OK, so this title is misleading. Actually, Home Depot came out on top of the rankings for the CMO council's audit of customer experience. What's interesting is what it tells you about companies that didn't do so well.
First the good news. The study looked at "accuracy, uniformity and timeliness of information delivery across the customer touchpoints and content sources of 25 major brands selected randomly across multiple market sectors". I don't think the study aspires to be the definitive guide to customer experience given that brief, and the co-sponsor of the study was Interwoven who makes a tidy living from content management, so my usual warnings around checking who pays for the data applies. Having said all that, the study does make an interesting point or two.
The winners included Home Depot, Marriott, Southwest Airlines, American Airlines, Allstate and Dell. Less successful were DirectTV, Major League Soccer, JetBlue, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, MTV and Comcast.
The authors made the point that performance in this kind of study can significantly effect the NPS of these firms and hence long term growth prospects. No doubt. However, this is just one lens through which customer experience is influenced. Just because American is strong at providing information doesn't mean they would have good customer experience if, say, the information they were providing was about all their flights being delayed or cancelled.
However, I do think this points to the fact that being outstanding at information delivery to customers is both a valuable contributor to NPS and also relatively "low hanging fruit". It's just got to to be easier to fix your communication with customers than, say, fixing your entire business model for flying people from point A to point B. And you do get an important good guy from it.
It's interesting (to me at least) that the companies that won focused on being able to deliver their brand message (you can do it, we can help - Home Depot) through their medium consistently and clearly. Put in simple language, customers were able to resolve their informational requirements easily. Whereas, on the other end of the study, it's darn near impossible to figure out solutions to simple and obvious problems.
On a personal note, I just can't get my Dell/Vista machine to stay stable. I just can't get straightforward answers to simple questions from Microsoft's site - which has a wealth of information but never seems to be able to answer the question I have. I guess that's what this study is all about.
There was another significant observation of the study that resonated with me. The degree to which call center operations seperated the winners and losers jumped out from the study. Mess up on the call center and lose your customers was basically the message. Ah, the carbon element (people) once again trumps the silicon element of the equation. With a possible recession in the US, it will be interesting to see how many companies run off the ledge with major cutbacks in call center operations killing their NPS numbers.
The full study is at www.cmocouncil.org/resources/form_variance.asp