Article

Turning adversity into advantage: Accelerate with CX maturity in Europe

The performance gap between the leaders and the laggards of customer experience (CX) is widening and the accelerated digital transformation due to COVID-19 is further driving this trend. What does this mean for the long-term success of your business?

By Peter Lorant, Chief Operating Officer EMEA at Zendesk

Published November 26, 2020
Last updated January 8, 2021

The performance gap between the leaders and the laggards of customer experience (CX) is widening and the accelerated digital transformation due to COVID-19 is further driving this trend. It’s already happening across industries, and not only to those who are benefitting from the pandemic.

In Europe, CX maturity Champions are not only 7.3 times more successful than CX Starters at growing customer spend significantly over time. They are also 3.4 times more likely to have gained market share from competitors.

These insights are among the findings in a research report on CX maturity where Zendesk has collaborated with analyst and research firm ESG. Their quantitative online survey of more than 1,000 companies has set out to understand the keys to deliver CX excellence and how it triggers business outcomes and long-term success.

ESG identified three levels of maturity: the leaders, those in the middle, and those at risk of falling behind - the Champions, the Risers, and the Starters. Only 15% of the companies surveyed in Europe ranked in the top tier whereas Starters accounted for almost half of the market (48%) in Europe. This contrasts with the rest of the world where the number of Champions is closer to 30%, indicating that European organisations are half as likely to be high performing in terms of their CX maturity scale.

It’s also worth looking at the geographical spread of where in Europe Champions can be found: France scored very highly across many dimensions: 21% of organisations were considered Champions, followed by the UK and the Netherlands (both 16%). Germany was lagging behind with only 8% of companies identified as Champions.

 

The gap is growing

The need for agile business practices is particularly pressing across Europe since deep lockdowns have required businesses to adapt to rapidly shifting customer demands. Nearly 9 out of 10 (89%) of respondents globally agree that those who do not pivot quick enough might face business disruption. Not continually developing your CX capability can lead to losing business to more customer-centric competitors.

«Our research identified a clear connection between CX excellence and business growth. Companies that are at the Champion stage of the scale not only see better outcomes in traditional service metrics, such as resolution time and CSAT, but they’re also experiencing positive business outcomes in customer spend, retention, and board-level support of CX as a business priority»
Adam DeMattia, Director of Custom Research, ESG

Still, the gap between more mature and less mature organisations is growing: When it comes to the expectations regarding tools and technology investment over the next 12 months, Champions in Europe are a staggering 14.3 times more likely than Starters to forecast a significant increase. This is an even more surprising fact when you contrast European respondents against their global peers who are 8.3 times more likely to have such a positive outlook. European Champions are obviously particularly focusing on the agility needed in the current situation and for a post-Covid era.

Understanding the impact of CX maturity

Challenging circumstances or not, high CX maturity drives business success. Champions are well aware that delivering a superior CX has become a differentiating factor in today’s highly competitive markets. As a consequence, their customer experience is 3.4 times more likely to be perceived as a competitive advantage. Relative to Starters, Champions are 7.3 times more likely to have driven up customer spend significantly.

How CX maturity creates value: 3 steps to become a Champion

Customer experience leaders excel in three three major areas:

1.Delivering customer-centric agility

Champions are significantly more agile than their less mature counterparts. They are more responsive and focus on meeting and exceeding their customer expectations. Whether it’s shorter average first response times, or average resolution times, they deliver a service that is appreciated by their customers. And they use data to develop a deep understanding of what really counts - providing customers with fast resolutions and with the answers they actually need:

  • One measure of efficacy is the rate of ,strong>“one-touch resolutions” which captures how many of the total customer requests can be resolved in a single interaction. On average, Champions in Europe estimate that 87% of customer issues are resolved with one touch, a figure 14% higher than what Starters estimate.
  • Champions are 8.9x more likely than Starters to say they exceed CSAT targets.
  • Champions also outstrip the competition with a mean total resolution time 82% faster than that of Starters, a difference of nearly 3.4 hours.

2. Internally, they are setting their agents up for success with the right tools

How are they able to achieve this? Part of their success is their people, their culture and the training they provide. Champions provide an average of 2.4 more days of training for service and support staff per year.

Then CX maturity Champions empower their support agents, giving them the information and context they need to deliver a superior service. What products have customers bought in the past? How successfully were their issues resolved? Champions rate their ability to build historical, cross-channel customer profiles as market-leading at 2.7x the rate of Starters.

In addition, they are profiting from a strategic approach to cross-channel customer communications, enabling agents to toggle the channel of engagement on the fly to better serve the customer. An agent may, for example, determine after a few minutes of an online chat that pivoting to a phone call would more quickly get the customer to a resolution. Champions are enabling this capability and adaptability: three quarters of Champions report cross-channel toggling capabilities are not only present, but also seamless within their support organisation. Less than a third (30%) of Starters report the same.

Finally, Champions also recognise service and support is still a predominantly person-to-person operation and you can’t underestimate the importance of putting your team in a position to succeed.

3. Taking control of their operations and make their business operations run with agility and adaptability

Champions are not satisfied with the status quo. They are aware of the highly competitive environment they are in. Though they already perform at a higher level than less mature organisations, they are relentlessly identifying potential for optimisation based on their data. ESG research indicates that leadership teams at most Starters infrequently review CX metrics, while over a third of those at Champion organisations review metrics on a daily basis. More specifically, business leaders at Champions are 7x more likely than Starters to review CX metrics on a daily basis. This exemplifies the importance, from the top down, that Champions ascribe to CX performance.

Such systematic use of data pays off: Trustpilot, an open online review platform with 90 million users, has been able to create modern experiences that empower its team to take an agile approach to knowledge and activate it in impactful ways. “Eight years ago we started with Zendesk, and now we handle more than 150,000 tickets per year and more than 2 million self-service requests,” says Tonni Buur, Vice President of Global Support for Trustpilot. “This year our self-service grew more than our business, enabling us to scale even further.” Deflecting tickets and improving agent capacity has led to a 62% year-on-year growth in self-service, a 98% self-service success rate, and a 1,272% annual ROI on the platform.

Another example comes from Berlin-headquartered Personio, a holistic HR-software solution for small and medium businesses, who use customer analytics systematically for extensive evaluations across the entire range of operational and strategic decisions. The result? Personio’s First Reply Time is on average less than two and a half hours and the accessibility by telephone is over 95 percent. In the rest of the cases, the support staff will call the customer back within less than ten minutes. Making analytics a central part of your operational management offers a route to quantify the value of CX maturity across companies and industries.

The shape of things to come

If the Covid-19 pandemic has made one thing clear, it’s that those businesses who are agile and focus on solving the problems of customers are the ones with the best chances to survive and thrive in a highly volatile world. In the face of consumers’ rising expectations, being truly customer-centric is a core piece of any agility strategy. For those who are Starters or Risers, a strategic transformation to a CX Champion can build long-term resilience, increase customer support agent productivity and deliver financial gains. Companies that use the three dimensions of CX maturity as a benchmark can identify the levers to improve their market share, profit margins and brand equity and create sustainable competitive advantage for the new markets to come.