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Customer service is finally getting the attention it deserves

In a COVID-19 world, customer experience is having a moment. Countless studies have identified it as a key competitive differentiator — surpassing even price — and a catalyst for customer loyalty.

But while customer experience as a concept has gained clout, its traditional flag bearers are often left out of the limelight. I’m talking, of course, about customer service departments. 

The definition of CX has broadened over the past few years to include all customer touchpoints, from marketing, to sales, to IT. Yet customer support professionals are still on the front lines of the customer journey, and this has never been more evident than at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the early days of the pandemic, customer support agents were rightly celebrated as heroes, dutifully fielding queries from customers worried about cancelled flights, ambiguous insurance conditions, delayed packages, and other urgent and emotionally-loaded issues. 

Meanwhile, many executives were reminded of (or perhaps awoken to) how central customer happiness and retention is to the health and survival of their businesses. 

As a result, eight months into the pandemic, the stock of customer service departments has soared within organizations — and especially among the C-Suite.

In the eye of the storm

According to a new report by Zendesk and Enterprise Strategy Group, businesses who have invested in customer support are finding more success and feeling more confident about weathering the COVID-19 storm than their peers. 

The report is based on a survey conducted over the summer, when cities around the world were under lockdown and many businesses were forced to adapt to a newly-remote workforce. 

Researchers looked at the maturity of global customer service organizations based on factors like staffing, training, and technology. 

Overall, organizations at the top of the heap — dubbed “CX Champions” — were found to be faster, more efficient, and more proficient at satisfying their customers than those labelled “Starters.” 

Perhaps more surprisingly, these organizations found success in areas often considered to be beyond the scope of customer service. For instance, compared to Starters, CX Champions were:

  • Roughly 4x more likely to gain market share in AMER, APAC, and EMEA and more than 2x as likely in LATAM.
  • Almost 4x more likely to grow their customer base in AMER, EMEA, and APAC and more than twice as likely in LATAM. 
  • 6.5x more likely to increase customer spend in LATAM, 7x more likely in EMEA, 9x more likely in AMER, and almost 11x more likely in APAC.

Again, all this was happening in the midst of a global pandemic. 

More adaptable, more confident

The sudden shift to remote work tested the adaptability of businesses the world over, and organizations with the most mature customer support teams came out on top here too. 

According to the report, CX Champions were 4.6x more successful in pivoting to remote work than Starters in EMEA, 6.7x more successful in AMER, 5.9x more successful in LATAM, and 14x more successful in APAC. No doubt this flexibility was enabled by the adoption of cloud-based software and a wide breadth of digital channels for serving customers, including messaging apps, live chat, social media, and online help centers. 

On average, Champions offered 2x more channels of engagement than Starters and were 4x more likely to offer support across channels without losing context. They were also 3x as likely to embrace automation and artificial intelligence. 

It’s no surprise, then, that Champions in AMER and EMEA were roughly 5x more likely than Starters to report being very confident about their business’ future, 7x more confident in LATAM — and 17.5x more likely in ahead-of-the-pack APAC. 

From cost center to golden child

This rising confidence among high-performing support teams has translated into renewed clout within the enterprise. 

In the survey, 81% of Champions across regions strongly agreed that CX is a priority within their organizations, compared to 41% of Starters. Champion CX departments were also 4x more likely to be considered competitive differentiators for their businesses in AMER, 3.4x more likely in EMEA, twice as likely in LATAM, and more than 17x more likely in APAC.

As the correlation between customer experience and revenue becomes apparent, the C-Suite is taking note. When asked how often senior executives reviewed CX metrics like CSAT (Customer Satisfaction), NPS (Net Promoter Score), and customer retention, Champions were 6x more likely than Starters to say they did so on a daily basis. 

This is all good news for customer experience professionals. But it’s even better for customers, who are finally getting the support they deserve, precisely when they need it most. 

Check out the free report to learn more about how global CX Champions are transforming their customer experiences — and their businesses.