The Great Cx Malaise: UK Industry In A ‘Dismal’ State, Finds Havas/Yougov Research

Qualitative study of 400 senior brand CX execs reveals deep-rooted structural, attitudinal and technological barriers – with the UK lagging behind other major markets


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The UK customer experience industry is in a dismal state – and lagging significantly behind other major markets – new research from Havas CX and YouGov has revealed. It surveyed 400 senior CX decision makers* at large organisations in the UK, North America and France, uncovering a unique and cynical attitude towards CX in the former – with a lack of buy-in from leadership, a lack of focus on and understanding of technology, and a lack of collaboration all contributing to a major crisis of confidence.

Underpinning this is a fundamental disagreement on the nature of CX and its place within an organisation’s structure – with the UK significantly more likely to consider CX a predominantly operational function (42%) than other markets (17%). Conversely, North America considers CX a predominantly technology function (35%, versus 15% in the UK), while France considers it a predominantly marketing function (40%, versus 24% in the UK). Just 5% of UK execs consider it predominantly a data function (versus 13% in NA and 9% in France), and only 6% predominantly a creative function (versus 12% in NA and 9% in France).

It's in this context – with CX viewed through a purely operational lens – that the UK performs worse than other major markets in almost every metric surveyed.

UK brands are less likely to:

• Claim their customer experience differs from their competitors (55% versus 78% NA and 77% France)

• Believe their customer experience meets their customers’ needs (45% versus 52% NA and 64 % France)

• Talk to their customers frequently and listen to their feedback (78% versus 89% NA and 91% France)

• Believe their customer experience to be future-proof and able to satisfy shifting customer expectations (53% versus 85% NA and 84% France)

• Prioritise customer retention over acquisition (53% versus 71% NA and 77% France)

Tellingly, only 72% claim reinventing their customer experience is a priority for their organisation (versus 86% in other markets), while just 66% believe that leadership fully understands the transformative business power of CX (versus 90% in NA and 94% in France) – highlighting a lack of buy-in, understanding and prioritisation of CX at the highest levels. Unsurprisingly, 30% cite a lack of clear ownership as a barrier to CX strategy optimisation – double NA (15%) and considerably worse than France (18%).

This internal negligence, perhaps unsurprisingly, is not being compensated by external experts – with the UK uniquely resistant to working with outside partners, including agencies. Just 56% of brands work with agency partners – versus 76% in other markets. A quarter (26%) of UK CX leaders say they don’t know the benefits of doing so – compared to just 3% in NA and 4% in France.

When it comes to technology and data – the cornerstones of modern CX – the sorry state of the UK industry is laid bare:

• Less than half (46%) cite a differentiated digital customer experience versus competitors (versus 77% NA and 72% France)

• 47% cite inconsistency across datasets as a challenge (versus 25% NA and 26% France)

• 36% cite a lack of relevant data, while 39% cite poor visibility into data sources (versus 29%/23% NA and 25%/26% France)

• Less than half (48%) of UK CX leaders are familiar with the MarTech solutions within their organisation (versus 86% NA and 88% France) – while a staggering 39% claim they are not familiar ‘at all’ (versus 11% NA and 6% France)

• Only 58% think their organisation is ready for a ‘cookie-less world’ (versus 80% in NA and 77% in France)

• Only a third (34%) believe the future of CX lies in experiences augmented through technology, including AI, AR and VR (versus 52% NA and 58% France)

• While 61% agree Generative AI has high potential to optimise CX, the UK lags behind NA (80%) and France (81%) – and just 31% cite it as a priority (versus 52% NA and 64% France). Another 31% Don’t intend to use Generative AI at all in the next 12 months (versus 8% NA and 11% France)

Tracey Barber, Global Chief Transformation and Growth Officer, Havas Creative Network commented: “Make no bones about it: this report makes for depressing reading for UK CX practitioners and brands more generally. It shows an industry in a dismal state: undervalued, misunderstood, and unable to count on leadership support. Unsurprisingly, it is underdelivering as a result.

“Let this be a wake-up call. If the UK continues to miscategorise CX as a purely ‘operational’ function, we will fail to innovate and fall even further behind other, more tech-focussed markets. Leaders need to correct course and explore ways to make CX central to their business and its future – not an afterthought.”

Vonnie Alexander, Lead Consultant, CRM/CX at AAR added: “The UK agency landscape is at an interesting inflection point. While we have some incredibly smart and sophisticated players, the discipline is so complex and specialised there are very few, if any, new entrants to shake it up. This has already contributed to its current consolidated state, and could lead to stagnation at best, complacency at worst.

“From a brand perspective, establishing clear ownership of the customer relationship and experience, between ops, tech, and marketing, is both the problem and the solution. Without it, we end up with a bugger’s muddle. Close ties between marketing and finance will also be crucial – there is no better discipline to establish a clear link between investment and performance.

“Those brands leading the way are few and far between – with the majority still working out how to get the best out of their tech and data. Once they do, they will be well-placed to leapfrog other markets – and this is an area agencies absolutely could and should be playing. This is where the opportunity lies, where we can leverage the potential CX can unlock, and where we should be focusing our attention.” 

The full whitepaper can be downloaded HERE.

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