CEM 2021: Elisa returns to first position in customer experience management

CXPA Finland, the Finnish local networking community of the Customer Experience Professionals Association, has published the annual Customer Experience Management in Finland survey. The survey results differ both from last year and the pre-Covid situation.

Based on the study on the current state of CEM in Finland, the Finnish telecom and digital service provider Elisa is this year’s leader in managing customer experiences. The energy company Fortum and the hotel chain Sokos Hotels, who topped the Finnish chart last year, share second place.

The other top ten organizations are insurance company LähiTapiola and life insurance company Mandatum Life (shared 4th), department store Stockmann (6th), dairy producer Valio (7th), Hospital district of Satakunta (8th), pension insurance company Elo (9th) with insurance company Fennia and Finnish tax authority Verohallinto (shared 10th).

The average Shirute CEM index for Finnish organisations is now on a slightly higher level (55) than last year (53). But this year, fewer organisations have a dedicated budget for CEM. Also, the size of their CX teams has decreased.

More organisations than before are going to invest more in human-centric CX development activities and they are looking to put their employees first.

This annual report by CXPA Finland and Shirute was published this year for the ninth time in Finland and internationally.

Katja Bäckström, Elisa‘s Director of CX Business Solutions – whose company took back the lead position in Finland this year and came in second in international scores – agrees that customer experience should be one of the most important investment targets for all companies.

“At Elisa, we invest in customer experience and its continuous improvement – the expectations of customers regarding transactions are growing all the time. We are working to make investments in CX more measurable, so as to render the business benefits clearly visible. Artificial intelligence and automation play a key role in improving the digital customer experience, and they bring new business models to the market.”

The second year of pandemic turned out to be a little too much for some 

Just a little bit over a quarter (26%) of the Finnish organisations that responded to the survey reached the second-highest (Executive) level of customer experience management maturity in terms of overall scoring. The second-lowest level (Apprentice) was reached by less than six out of ten (54%) of the respondents, slightly less than last year

Only 14% of the responding companies stay at the lowest (Survivor) level. The results show that the management of customer experiences as a whole has stagnated on the same level as last year, or decreased somewhat. There is still room for improvement, even though one organisation reached the highest level (Visionary). The average Shirute CEM Index of Finnish organisations is now 55 (scale 0-100).

“Last year, we were pleasantly surprised by the results. The average of the index had stagnated for many years, but showed growth despite the Covid crisis. It is no wonder that, as the pandemic has continued for another year, there hasn’t been any significant change from last time. But you can still notice positive development, as a couple of organisations reached the Visionary level. Let’s hope this direction continues,” rejoices Sirte Pihlaja, Head of CXPA Finland local networking team and CEO of Shirute, the customer experience agency conducting the study.

Altogether, 91% of the respondents are looking to differentiate from their competition by developing their customer experiences, and over seven out of ten (72%) feel that the investments made in CX activities have had a positive effect on their turnover.

Out of all the responding organisations, almost four tenths (37%) view that their challenges in customer experience development are mostly due to other business goals taking up resources and lack of budget (both 37%), and a good third (35%) the lack of an actual CX strategy.

Teams now need to work with less staff and decreased budgets

Customer experience management has been lifted on the strategy level in most of the organisations (93%), but only 25% say that it is one of their main strategic goals. The results show a huge decline from last year, when 66% of the respondents had defined customer experience as one of their main strategic goals (71% in 2019). More than seven out of ten organisations (73%) are actively driving CX development projects, which marks a significant drop from last year’s (87%).

“The Corona fatigue has started to show this year in CX development activities. At the same time, we know that demand for CX projects has started to increase at the turn of the year. I believe that later this year, after this slump, we will start working again on the level we were used to”, Pihlaja reckons.

However, the top companies in the survey do not have time to rest on their laurels, as Elisa Blomberg, Head of Customer Centricity at Fortum Consumer Solutions, explains: ”Warm thanks for the recognition. Customer centricity is at the heart of Fortum Consumer Solution’s strategy and it is reflected in our everyday actions in many ways. It’s high on the agenda of our management and on the indicators that we all follow. Above all, we strive to develop customer satisfaction with very concrete actions. With our Customer Voice program, we have established a way of operating throughout our organization that allows our personnel at different levels and positions to consistently participate in the development or our operations based on customer feedback.”

As regards to co-operating with customers, Blomberg gives the example of a new kind of customer program, Small steps, where the company tries to do good for the environment with everyday small things. Last autumn, CXPA Finland awarded Fortum an honorable mention for this program in the CX Award Finland competition.

“The energy sector is undergoing major changes and customer experience is now being tested every day. That’s why it’s great to get such a significant recognition from customer experience professionals.”

A strong 72% of the respondents do feel that their CX management related activities have had a positive impact on their organisations’ financial results in the past year. This number has seen a slight decrease compared to last year.

Less organisations than before (58%) now have a dedicated budget or are considering one for customer experience management in Finland, compared to as high as 63% last year and 53% pre-Covid. Only about a half (48%) now have a dedicated budget (55% last year). Nevertheless, the number is still on a much higher level than in 2019 (40%).

Also the size of CX-teams has decreased since last time, as it averages now at 1 to 2 people, compared to its all-high of 3 to 5 persons in 2020. The number of customer experience managers/directors has decreased somewhat in many organisations, with 77% of Finnish organisations now saying they have a CX Director.

Human-centricity has become the priority of CX management

“Warm thanks for this great recognition! Although our industry is still living in a strong riptide, and we have repeatedly decided to adapt our services to changing situations, I am proud of the Sokos Hotels family and the persistent work to make our guests happy. I am glad that we have been able to continue to develop our customer experiences during this time as well. We have developed new services and our hotels are also being renovated all the time. Encouraged by this recognition, the work continues, listening intently to the wishes of our guests”, promises Jaana Matikainen, concept and development director at Sokos Hotels, whose organisation placed second in the total index score.

Almost seven out of ten (69%) of the responding organisations are going to put more emphasis, and approximately a quarter (25%) are going to put significantly more emphasis on CX investments. That’s a slight decrease compared to last year, with the former number at three quarters and the latter at 32%. The main areas for development are digital channels, multichannel experiences and – contrary to previous years but not surprisingly – phone service.

“The results clearly show that a bigger number of organisations than before is planning to invest on human-centric activities in the future. The number one CX development activity is internal communications & employee engagement. Strengthening the customer-centric culture stays in the top 3 activities and shares the second place with the need to improve the internal understanding of the importance of brand promise. Organisations have started to understand the role of employee experiences and the role of employees in creating great CX more clearly than before”, Pihlaja believes.

“It’s interesting to note that last year’s newcomer in the top activities, data/ analytics & automation still stays close to the top right after these more human-centered aspirations. It kind of makes sense, as by introducing better management tools and data-driven decision-making to business, it is possible to support more effective customer experience management practices and ease the development work needed to deliver better CX”, she points out.

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The CEM 2021 Benchmark is the most comprehensive study evaluating the CEM capabilities and competences of international and Finnish organisations. CXPA Finland and Shirute have been studying the current state of CEM in Finland since 2013. The study was originally based on research by Temkin Group. This year, it was conducted internationally, and for the 9th time on the Finnish level.

The participating organisations were evaluated against the Shirute Customer Experience Management Index™ to understand the level of CEM maturity in Finland. This index measures, e.g. how systematic and goal-oriented the activities are, how well the respondents are organising themselves, how much they co-ordinate their various CX development projects, how customer experiences are measured, and how much they invest or plan to invest in customer experience management.

It is important to notice that the index evaluates only how systematic the intentions of the participants are, as reported by themselves. It does not take a stand as to the content of the customer experiences, nor their quality from the point of view of customers, i.e. the results of the CEM activities. This aspect can be measured with other indexes that are based on exercises such as focus group interviews, customer journey mapping or audits in various CEM competency areas.

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The data was gathered through an online form and phone interviews in May-December.

The target group consisted of top 500 companies, public administration and the most famous brands in Finland. Altogether, 60 CX professionals from 50 organisations from over 30 different industries participated. Four out of ten (40%) of these organisations average a turnover of more than 100 million euros. A little bit less than half of them (45%) have over 1 000 employees.

The study has been conducted for the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA) Finnish local network by the customer experience agency Shirute (www.shirute.fi). CXPA Finland and Shirute are also partnering with Surveypal and MyCustomer.com for this study.

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CXPA Finland (CXPA.fi) is the local network of the international, non-profit Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA.org) network in Finland. We operate as a community of customer experience management professionals. Our goal is to get companies to offer even better customer experiences and increase their success. We regularly organize exciting events and business cooperation related to the theme. Our activities are based on volunteer work and corporate donations.

The Customer Experience Professionals Association is an international, non-profit umbrella organization for anyone interested in managing and developing customer experiences. There are currently more than 4,000 members in 80 countries, most of them in the United States and the United Kingdom. The founders of CXPA are Bruce Temkin, former head of Forrester’s Customer Experience, and Jeanne Bliss, a veteran customer experience management consultant. Activities at the local level are the responsibility of active members of the CXPA.

Shirute (shirute.fi) is Finland’s first design agency focusing on customer experience management. Customer Experience Path® is a registered trademark of Shirute. We are a founding member of the international CXPA (Customer Experience Professionals Association).


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Want to know more?

You can take the survey at any time during the year. We share the aggregated results on a yearly basis. If you want to get your results analysed or a full audit, please get in touch by email and we will get back to you.


See the Customer Experience Management 2021 in Finland study results summary.


Additional information: 

Head of CXPA Finland local networking team, Sirte Pihlaja, CXPA Finland, GSM +358 50 5700 190

You can request for media usage our report free of charge by contacting us at [email protected].

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