Rising customer expectations makes “exceptional” the new service baseline

New Zendesk study shows 66% of customers are less patient than last year, while 64% of companies say customer service has a direct impact on business performance.

According to Zendesk’s CX Accelerator report , 'exceptional' is what businesses must strive for when it comes to meeting customer expectations. Yet organizations know they aren’t quite meeting these rising expectations, with Champions - those considered the highest standard-bearers - saying that unresolved queries are up 157% year over year.

However, there is a new breed of customer experience (CX) challengers emerging - the Risers are closing in on CX greatness, with 79% of these businesses adding more customers from competitors than they lost, showing the performance lines are blurring.

No matter where a business falls on Zendesk’s maturity scale (Starters, Emergers, Risers, or Champions), the changes needed to stay on top are consistent:

Balance human and automation strategy

Integrate key data from critical apps

Evolve the role of CX

“Customer expectations have clearly been rising faster than CX leaders have been able to keep up. In addition, with the economy getting tougher and global competition increasing, now is the time for businesses to implement smart strategies that accelerate their CX and gain greater competitive edge in the long term”, said Peter Lorant, Chief Operations Officer EMEA, Zendesk. “Our latest research shows that by maximising operational efficiencies for customers, agents and their business, organisations can achieve a lower Total Cost of Ownership and fast Return on Investment, all while strategically investing and protecting every relationship for long term business stability and growth.”

Agents + AI = a winning combination

Customers are clear they want more control over how they engage with businesses, and organizations have a huge opportunity to invest in AI-driven solutions to empower their customers with quick resolutions. In fact, 90% of businesses Zendesk surveyed reported using bots to route customers to the right place, which frees up agents to focus on more complex, high-value tasks.

According to the report:

More companies are utilizing bot and human hand-offs - this jumped from 52% to 64% year-over-year

57% of companies cite agent productivity as the biggest gain from using bots

Champions lead with mixed chatbot-human interactions at 75%, Emergers and Risers both at 67%, and Starters at 52%

Where businesses need to focus is in how they balance between automation and the human element of the customer experience. This requires a deeper understanding of customer behaviors to place automation where it is most effective and provide agent support where it can have the greatest impact.

Mind the (data) gap

The data deluge is overwhelming business leaders, and they are still lacking meaningful insights into how to drive better, more personalized experiences for customers. Half of the companies surveyed use between six and 15 apps to get a full view of the customer journey, with slightly more than a third (37%) saying they are “very strong” in delivering personalized experiences.

While many understand the need for integration, breaking down the silos continues to pose a challenge, even for Champions who are 3.5 times more likely than Starters to use upwards of 16 apps, and six times more likely to report data fragmentation as a serious obstacle to delivering more seamless customer support. Emergers also face challenges in turning data into meaningful change with only 27% doing this effectively, highlighting the missed opportunities for bolstering customer engagement.

Providing agents with the right information at the right time can help support teams better anticipate customer needs. Customer feedback can also help other teams act quickly to improve product or service offerings. In fact, better collaboration between sales and support teams can optimize customer engagement across all touchpoints, reduce churn, and build stronger relationships.

Evolving CX’s role

According to the report, rethinking the role of support teams requires investing in training and tools to ensure agents have what they need to uncover leads and close deals. In turn, businesses will reap the benefits, and the data proves it: Champions are 6x more likely to uncover a new sales opportunity in more than 25% of their customer interactions; and are 62% more likely to find sales opportunities during customer interactions compared to Starters. However, as customer expectations rise so does the pressure to continue to differentiate a product or service.

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