Pharmacies and coffee companies have maintained their high rankings in the latest survey of brands based on customer experience in Ireland.

The sectors combined make up seven of the top ten companies in this year's CX report, which is compiled by Amárach Research for the CX Company.

The supermarket and retail sectors also performed well this year.

The Credit Union topped the poll for the seventh year running. It is now the only brand to have maintained a constant presence in the top ten since the survey began seven years ago.

However, the overall CX score fell by a record 4.4% in the year.

"[It is] the biggest decline recorded since the survey began and Ireland's CX score is now at a seven year low having recorded a cumulative decline of 10.8% since 2015," the report notes.

"Post-Covid indecision and fatigue appear to be taking a toll on companies and their approach to CX," report author Cathy Summers said.

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CX Company's 2021 report

Eir bottom of the pile

At the other end of the scale, telecoms provider Eir replaced Ryanair in last position as the airline moved up two places, leaving Facebook second last.

All three companies, along with the Department of Social Protection, Irish Water, Sky and Virgin Media feature prominently in the list of companies which recorded the highest scores for failing to meet expectations during Covid.

44% of Eir's customers said the company had failed to meet their expectations.

This is almost double the figure (25%) who said Ryanair had failed to meet their expectations.

Michael Killeen, the Chairman of the CX Company, described Eir's treatment of its customers as appalling.

"The telecom sector has been one of the poorest performers in our survey over the last seven years. While Eir is the standout offender and seems more focused on making money for its owners rather than doing what’s right for their customers, its competitors Sky and Virgin would also recognise more work needs to done to deliver greater customer experiences."

Mr Killeen pointed to Go Mo as an example of a company that proved the exception to the rule in the sector.

"The award-winning mobile phone company is the highest new entrant and the highest telecom company in this year’s table. Who owns it? Eir! That shows what is possible," he said.

CX Company's 2021 report

The Logistics & Delivery sector was another that fared poorly as companies struggled to keep up with increased demand.

"The Financial sector hasn’t had a great Covid and its response to the current high levels of attempted fraud has been underwhelming to say the least. The Public Sector is another which could do better – the Department of Social Welfare and even the HSE failing to meet customer expectations," Mr Killeen added.

Ireland's low score worrying

Cathy Summers said the low score achieved by Irish companies this year was concerning, adding that brands need to refocus their efforts on enhancing the customer journey and overall experience.

"During Covid many companies invested in digital solutions to interact with customers as a necessity due to lockdowns. While these can work well and yield savings, sometimes, they can be more focused on the short terms needs of the company rather than the needs of the customer," she explained.

CX Company's 2021 report

Gerard O'Neill, chairman of Amárach Research - which conducted the survey - pointed out that there had been a slight improvement in the customer experience rakings last year, but that this year it was moving down again.

"I think customers were giving companies the benefit of the doubt amidst Covid and the pandemic," he said.

"This year, it's almost a return to the trend and the trend is downwards over seven years, which implies that a lot of work that companies are doing - focusing on digitalisation, apps, websites, chatbots and emails - is not actually delivering better customer experience for tens of thousands of customers."

He said the message coming through was that companies had to focus more on their employees and their customers.

"They've got to think about that face to face engagement when they have the opportunity to provide it and not to forget the in store shopping experience, because that's what really differentiates the companies, as we see with the pharmacies this year," he concluded.