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Agile customer service

57% of mid-sized companies are gearing up to invest more in CX technology in 2021. Amongst large enterprises, the figure is as high as 65% according to our latest Zendesk CX Trends Report 2021. Will companies now focus on building maximum agility into their customer service?

By Michael Schweidler, EMEA Marketing Manager

Last updated November 3, 2021

Being flexible and acting fast — these two traits have become the focus of companies across industries around the world in recent months to cope with the demands of the pandemic. COVID-19 has turned things upside down and accelerated the trends established in the pre-COVID era with online commerce reaching new heights, as has selling services online. Even for goods that would typically be sold in bricks-and-mortar stores, nearly all phases of the customer journey shifted online — from researching products to making purchases, to providing customer service. At the same time companies around the world have enabled more and more employees to work from home. This has also affected customer support teams both in the consumer and B2B segments. Working remotely has become the new normal in many sectors.

The future of work is agile

And once coronavirus is kept at bay? Will things go back to the way they used to be? Most likely not. The disruption of traditional business models during the last decade and the pandemic have shown us that we often have to expect the unexpected. We have learned that market developments, social, political and societal conditions, and customer preferences are not as predictable as we would like them to be. We have also seen that we have to react with agility to new challenges and ideally even anticipate them. This equally applies to the customer experience. We need to be approachable at all times and, most importantly, be where customers are in order to support them. And where they are is becoming increasingly complex.

To continue to deliver world-class support in times of constant change, organisations must focus on building maximum agility into the workflows of their service staff. They need to be able to scale their support operations to meet the fluctuating needs of both their customers and their teams. They need customised blueprints for agile working to prepare for upcoming uncertainties and deliver a compelling customer experience even when circumstances become unpredictable.

First of all, it is important to make smart investment decisions. Many companies are currently in the challenging position of watching their budgets and cutting costs due to the pandemic, but on the other hand they recognise the need for technical innovation. That said, 57% of mid-sized companies are gearing up to invest more in CX technology in 2021. Amongst large enterprises, the figure is as high as 65% according to our latest Zendesk CX Trends Report 2021.

Embrace an omnichannel strategy

All planning should be based on a carefully tailored omnichannel strategy. It is the backbone of a customer-centric customer experience that allows customers to be served in a flexible and seamless way across all the channels they prefer to use to engage with companies.

Regardless of the situation a customer is in and the communication channel he or she chooses at the time, the support team must provide fast, personalised and informed support. It is therefore essential that all interactions – whether by phone, email, chat, messaging or social media – are brought together in a unified interface. This way, the support team always has a complete view of the current status and can pause individual conversations as needed and resume them without losing any information.

A successful omnichannel strategy requires certain technological prerequisites, such as robust IT security, adaptive technology and digital workspaces for support agents. This includes, amongst other things, setting up an internal help desk in cooperation with HR, sales, IT or other departments in the company, such as technicians when it comes to products or services that require extensive maintenance. It also requires investments in collaboration tools and apps for personalisation and automation.

The growing importance of messaging in the channel mix

Messaging is becoming increasingly important in this channel mix. Customers are now using the communication channels they have learned to appreciate in their personal lives. They not only use online channels, but also want to access them on the move, wherever they want to deal with a service issue. Our latest report shows that the number of support requests via messaging has doubled in 2020. WhatsApp and SMS are leading the way among large enterprises with an increase of more than 200%, while amongst medium-sized companies there is still an increase of 33% (WhatsApp) and 16% (SMS).

AI and self-service can enhance your customer service performance

There are two additional elements that support the omnichannel strategy: the use of AI to automate communication processes and the delivery of smart self-service solutions. AI-supported chatbots are available to customers 24/7 and significantly reduce the workload of support teams. The same applies to well-structured self-service options, such as FAQs, webinars and white papers, which anticipate and address common issues. Chatbots and self-service content empower customers to take action and resolve issues without the need for personal contact with customer service agents. The chatbot can, for example, automatically suggest helpful articles from the knowledge database that contain the best possible solution to a customer’s problem. If the questions are rather simple, for example ‘What is my account balance?’ or ‘Where is my order?’, customers find the support provided by a bot positive and helpful, according to our CX Trend Report. For more complex issues or complaints, however, 4 out of 10 customers say they prefer to talk to a skilled support agent.

Not surprisingly, customers increasingly prefer messenger apps and live channels. It is simply faster, easier and now a natural way to get in touch with people. Consumers no longer have the energy or patience to deal with the back-and-forth of a traditional email conversation or waiting on hold when calling on the phone. The most agile companies go to where their customers are and add new channels to better support them in real time. If their agility in customer interactions is also reflected in the agility of the workflows of the support teams, this can provide the basis for a robust, flexible and efficient CX infrastructure.

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