Forrester’s Canada Customer Experience Index (CX Index™), 2021, reveals the scores of 97 brands across nine industries. Our full report has a wealth of data at the brand and industry levels. In brief, when we compare only brands that we studied both at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and in 2021, the quality of Canadian CX remained stable at 68.6 points on our 100-point scale. In normal years, this lack of improvement wouldn’t be good news. However, during 2020 — when the COVID-19 pandemic caused customer needs and the operating environment to change in unprecedented ways — maintaining stable CX quality was an achievement. We also found that:

  • An impressive 88% of brands remained stable or improved; just 12% declined. Three-fourths of the brands in our study had scores that remained statistically unchanged despite the pandemic. Even better, 12% of brands improved their CX quality. What’s more, the average gain among these brands was 3.9 points, which is larger than the average 3.4-point loss among the brands that worsened.
  • Score distributions across quality categories were stable. When we compare only the brands that we studied both at the start of the pandemic in 2020 and in 2021, the percentage of scores in the OK category increased from 58% to 59%. On the other hand, the percentage of scores in the poor category dropped from 4% to 3%. These slight changes are the result of a statistically insignificant score increase in one organization.
  • Two industry averages rose and one declined. The average score in the mass-market auto manufacturer and investment firm industries rose, while the average score in the direct banking investment firm industry dipped. However, all three changes were modest movements of 1.4 points or less.

Some New, Stronger Leaders Emerged

The COVID-19 pandemic caused historic changes at the highest levels of the CX Index rankings. That’s important for all companies, since customers compare a brand’s CX with the best experiences they’ve had anywhere — not just with that brand’s direct competitors. In 2021:

  • Three of five elite brands are new. We refer to the top 5% of brands across all industries as “elite brands.” Three investment firms rose into the elites for the first time, and one auto manufacturer fell out of it. As a result, the elites are dominated by investment firms for the first time. In most other years, retailers took the lion’s share of the top spots.
  • Three of nine industry leaders are new. The investment firm, mass-market auto manufacturer, and multichannel banking industries have new leaders this year. However, all three of these brands have led their industries before.
  • The average scores of top brands are higher than ever. The average score among elites was 75.1 — that’s the highest we’ve ever recorded. Similarly, the average score for industry leaders was 70.9, which was the highest we’ve seen since 2017 when we look back at only the industries we studied this year.

Top Brands Were Mostly Insulated From Faltering Customer Devotion

The percentage of devotees in Canada dipped to just 9%, despite the fact that overall CX quality remained stable. That’s a concern, because devotees are the cornerstone of CX-led growth. They are customers who have exceptional experiences with a brand, rating it at 90 or above on our 100-point scale. As a result, devotees are deeply loyal and passionate about the brand. In most industries, the average revenue per devotee is 50% to 200% higher than the average among all other customers. Our analysis of devotees shows that between 2020 and 2021:

  • Devotee losses were broader and deeper than gains. Across the eight industries for which we perform devotee analysis, 25% of brands lost devotees, while only 3% gained them. The average loss and gain were both 4 percentage points. The average percentage of devotees fell in six industries — only the direct banking and investment firm industries remained stable, and no industry improved.
  • Top brands maintained their advantage in devotees or closed the gap with competitors. Of the 11 brands that are elites and/or industry leaders, just two lost devotees. Six of these 11 brands beat their industry averages for devotees, while two tied and three trailed their industry averages. However, of the five brands that tied or lagged their industries, four closed the gap because their percentage of devotees remained flat while their industry averages dipped.

Emotion Still Holds The Key To CX Success

Whether the COVID-19 pandemic recedes or surges yet again, brands that want to break away from the pack should focus on emotion. How an experience makes customers feel has a bigger influence on their loyalty to a brand than effectiveness or ease in every industry. Brand performance in the Canada CX Index, 2021, reflects this: Elite brands provided an average of 19 emotionally positive experiences for each negative experience, while the lowest-performing 5% of brands provided only five emotionally positive experiences for each negative experience.

To see the rankings of all 147 brands in the Canada CX Index and a much more detailed analysis of the results — including every brand’s score and the emotions that drive loyalty the most — check out our report: “The Canada Customer Experience Index, 2021.”