Driving cost savings through operational improvement

When facing a recession or an economic slowdown, companies naturally look for ways to cut costs. Any team viewed as a cost center can face significant challenges, so it’s imperative that customer service orgs prioritize spending in areas where they can find efficiencies.

By Colleen Berube, CIO and SVP of Operations, Zendesk

Last updated December 2, 2022

Don’t panic. That’s generally good advice—but when business leaders are facing one of the worst economic downturns in more than a decade, it’s not particularly easy guidance to heed.

With inflation hitting a 40-year high, companies like Amazon, FedEx, and Meta are in the unfamiliar position of tightening their belts. Yet crisis breeds opportunity. Now’s the time to invest in improving employee productivity and operational efficiency, working to remove redundancies, streamline workflows, and drive out inefficiency.

For customer service leaders, one of the best ways to pare down expenses without sacrificing quality in the customer experience is to make the shift to automation and invest time into enabling customers to help themselves, and each other. You might actually find that customer satisfaction increases. You can also invest in improving the agent experience so that solving issues for your customers is easier and more effective. Getting this right creates a win-win, driving better experiences for both the customer and the employee.

Spend on tools over headcount

It’s not unusual for service teams to be challenged with scaling their work in times when you aren’t able to scale resources. Many leaders are tempted to launch into crisis mode at the first sign of a recession—as one of the most efficient ways of reducing costs is to both halt hiring and reduce headcount. But judicious leaders look to technology as a way to drive improved business performance alongside the delivery of excellent customer experience. Unity, a development platform that allows creators to build interactive real-time 3D content, grew quickly from 2019 to 2020. But as the company expanded, so did the ticket volume. With a 56 percent increase in new tickets, the company needed to find ways to scale support services—without adding more staff.

David Schroeder, the senior manager of services support for Unity Technologies, added Zendesk automations and self-service options to build time-saving workflows across the support team.

“Zendesk tools enabled us to quickly recognize a large increase in ticket volume, identify the cause, and create steps to mitigate the problem,” Schroeder explained. “Without Zendesk, our support team would have stayed underwater.”

Instead, Schroeder and his team witnessed a big payday.

“Last year we deflected almost 8,000 tickets due to self-service enabled by Zendesk,” said Schroeder. “That amounts to about $1.3M saved due to the reduction in tickets.”

Improve efficiency

Founded in 2015, Veyo is a technology-enabled transportation broker that provides more than 35,000 daily rides to Medicaid and Medicare patients.

The logistics of managing data from drivers, customers, partners, and healthcare providers for Veyo’s non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) was unwieldy. With so many different sources of data, agents would struggle with multiple tickets associated with a single trip.

As the company began to scale, Veyo enlisted Zendesk to streamline its tickets, enabling agents to automate email responses and ensuring that confidential information is consolidated in a secure and centralized location.

“With Zendesk, we were able to save about $450,000 yearly on additional headcount while exceeding the industry standard for customer satisfaction (CSAT) by 5 percent,” said Allison Hill, Command Center Director of Operations at Veyo.

The new digital workflow saves Veyo and its customers almost 2,000 hours yearly. Agents are able to quickly see the historical context of a ticket, reducing wasted time, resources, and duplicative work—overall improving the customer experience while saving money.

Prioritize spending for efficiency

If AI is not already part of your service offering, adding it can help reduce operational costs by eliminating redundant, low-value tasks for your agents. These time-saving workflows can deflect inbound interactions without the need to invest in additional tools, training, or staff. In customer service, AI serves three key areas well: automation of tasks, recommendations for content, and making predictions for what customers may need next.

Another way to cut costs and support your agents is to ensure that they aren’t working in silos. In addition to your support platform, connect agents to other vital teams through collaboration tools that allow them to easily interact and quickly get the answers they need to resolve issues.

This is also a good time to audit your frequently asked questions and develop a robust knowledge base so your customers can help themselves without ever having to contact a live agent. Adding a community forum for customers to help each other with common questions is another cost-effective way to reduce the lift required by live agents.

There’s no skirting the fact that it’s difficult to find the right balance between cutting costs while investing in future growth. But when the stakes are high, it can be the right time to lean into your technology and leverage everything it can offer.

Check out other areas where you can see the highest return on your service investments to save cost and time.

Economic downturn getting you down?

Here's a guide for CX leaders to adapt customer service when facing uncertainty.

Economic downturn getting you down?

Here's a guide for CX leaders to adapt customer service when facing uncertainty.

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