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Article 7 min read

Best practice for Champions of CX

ESG Research pinpoints where companies are elevating their CX game – and where they’re falling behind.

By Andrew Lawson, SVP of Zendesk EMEA

Last updated October 27, 2021

Think of the best customer service experience you’ve ever had and imagine what made it good. Was it personalised? Was it memorable? Was it so efficient and seamless that you can barely recall what happened? Now imagine the worst: Long wait times, slow responses, frantic managers or blatant disrespect. It’s not likely you’re a repeat customer any longer. The point is this: Better customer service means better outcomes for businesses. It’s circular. Great CX means customers are happy and loyal, generating profit. When companies invest in CX by improving the agent experience, adopting new technologies and putting the customer at the centre of their vision, the customers keep coming back. So what makes a Champion? To find out, Zendesk partnered with analyst firm ESG to build a framework around CX maturity, identifying key characteristics of CX Champions. An organisation’s CX maturity is an assessment of the people, processes, data and technology in place to service customers. Compared to last year’s findings, commercial and enterprise organisations have significantly improved their CX maturity.

Where Champions excel

ESG found that Champions are leading the competition in these 7 key ways.

  1. Skilling up the service team
  2. Maintaining appropriate staffing levels
  3. Acting on customer feedback
  4. Agility in acting on customer feedback
  5. Strong data/visualisation into service and support performance
  6. Timeliness of service and support performance data
  7. Quality of the technology experience delivered to service and support personnel

Unsurprisingly, the research demonstrated that adoption of customer service best practice correlates with better business success and improved metrics. ESG surveyed 3,250 decision-makers who were responsible for ensuring and enhancing the customer service at their organisation. Organisations represented spanned all market segments, small and large, and diverse industries. Respondents were placed into one of four stages of CX Maturity based on how many of the seven key characteristics they possessed:

  • Starters – At risk of falling behind CX standards, 35% of midsize and enterprise respondents with three or fewer points
  • Emergers – A new stage identified by ESG in 2021 for businesses still gaining ground, constituting 33% of midsize and enterprise respondents with 4-5 points
  • Risers –  Well on their way to CX excellence, consituting 21% of midsize and enterprise organisations which scored six points
  • Champions – A boast-worthy, well-oiled CX operation. Only 12% of midsize and enterprise respondents which scored 7/7 points

    Champions are 2.1 times more likely than Starters to say they’ve been accelerating major CX initiatives – like adopting new channels, focusing on agent experience, and investing in better technology.

    Champions get results by investing in 3 key areas:

    1. Customer experience. Champions deliver superior experiences for customers. They reduce customer effort, can provide more conversational experiences and engage with customers on more channels than their counterparts. Agent experience. Champions put their agents in the best position for success by enabling remote work, delivering a 360-degree customer view and providing seamless channel switching.
    2. Business operations. Champions understand CX is a differentiator and make investments to accelerate CX projects in the face of uncertainty. Champions can grow and ramp up new agents faster and look at their CX metrics every day.

    Why this is important: Champions enjoy better business outcomes

    There are a myriad of reasons to invest in customer service, but one of the most convincing for enterprise organisations is that it’s better for the bottom line. Champions are 2.4 times more likely to say their service team is a profit centre. It’s the gift that keeps on giving – support data can be used to grow sales. In fact, 87% of respondents integrate support data with sales and 76% report significant impacts. That’s gold. Below, we’ve highlighted some best practice shared universally by CX Champions.

    Best practice for Champions and Champions-to-be

    Focus on meaningful interactions

    What are meaningful interactions? According to ESG research, 97% of midsize and enterprise Champions are focused on transitioning away from “transactional interactions” towards “relationship-building conversational experiences”. Customers do not want to feel like a ticket or an anonymous number. A meaningful conversational experience conveys empathy, builds a rapport and helps agents have productive interactions with the customer. Champions are 9.7 times more likely to have very strong customer visibility, citing the ability to create 360-degree customer profiles by integrating business-critical tools like Atlassian. With insight into previous interactions and conversations, agents understand the customer’s history and relationship with the company, fostering better and more personalised customer service.

    Emphasise conversations

    Conversations are the future of customer service and Champions understand the importance of being where their customers are and will be: 75% of surveyed organisations anticipate heavy use of conversational channels – like chat or messaging and social channels – in the future.

    WhatsApp use has increased by 154% since the outbreak of coronavirus across the globe.

    Champions are 2.7 times more likely to emphasise a shift to conversational customer support. It makes sense. Messaging is convenient, scalable and easily personalised – we wax lyrical about it all the time. Clearly, CX Champions are getting the message too. The trend of quickly adopting these new conversational channels is also notable. While changes to a support strategy can be stressful and onerous for agents and customers alike, Champions are almost 3 times more likely to adapt in a matter of days. And while traditional support channels like email or phone aren’t going anywhere, chat and social are expected to rise as dominant customer conversation channels.

    Where does your organisation land on the CX maturity scale? Try our free self assessment

    Reduce friction wherever it is

    It’s been a tough year – service interactions shouldn’t be an uphill battle for your customers. As Shep Hyken writes in Forbes, “today’s customers know what good customer service is supposed to be, and their frustration can only last so long before they walk away”. He argues that excellent customer service is an investment, albeit a profitable one that drives repeat customers. In accordance with ESG's CX Maturity Research, there are a few tried and true ways to reduce friction.

    Adding and managing support channels

    While providing flexibility in how customers engage with your business is important, customer preferences change over time. It is important to anticipate these changes so support teams are best positioned to deliver service in the future. Champions offer an average of 2.1 more channels to customers than Starters. With workforce engagement management solutions like Playvox integrated with your support teams, you can manage and predict channel volume against staffing needs.

    Reduce First Response Time (FRT)

    First response time refers to how long it takes a company to respond to a customer support request – but automated responses do not count. Starters surveyed had a higher FRT than Champions, averaging at over three hours. Champions, who are demonstrated to invest more in CX, reduced first response time by 43%. Don’t be a Starter.

    Reduce total resolution time

    In this case, the average total resolution time is calculated from the time a customer makes an enquiry, like sending an email or message or filling out a form. Some channels are faster than others, but once companies have made contact with the customer, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Champions reach customer resolutions 53% faster than Starters while closing 84% of tickets in single interactions.

    Emphasise customer centricity

    According to Jonathan Brummel, Director of Enterprise Support at Zendesk, “customer centricity is literally putting the customer at the centre of everything you do”. Evolving to meet customer’s needs, investing in the right tech stack, and making customer service a key focus point are all customer-centric qualities that set Champions apart from the rest. 80% of Champions see their support organisation as a competitive differentiator, not a cost centre. They offer more channels, crush response time and are 9.6 times more likely to generally outperform satisfaction goals.

    You need a customer-centric service strategy. Click here to find out why.

    Increase CX spending

    This is not a drill! CX Champions are spending more on customer experience initiatives at a much faster rate than their competitors. In fact, Champions are 7.6 times as likely to have increased customer spending, whereas most Starters have plateaued or sunk less budget into CX. By spending more on support, and investing in modern tools, channels and even agents, Champions are reaping the rewards: The majority are more likely to see a very positive return on investment. That very positive ROI is evidence that CX Champions enjoy better business outcomes than their competitors. Champions are also 2.4 times more likely to say service and support is a profit centre rather than a cost centre, and are 3 times more likely to have grown their customer base over the past six months. Most organisations, and particularly those with high maturity, have leaned into CX investments despite business uncertainty – industries like retail, travel and tech have seen dramatic changes over the last year – not to mention the changes in our personal lives. CX innovation is critical to competitive success. Meet your customers where they are and where they’re going.

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