I am an eternal optimist. My take on the Dow’s spiraling downward in Q3? Buying opportunity! That “exercise pill” scientists are working on that promises the benefits of exercise without any of the effort? I’m thinking my six-pack abs are now a sure thing. And I’m even holding out hope that the next season of Homeland will be as good as the first. But the Q3 2015 data from our Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) is making it hard for an optimist like me to find a lot of bright spots.

We’re in a world fraught with persistent economic imbalances where customers with copious options are flexing their market muscles more than ever before. If this is still news to you, I suggest reading up on our research about the age of the customer. But I think most of you know that an obsession with winning, serving, and retaining customers is a must and that you should transform your company to be more customer-focused.

Given that, I expected our latest US CX Index report would reveal that brands are delivering customer experiences that are getting better at strengthening the loyalty of their customers. But while much remained the same in the second round of Forrester’s 2015 US CX Index study (scores didn’t change for 69% of brands), when scores did change, they got worse instead of better. So of 92 scores that changed significantly from round one to round two, only seven improved; 85 got significantly worse. It’s hard being an optimist when:

  • No industry delivered better CX than in our last US CX Index. Of the 18 industries we cover in our CX Index, only banking, auto and home insurance, and hotels held steady. Every other industry turned in lower scores than they did six months ago. Banks overtook digital-only retailers as the highest-scoring industry.
  • More brands received very poor, poor, and OK scores. Six months ago, 26% of brands received an OK score. This time – just 15% did. And for brands in industries as diverse as auto manufacturers, credit card providers, and parcel shippers, more consumers told us that their CX was anything but good.

It’s not all bad news, though. We found a new crop of CX brands to watch as a trio of regional banks joined the likes of perennial leaders like USAA and Lexus on the list of highest-scoring brands. And great CX brands continue to figure out how to improve the all-important emotional elements of their customer experience, as exemplified by Edward Jones’ 54:1 ratio of positive-to-negative emotional experiences.

There’s more analysis in the report itself, including our list of top-performing brands and industry leaders and laggards. And I’ll end on an optimistic note for the data junkies out there: In the past few months, we’ve published CX Index reports for Germany, France, the UK, Australia, India, and China – that’s data about more than 900 brands. How’s that anything but a good thing?