The Irish Credit Union is the leader in customer experience - for the fifth year in a row - according to a survey of Irish brands.

However, the customer experience in general in Ireland has deteriorated, according to the survey by Amárach Research on behalf of the CX Company.

It is the staff and the people in the front line who interact with customers who really drive perceptions of good customer experience, said Gerard O'Neil, Chairman of  Amárach Research.

He said that while technology is important, the credit unions have managed to combine the best of positive technology which helps the digital experience, with the personal, human interaction that is important to people.

Credit Unions are the only representative from the financial sector in the top 100. What can banks learn from them?

"I think it's a challenge for the banks, and in fairness for a lot of other sectors for our study, which is that, they have focused so much on getting the right app or the right user experience on the website that they have lost sight of the human touch," Mr O'Neill said.

People happily share memorable experiences with family and friends. "It is down to that human dimension which is so important in driving the customer experience score that we are reporting in this study."

Despite negative publicity about the cost of insurance, some insurance companies fared quite well in the customer experience study. It has been a remarkable transition for the insurance sector. Five years ago, it was one of the lowest performing in the study.

"What we are seeing is the differentiation within the insurance sector so brands like Laya Healthcare who appeared in the top 10 last year, are now number 2, and also An Post Insurance is rising quite strongly, and FBD Insurance have also risen very strongly," Mr O'Neill said.

He said brands in the insurance sector who have focused on the best combination of great digital experiences and human interaction in terms of their contact centres and customer support are the companies that are starting to differentiate themselves from others in the sector.

The retail sector is the strongest performing in the CX study. This year Arnotts has made the top ten. Boots, An Post and Lush have been there for quite some time.

"Those retailers who have managed to fight back a little bit against the Amazons and all of those other online companies that we are very familiar with, they have turned their store and their branch experience into something that makes it memorable and that people are willing to recommend to others," he explained.

Providing a good customer experience is good economics, according to Mr O'Neill. It is cheaper to get more business from your existing customers than to go out and find new customers, so good customer experience means that you hold onto the customers that you have got; they'll buy more from you and they'll tell more of their family and friends about the experience.

"The benefits to shareholders, investors, as well as to company growth, is all driven by better customer experiences that make it more profitable to provide more services and brands to customers who keep coming back for more," he said.