Article

How CX leaders across industries can flex their agility

The ability to readily adapt to world events and evolving customer expectations is more important than ever—here's how you can stay agile in your industry.

By Kristen Hicks, Contributing Writer

Published July 27, 2021
Last updated August 2, 2021

Agility was a buzzword even before 2020, particularly in fast-moving industries where changing trends and emerging technologies meant businesses had to constantly stay on their toes. But last year, businesses of all types were forced to restructure business plans and adapt to a changed world nearly overnight. Suddenly, the value of agility became more obvious than ever.

But agility isn’t just something you need during extraordinary circumstances like a global pandemic. Providing an exceptional customer experience (CX) requires the ability to be nimble and responsive for the long term. Regardless of what product you sell or who’s buying it, you must be able to stay on top of changing customer preferences and adapt to deliver what they need.

The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2021 revealed an emphasis on a business’ need for agility. The ability to adapt quickly and easily was the most cited pain point of both agents and managers in 2020. But the steps to becoming more agile can look different depending on your industry.

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Stay agile in your industry

Financial services & fintech

Shifting to a digital-first model became imperative for financial services companies this past year, and many struggled with the change. Ninety-one percent of financial services leaders report that making changes to customer service at their institution is a challenge. Yet adapting to change is at the core of agility.

Financial services agents are balancing a lot. On average, ticket volumes increased by 38 percent last year. To ensure agents can manage their workload, financial services companies can implement self-service options to offload some of those requests. When customers can find the financial knowledge they need on their own, it improves their experience while also reducing the number of tickets agents handle.

Modern challenges require modern technology to solve effectively. As a customer base grows—and the number of tickets grows with it—implementing AI and machine learning can help the support team manage inquiries more efficiently. An AI-powered bot can serve up relevant content to customers at the moment they need it, recognize when someone needs human help, and ensure the right information gets forwarded to the right person to get them answers faster.

And when a customer does need human help with an issue, they’ll want to get in touch with someone easily—at the time they need them, via the channel (or channels) of their choice. Seventy-one percent of financial services agents say they use more than one channel to communicate with customers on a given day. Financial institutions should make sure agents have the ability to interact with customers on all the channels they may want to use—including chat and social media—in an organized and efficient way.

Retail & ecommerce

In the retail sector, the pandemic accelerated the trend toward online shopping that was already well underway. Ecommerce sales increased by 44 percent in 2020. But even as some shoppers cautiously return to stores in person post-vaccine, the need to also provide a solid online experience remains crucial. Whether in-store or online, customer preferences and expectations are constantly changing, making agility one of the most important attributes a retailer can have.

Seventy-eight percent of agents at retail companies say they use more than one channel to communicate with customers on a given day, yet 34 percent say their single view of the customer could be improved. To achieve the kind of agility that leads to better CX, agents need the means to always find the information they need through proper data integration. AI tools can unify data, bringing all customer information—including purchase history, billing information, social media data, and loyalty programs—into one place. When all that data is easily accessible, agents can more effectively do their job, getting better answers to customers faster and via whatever channel they prefer.

Seventy-eight percent of consumers say that seeing content personalized to their interests increases their likelihood of buying. Providing personalized content at scale is challenging but doable with the help of AI. Chatbots and virtual agents can deliver content relevant to a customer’s interest and answers to many of their questions without increasing the workload for agents. And when customers can complete transactions like order status, troubleshooting, and exchanges with less time and effort, it improves their experience and increases loyalty.

Manufacturing

Providing customer support for manufacturing products brings unique challenges. Manufacturers are known to have complex historic product lines. Even with intense training, support agents often face highly technical inquiries that require engineering help. That means on top of the many other challenges common to modern CX, agents need easy options for collaboration with other internal departments. Yet since the start of the pandemic, 47 percent of manufacturing support agents say it takes more effort to collaborate with teams outside of customer service. And 58 percent believe more collaboration would improve how effective they are.

If collaboration isn’t built into a manufacturing agent’s support system, they’re stuck wasting time switching between internal messaging platforms and email in order to reach engineering or other third-party partners. Slower responses mean lower customer satisfaction and missed SLA (service level agreement) targets.

To become more agile and improve CX, manufacturing companies need to provide agents with collaboration capabilities that function seamlessly in their work process. That requires a system that allows other internal teams to stay informed about tickets and provide subject matter expertise to the ticket as needed. Agents, for their part, should be able to see the entire history of information on the ticket—including all input from engineers or other experts—so they have all the knowledge needed when crafting their response to the customer.

When all of this is possible within one platform, agents are able to gather accurate information faster and solve customer problems more efficiently.

Media & entertainment

Churn rates in the media and entertainment industry hovered at around 37 percent last year. And many companies in the industry don’t currently have the kind of CX setup to properly battle that churn.

Right now, support agents at many media and entertainment companies have a complex setup, relying on multiple, disconnected backend applications to provide support to customers. This makes it difficult to onboard new agents. And with diverse product offerings that aren't integrated, agents lack a single view of the customer.

To improve the agent experience (and by extension, the customer experience), all the important data from the different backend applications needs to be aggregated in one place. With that done, agents will have a single view of the customer, ensuring they have all the information they need to provide effective support.

Vimeo fields 25,000 tickets a month and provides support across multiple channels, including phone and live chat. Using a custom app within Zendesk they call “Rap Box,” support agents are able to see useful information about a user as they help them, such as their membership type, subscription renewal date, and the number of videos on their account. Having this single view of the customer allows them to provide a more informed, and thus improved, customer service experience.

In addition to improving CX, when various support tools are integrated, making changes to any products or processes becomes easier. “The ways in which we support people and the channels where we support people change a lot,” explains Cameron Dunn, Vimeo’s head of community operations, “but ideally our agents don’t have to change the way they work very often.”

Healthcare

Healthcare may well have been the industry most affected by the global pandemic. And while some of the changes it wrought were temporary, the rise of telehealth is likely here to stay. The number of patients using telemedicine rose from 11 percent in 2019 to 46 percent in 2020, and 76 percent of patients now say they’re interested in using telehealth moving forward.

Healthcare organizations have good reason to prioritize technology investments for years to come, and building agility into the systems they set up is paramount. Enterprise healthcare organizations need a system powerful enough to work across multiple locations but flexible enough to allow individual locations to develop their own workflows and processes. And technology that enables automation can lighten employee workloads by increasing efficiency, without removing the ability to provide the personalized touch that’s so important in healthcare.

Saludsa, an Ecuadorian healthcare company, started providing telehealth back in 2014 but suddenly saw telemedicine queries soar by 400 percent in 2020. Because they’d already implemented technology that allowed for automated workflows, they were able to scale the service seamlessly. And increased efficiency didn’t disrupt patient results; the Net Promoter Score (NPS) for their 24/7 medical service increased from 5 to 8.5 out of 10. Having the right tech ensured they were agile enough to react to big changes on a fast timeline.

Technology & software

For technology and software companies, growth tends to be a top goal. Most successful companies in the industry see significant growth—often at rapid rates—whether through hiring or acquisitions and mergers. Consistent growth brings with it frequent change, and technology companies need to be able to scale easily. In addition, the world of technology moves fast, and companies need the capability to react quickly to trends and evolving customer preferences.

When a company regularly has new hires to train, ensuring that they step into a well-run, efficient system helps them get up to speed fast. For customer service agents, having powerful and easy-to-learn technology is a big part of that.

Software provider Ideagen has doubled in size every year for nine years. Since implementing Zendesk, the platform’s ease of use and automation options have made onboarding new team members a simpler process. That especially came in handy when they needed to train company volunteers as support reinforcements during the pandemic—having an easy-to-use product made it possible for people to get up to speed and start helping right away.

Customer service software doesn’t just help make agents’ lives easier. When technology produces useful data, it can also drive smarter business decisions. Ideagen was able to use customer support data to recognize a common login issue customers were experiencing. By sharing those insights with the product team, the company was able to improve the product, resulting in a better experience for customers and 25 percent fewer tickets for customer support agents to handle.

Get agile

Whatever your industry, the ability to react and adapt to world events, market changes, and evolving customer expectations is key to maintaining success in the long term. Agility has always been valuable, but its importance has only increased with time. Getting processes and technology into place now will provide the flexibility you need to adapt over time and will benefit you for years to come.

The agility playbook

Learn more about how agility can help you gain a competitive advantage.