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You get what you pay for

Cost isn’t the main priority for customer experience Champions.

During times of uncertainty, a business’s instinct might be to slash budgets wherever it can. Yet organizations investing in customer experience (CX) amid the macroeconomic impact and uncertainties of COVID-19 are proving more resilient, according to a joint Zendesk and Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) report

Similarly, studies of past recessions revealed companies that increased marketing spend grew profits and share of voice during the downturn and after it because timid competitors pulled investments back.

By surveying 1,000 CX leaders worldwide, Zendesk and ESG identified three levels of CX maturity: leaders, organizations in the middle of the pack, and businesses at risk of falling behind—Champions, Risers, and Starters.

Champions position themselves for long-term success and focus on adding value to their customer support functions, not cutting costs. They view customer service as a profit driver that builds customer loyalty and reduces churn as opposed to a cost center. 

The business value of CX isn’t under question—89 percent of organizations surveyed believe CX stagnation leads to business disruption. Yet some businesses are more committed than others.

As the adage goes, you have to spend money to make money. CX Champions play the long game, and it’s paying off.

Organizations with high CX commitment experienced improved customer service KPIs, like higher customer satisfaction, which isn’t surprising. But they also demonstrated better overall business health, proving CX and business growth are intimately linked.

When compared to Starters, Champions were:

  • Nearly 5 times more likely to be confident in the organization’s ability to thrive through challenging conditions in North America (AMER) and Europe (EMEA), 7 times more likely in Latin America (LATAM)—and 17.5 times more likely in the Asia-Pacific (APAC).
  • Approximately 4 times more likely to steal market share in the past 6 months in AMER, EMEA, and APAC and over twice as likely in LATAM.
  • Nearly 4 times more likely to grow their customer base in AMER, EMEA, and APAC and over twice as likely in LATAM. 
  • 6.5 times more likely to increase customer spend in the past 6 months in LATAM, over 7 times more likely in EMEA, 9 times more likely in AMER, and nearly 11 times more likely in APAC.

Champions are investing in three thematic areas: technology, people, and process.

Technology: Arm teams with quality tools 

In a world gone digital, technology is the backbone of CX, and just like luxury goods or first-rate staff, quality CX tools command higher prices. 

“You get what you pay for” with CX technology, Zendesk and ESG’s findings indicate. Champions prioritize customer service tool quality, viewing it as a scalable investment. 

APAC Champions are over 8 times more likely than Starters to expect CX technology investment to increase over the next year. AMER Champions are 7 times more likely, LATAM Champions are over 3 times more likely—and EMEA Champions are over 14 times more likely.

With Champions already outperforming Starters in their ability to serve customers, CX leaders at risk of falling behind will remain at a disadvantage if they adhere to a “keep costs low” mindset for their tech stack. 

People: Empower those supporting customers

Champion business leadership is more likely to view customer service as a competitive differentiator than Starter leadership—4 times more likely in AMER and APAC, over 3 times more likely in EMEA, and over twice as likely in LATAM.

This is evident in how Champion C-staff places a high investment on development opportunities for customer service teams, with agents at midsize and enterprise Champions receiving two and a half additional training days per year than Starters, on average.

When leaders empower support teams, agents are more motivated to do their job well and less likely to churn—Most Champions say agent retention isn’t a problem. 

Process: Strengthen customer-centric agility  

Champions lead on customer-centric agility: They invest in processes that enable them to quickly adapt to customers’ needs, using data to discover and analyze these implications.

63 percent of midsize and enterprise Champions can report support metrics and KPIs in real-time and 33 percent say C-suite reviews support data daily. 

With data transparency driving agility, Champions buy into tools that enable them to translate support data into outcomes and use it to optimize operations. 

Champions’ ability to act on their support metrics helped them build nimble organizations, giving them an advantage at the onset of COVID-19. Analytical insight around processes will remain important as the rate of change continues after the pandemic. 

Starters and Champions alike can emerge from the pandemic with more robust customer relationships if they build budgets around what matters the most: their customers. As some say with marketing, in good times, you should invest in CX; in bad times, you must invest in CX.

Turn your support team into a profit driver. Download Zendesk and ESG's report to deep dive into becoming a CX Champion.