4 Standards for Customer Experience Benchmarking to Help You Rise to the Top of Your Industry

4 Standards for Customer Experience Benchmarking to Help You Rise to the Top of Your Industry

All Industries, C-Store, Financial, Grocery, Restaurant, Retail, Services

4 Standards for Customer Experience Benchmarking to Help You Rise to the Top of Your Industry

Some say you shouldn’t compare yourself to others. This may be true in your personal life, but when it comes to your business, if you don’t know where you stand, how can you begin to get better?

Brands that are unclear about what their competitors are doing are operating in the dark. Benchmarks shed light on the competition, providing benefits that will help you:

  • Know where you stand vs. competitors + pinpoint where you can improve
  • Uncover actionable insights to help find opportunities for meaningful change
  • Identify gaps between top- + bottom-performing locations
  • Drive sales + growth through operational, product, + service improvements


Here are 4 examples of customer experience benchmarking standards every company should expect from their customer experience management (CEM) provider:

1. Quantitative benchmark

Brands need access to a robust benchmark portfolio that houses billions of data points for industry-specific customer experience metrics—spanning categories, regions, and consumer demographics. This information will show how you rank on different measures compared to the industry average and others in your category.

customer satisfaction benchmarks_SMG 1

Make sure this data report isn’t restricted to the brand level. It’s important to dig deeper, filtering the data by things like visit type, daypart, and other attributes—zooming in on the data you need to answer your most specific, pressing questions.

Knowing how you compare to your competitors on a national level is helpful, but if you’re going to affect meaningful change, you need to know where to focus your efforts. A benchmark should let you know how each individual location, digital touchpoint, or contact center is doing relative to your competitors, but also how locations are doing compared to each other across your own brand.

Another benefit of brand-wide and location-level internal benchmarking is that it creates a roadmap to the areas with the biggest opportunity for improvement. We consistently see programs realize the quickest improvements by focusing specifically on program aspects that are lagging. By knowing where to focus efforts to improve scores or help struggling locations, brands have a much better chance of showing quantitative improvement versus general, company-wide initiatives.

As an example, one of our specialty retail clients was able apply this customer experience benchmarking to identify a specific designated market area (DMA) that was lagging behind others and underperforming on service standards. With a targeted focus on improving front-line execution at locations in this bottom-performing DMA, the brand was able to improve those stores’ CX measures and increase comp sales—so much so they surpassed the system-wide average.

Quantitative benchmarks also let you know how your organization is doing over time. By drawing on data collected throughout the year, you can see how your strengths and weaknesses vary by seasonality, allowing you to track and address any emerging CX trends. And since year-over-year changes are some of the most important indicators of financial success, you can highlight the factors playing the biggest role in service execution and make sure you’re improving over time.

2. Text benchmark

Text benchmarks provide perspective on the data behind customers’ open-ended comments. You can use this data to gain a deeper understanding of the customer experience and see what customers are saying about your brand versus the competition.

With text benchmarks, you can compare against other brands on:

  • How often customers are talking about important measures in your locations or during interactions
  • How often customers mention an employee’s name and how that affects Overall Satisfaction
  • The percentage of your customers talking negatively about your staff
  • The categories (e.g., Staff Friendliness, Speed, Cleanliness) where customers think you’re better—or worse—than the rest

By being able to see what customers are mentioning as well as the sentiment behind their comments, you get some qualitative context about how they feel to help you round out the numbers from the core survey benchmark. In addition, text analysis can help uncover insights and benchmarks you hadn’t considered asking about in your surveys.

3. Branded benchmark

With the core survey and text benchmarks, you know everything about how your customers rate you compared the competition. But which industry peers are you comparing against? With a cutting-edge market intelligence tool, you can answer that question by taking the blindfolds off customer experience benchmarking.

SMG’s location-based mobile research app uses precise mapping technology to detect when users visit you or your competitors and triggers a short survey to their smartphones. All of that data goes into a branded benchmark, which means you can see exactly where your brand falls on customer experience metrics and where you’re winning visit share.

With just a few clicks, you can get insights on:

  • Competitive visit share
  • Variance throughout specific regions
  • Satisfaction by time of visit
  • Customers’ trip motivation

When a restaurant brand wanted to measure ROI on a limited time offer (LTO) to see if it was worth rolling the product out permanently, the client turned to SMG’s branded benchmark for answers. Data analysis revealed—though customers ranked the client’s item above competitors’ offerings—operational measures were underperforming. After making some adjustments and retesting, they determined keeping the item as an LTO would deliver the best ROI—and today it remains one of their most profitable LTOs.

4. Ratings + reviews benchmark

An online reputation management solution is becoming an important piece of a brand’s CEM platform. Ratings + reviews are now an integral part of the customer journey and have potential to make or break your business. With access to location-level ratings + reviews benchmarks, you can uncover rich customer insights that drive intelligent interactions. These benchmarks provide:

  • An overall rating compared to local competitors
  • Drill-down functions + selection of specific competitors of interest
  • Volume of reviews you have from the most important review sites
  • Competitors’ performance across top platforms like Yelp, Facebook, and Google (including response rates, review volume, and individual review site volume)
ratings and reviews benchmarks_SMG 2

Combining CX data and benchmarks drives outcomes

Customer experience benchmarking will tell you where you are and how you’re doing comparatively, but when combined with more detailed customer experience feedback, the combination can deliver the insights that help you catapult ahead.

One SMG client made use of this combination of customer feedback and benchmarking to set focus on creating a best-in-class retail experience as shoppers were re-entering stores after the first wave of the pandemic. Eager to get a quick read on how customers felt about newly implemented public safety measures in May and June of 2020, this retail brand added health and safety questions to their in-store customer survey. Initial results indicated the new procedures were well received, and when customer satisfaction was high for health and safety, customers were 40 %pts more likely to return.

But the real clincher was when SMG’s branded benchmarks showed this brand above average in the retail industry, proving their actions in response to guests’ expectations around health and safety were leading to industry-leading results. By focusing on what was driving guest satisfaction and improved benchmarking results, the brand was able to increase Overall Guest Satisfaction, rank #1 in SMG’s industry benchmark in health and safety for the 2020 holiday season, and exceed holiday sales projections.

Shed some light on the competition

You don’t have to be in the dark about how you compare to your competitors. With these four benchmarks, you can clearly see how your brand measures up, which factors are most important, and where to focus your strategy to win new customers.

For more information on how SMG’s industry-leading customer experience benchmarking can help you uncover areas for improvement and a pathway to success, check out this overview of SMG’s industry benchmarking capabilities.