More Than Half Of Consumers Feel Service Is An Afterthought

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Annual Zendesk Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report highlights CX as an imperative for growth

Over 70% of businesses see a direct link between customer service and business performance

Zendesk’s landmark annual research has highlighted the potential for businesses to drive business success with a focus on customer experiences as more than two thirds of consumers (70%) report making purchase decisions based on the quality of customer service they receive. The global Zendesk Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report 2022 shows that a majority of businesses surveyed agree there is a direct link between customer service and business performance. Despite this, many consumers (54%) feel customer service is an afterthought for businesses, indicating a gap between consumer expectation and company actions.

“Customers are noticing this gap and voting with their business – and that’s perhaps the clearest signal to businesses that change needs to happen, and fast.”

“Businesses cannot afford to take a transactional approach to their relationships with customers. Customer service is now a key differentiator, but this year’s report reveals gaps exist between expectation and delivery,” said Adrian McDermott, Chief Technology Officer, Zendesk. “Customers are noticing this gap and voting with their business – and that’s perhaps the clearest signal to businesses that change needs to happen, and fast.”

The report draws on input from customers, agents, customer service leaders, and business leaders from across 21 countries. Data was also gathered from more than 97,500 Zendesk customers who participated in the company’s Benchmark program. As customers call out increased expectations and the readiness to switch after just one bad experience, the need to close the gap between these expectations and the customer experience delivered have never been more urgent. The opportunity cost for many is nothing short of revenue loss and missed opportunities for growth.

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Consistent Truths – Customer Service Can Drive Growth

Nearly three quarters of those surveyed (73%) see a direct link between customer service and business performance, with two thirds (64%) estimating that customer service has a positive impact on business growth. The opportunity is not simply to deliver a single solution-based interaction with the consumer, but to use that point of engagement as an opportunity to deepen the relationship. Customer engagement is up 14% from the previous year, representing more opportunities to upsell or cross-sell to happy customers.

This cuts both ways though, and the insights reveal that customer expectations can drive or stifle growth plans. As consumers spend more online, a majority say that their customer service expectations have increased in the past year. Channels play a big part in meeting these increased expectations and particularly, being where the customer is. However almost half the companies surveyed did not have a strategic plan for customer service over the immediate to medium term.

Key insights:

  • 61% of consumers say that their customer service expectations have increased over the past year
  • 90% of consumers say they are willing to spend more with companies who personalize the customer service experience
  • Only 54% of companies report having a three-year strategic plan for customer service
  • 89% of consumers say they are willing to spend more to buy from companies that offer them the chance to find the answers they need themselves
  • Companies are evenly divided between those who still view CX as a cost centre and those who believe it is a revenue-generating engine for growth

The Agent X Factor

Increased expectations leads to increased pressure on agents, who act as the front line. In fact the research found that nearly three quarters of respondents (71%) agree that customer service agents are essential to driving sales.

When it comes to resolving issues, almost half the consumers surveyed are looking for agents who are helpful and empathetic. Given a good experience, customers are also more open to recommendations from service agents. Many businesses, though, have yet to recalibrate their view of customer service as a cost center. This means that investments in optimizing the function have not kept pace with growth, let alone with increasing customer expectations. While a majority of businesses acknowledge customer service agents as being pivotal to driving sales, a very small number of those same agents are extremely satisfied with their workloads.

  • Nearly half of consumers say that helpful and empathetic agents are what matters most when they want to resolve a customer service issue.
  • 63% of consumers are open to product recommendations from service agents.
  • 15% of agents are extremely satisfied with their workloads

Agent empowerment is a clear focus area for 2022, as agent burnout continues to be a challenge. Only 20% of agents are extremely satisfied with the quality of training they receive. Pair this with the fact that 68% of customers feel that businesses need to improve agent training, and there is a business case for investing in what agents need. These also include better performance metrics, clear advancement opportunities and, fundamentally, more respect.

Closing Gaps and Mapping Paths To Growth

Nearly three quarters (72%) of business leaders say that their organization views customer service as a critical business priority, but 40% report that it’s still not owned by the C-suite. While the insights clearly indicate a business case for investments in customer experience, this isn’t necessarily being followed through with executive sponsorship or the right tools or programs, such as training for agents. Alongside this is the need for customer service metrics to be mission critical and reviewed with the appropriate frequency and gravitas. Over 74% of business leaders say the ROI of their organisation’s spend on customer service over the past 12 months has been positive. However, only 30% strongly agree that customer service spending has kept pace with company growth.

“The business case for customer service is clearer than ever and getting buy-in from the top is a critical first step. Getting leadership engagement relies on evolving the key metrics – look beyond CSAT and identify the broader business impact that can tell a compelling story,” McDermott adds. “This year’s findings bring into sharp focus the need for there to be a more concerted effort across the organization – including better integration of systems and a regular review of metrics. In short, let the insights lead you.”

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