It’s time for the big reveal of which brands top the charts for customer experience (CX) in 2019. The author of our annual benchmark report, Principal Analyst Rick Parrish, just posted an overview of the results, which you can see here.

I’ll leave it to Rick to deliver the blow-by-blow and limit myself to observations about just two brands. In both cases, I was sifting through the data when I saw their results — which made me go “hmmmm.”

The first brand is Whole Foods. Ever since Amazon bought it and began making changes, I’ve been following speculation in the press on how this would affect the experience for customers. The changes included many price cuts but also some serious digital/physical integration, such as: letting customers order Whole Foods products online and get free two-hour delivery through Amazon Prime; letting Amazon customers have products delivered to Amazon lockers in Whole Foods stores; and offering special discounts for Prime customers.

Would Whole Foods customers see these changes as a plus or as the erosion of their beloved brand? The verdict on that one is in: Whole Foods’ CX Index score is up 3.6 points, one of the biggest increases this year. That correlates nicely with a reported 16.5% increase in foot traffic in the first quarter and roughly a 6% increase in sales during the same period when you factor in digital sales.

That is a serious vote for taking a strategic approach to connecting digital and physical channels. In fact, our data shows that across all the customers of 260 brands in Forrester’s Customer Experience Index (CX Index™), customers who have an experience that spans both digital and physical channels have a better experience than those who use just a digital channel or just a physical channel to achieve a goal. That’s significant, because each 1-point rise in the CX Index correlates on average to a 2% increase in revenue per customer — so you want those extra points to fatten your bottom line.

The other brand that leapt out at me was Southwest Airlines. Like Whole Foods, it has been in the news recently. That’s because Southwest is by far the biggest US customer of Boeing’s troubled 737 MAX aircraft, with 34 of the planes in its fleet.

When the FAA grounded the 737 MAX, Southwest canceled what’s estimated to be over 100 flights per day. Subsequently, it has also reported a sharp increase in “involuntary denied boardings” — which you and I would refer to as bumping passengers.

Southwest, a perennial CX leader, has bent over backward to update passengers on the situation. What’s more, the fact that it is even in this situation is not the company’s fault. So would the 737 MAX debacle affect its CX scores?

Sadly, yes. Southwest’s CX Index score for 2019 is down a statistically significant 2.9 points. That’s a wake-up call for any brand that loses sight of the fact that they are part of a customer experience ecosystem that includes their suppliers, partners, employees, and customers.

The relevant lesson we can learn from ecosystem masters like Amazon — as well as in B2B — is this: You need to own your customer’s success. And that means holding other parts of the ecosystem accountable when failures happen.

I look forward to seeing how these two situations play out in the future. My prediction is that Amazon will have continued success with Whole Foods and that Southwest will recover in the CX Index due to the CX equity it has built with its customers.

Check back next year and find out!