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Fast, flexible and customer-obsessed: Reimagining agile customer support at scale

By Celine Maher, VP, UKI at Zendesk

Last updated February 23, 2024

“Agility is the ability to adapt and respond to change … agile organizations view change as an opportunity, not a threat.” These are the words of Jim Highsmith, one of the founding fathers of agile software development. The disruption of the last 18 months has reminded us all just how strongly this principle applies, not just to software businesses, but to everyone.

The pandemic caused people to change their consumption and shopping patterns in ways we never expected. A range of data shows how consumers tried out more new brands and retailers, as new loyalties emerged and online shopping surged. Leading consultancies, including PWC, are warning that the quality of the customer service and online experience you provide, will define whether it’s you – or your competition – that manages to hold on to all these new customers.

To thrive in this environment of shifting consumer behaviour, brand loyalty and retail habits, companies need to become more agile. This means being able to detect shifts in demand and customer preferences and then reconfigure systems and operations at short notice to meet these shifts.

Put in practice, the benefits to an agile organisation are clear. Beatriz López, Operations Manager at Spanish marketplace PromoFarma, says that improved agility helped the organisation “make immediate improvements: a single profile for multi-brand agents, more comprehensive reporting, better tracking despite the scale-up of tickets and minimisation of external tools. With all of this, we have achieved better productivity.”

To explore how these trends are playing out more broadly, Zendesk surveyed nearly 4,000 customer experience and customer service business leaders, managers and agents for its agility playbook in addition to our Zendesk Customer Experience Trends 2021 Report. We wanted to find out what steps firms had taken during the pandemic to become more agile and how their actions have impacted their customer experience outcomes.

Companies which invested in agility saw significant dividends. The firms who qualified as ‘leaders’ in agility were more than twice as likely to make significant savings from their 2020 customer-service investments as other companies. They’re also more than twice as likely to say investing in agility has helped them cut the time spent to achieve their goals.

Understanding and responding to changing customer preferences is key

To ensure investments in agility yield the desired results for customer experience, companies should embrace radical customer centricity. Often, companies believe they do this. But if you ask their customers, it becomes clear they don’t.

Putting customer centricity into action includes:

  • Building data sharing and cross-functional collaboration into the DNA of their customer-experience, supported by open, connected platforms

  • Giving customers the ability to connect over whatever channel they prefer, including voice, live chat, email, messaging and more

  • Using data, analytics and business intelligence to anticipate customers’ needs, to give them what they want, almost before they know they want it

By combining omnichannel communications with comprehensive analytics and a cross-functional approach to data sharing, businesses can break down silos and provide a market-leading customer experience across all touchpoints.

Turkish food-delivery service Getir, for example, set itself the target of turning customer orders around in just 10 minutes. To support this, it deployed Zendesk Chat, allowing users to ask questions about their order and to give directions to be passed on to the driver. The result? A 50 per cent increase in efficiency and a 96.2 per cent customer satisfaction rating.

Designing your team to stay productive through change

To achieve this kind of result, employees need to have the tools to respond to customer requests in real time. Making this possible requires a change in leadership style and priorities. That includes creating standards and processes that break down silos and drive collaboration. They need seamless communication and data sharing, with appropriate safeguards, across functions and teams.

If they want to empower their customer-experience specialists, they should also look at using the power of AI to automate and enable self-service, through chatbots for example. Chatbots are a particularly cost effective way to handle a large volume of repetitive support requests. They can provide 24/7 support and deliver a consistent brand experience in a service setting – a critical capability when over 60 per cent of consumers say that speed is the most important aspect of good customer service.

One final recommendation: don’t wait too long, or be too patient. Improving agility and upgrading the customer experience at scale should be an urgent priority – because many of your competitors are already there. So, when considering technology investments, look for solutions that can deliver rapid speed to market, immediate usability, and rapid scalability. That way your organisation can start creating agile, data-driven customer-experience operations – right now.

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