sam’s Club “has been investing in new technology to deliver multi-channel customer experiences,” the report said. “For example, shoppers at a Sam’s Club can open up their Sam’s Club app and scan each item’s barcode as they fill their shopping carts. The app keeps a running total of everything in the cart, and then, when the shopper is ready to checkout and pay, they can do so inside the app. As they walk out of the Club, they show their digital receipt to a “greeter” at the exit. The receipt is scanned, and the customer goes on their way.”

Online products can be browsed via in-store kiosks, added to the member’s online cart, and then shipped to the shopper’s home. Store associates are trained to become “problem solvers” for customers, it has boosted Sam’s Club e-commerce sales. If it’s not available in the store, the associate will try to find it on Sam’s Club is trying out a new concept store, Sam’s Club Now; instead of traditional store associates, the location will feature member hosts, who are digital concierges. It will also begin the use of electronic shelf labels, which automatically update inventory prices and eliminate traditional signs. The stores will have more than 700 digital cameras to help manage inventory and make it easier to get around each location. Sam’s Club Now will be about one quarter the size of a traditional Sam’s Club.

The 10 companies ranked as best in customer experience are, in order, Navy Federal Credit Union, H-E-B, Chick-fil-A, USAA, Edward Jones, Amazon, L.L. Bean, Costco Wholesale, Polo Ralph Lauren, and AAA.

High-performing organizations make connections through significant investments across varied connected enterprise capabilities. A significant connected enterprise capability is called “digitally-enabled technology architecture,” The ability to architect and engineer intelligent digital services, technologies, and platforms to deliver on the customer promise in an agile, cost effective, and scalable manner while maintaining security.

In conclusion, the report cited the importance of a customer-centric approach, and an integrated strategy to connect the layers of a company, to align its brand, products and services, interactions and people to capture business value. The report reiterated the top elements for excellence in customer service:

  • Customer experience
  • Sales transformation and CRM
  • Customer data and analytics
  • Marketing transformation and technology
  • Customer service transformation and technology
  • Connected enterprise