Become a CX Champion—Best practices for you and your team

ESG Research pinpoints where companies are elevating their CX game—and where they’re falling behind.

By Andrew Lawson, SVP of Zendesk EMEA

Published October 9, 2020
Last updated May 4, 2021

A company’s customer experience (CX) operation can mature just like people, careers, and bottles of wine, but only if it gets the high level of investment and prioritization necessary to reach that goal.

The road to CX maturity means taking a few wrong turns, acknowledging mistakes, and putting lessons into practice until they become process. Leaders might have rough ideas about where they stand on this front, and many might say they know with certainty.

To help leaders understand, objectively, where they stand, Zendesk partnered with ESG Research to build a framework around CX maturity and CX success.

By surveying 1,000 CX leaders around the globe, ESG identified three levels of maturity: the leaders, those in the middle of the pack, and those at risk of falling behind—the Champions, the Risers, and the Starters. Their insights helped identify the keys to achieving CX maturity and, as a result, exceeding business outcomes and achieving long-term success.

Regardless of where they stand on the spectrum or the industry they represent, the vast majority—89%—of those surveyed agree that CX stagnation will lead to business disruption. Still, identifying where to invest time and resources can be a major challenge. Let’s break it down.

Key indicators of CX maturity

There are a few qualities that CX Champions had in common that separate them from the pack, according to the ESG findings.

More mature organizations enjoy improved service and support KPIs, greater qualitative optimism, and better overall business outcomes. They respond faster to customer queries, they are better able to solve customer issues once they respond, and the overall experience requires low levels of customer effort—and we know that the harder you make customers work, the more likely they are to churn.

Leadership and the organization as a whole also elevates and recognizes support teams as key partners in the effort. As a result of all of this, these companies are better positioned to adapt to volatile or uncertain work environments, and they have enviable confidence in their ability to weather those conditions in the long term.

According to ESG's findings, Champions are excelling in seven key ways.

Where Champions excel

  1. Skilling up the service team
  2. Maintaining appropriate staffing levels
  3. Ability to act on customer feedback
  4. Agility in acting on customer feedback
  5. Strong data/visualization into service and support performance
  6. Timeliness of service and support performance data
  7. Quality of the technology experience delivered to service and support personnel

Because of their investment in these seven things, companies considered CX champions deliver on their promises by:

  • Meeting customer expectations
  • Setting agents up for success
  • Running agile business operations

Let’s dig deeper into all three, explaining how each shows up in businesses with Champion-level CX operations.

Meeting customer expectations

Creating a fast and easy customer experience and meeting customers where they are are two ways to meet customer expectations.

Champions have fast resolution times—they are more than twice as likely as Starters to report a total resolution time of under an hour. Furthermore, their average first response time was an hour faster than the Starters’.

And–this is key—they view having a mature CX operation as a competitive differentiator. They are willing to make the investment and, as a result, are also confident in their ability to retain customers, according to the findings. Starters, on the other hand, can take upward of seven hours to resolve an issue and aren’t as confident in their ability to retain customers.

As discussed above, low-effort customer experiences are, well, easier, and therefore earn a business more brownie points. A low-effort customer experience means that the customer didn’t have to guess too hard about what happens next, nor did they have to look too hard to find the support they needed. In other words, the touchpoints in the customer journey all made sense and were appropriate for whatever the customer wanted at that time: maybe it was a series of knowledge base articles to conduct more research, a community forum to ask questions, or the ability to quickly escalate from self-service to agent-assisted support.

Meeting customers where they are goes hand-in-hand with a low-effort experience, because if customers have to work too hard to get help or ask questions about the product, the company is more likely to lose their business.

Setting agents up for success

Support agents are on the front lines of the CX operation, often the first point of human contact someone has with the business. Given their high visibility, the ESG data finds that companies with the most mature CX operations also set their agents up for success in a number of ways.

An empowered support team has a huge impact on both the maturity and success of a CX operation.

Building efficiency into the customer support process makes the agent experience better. That means giving agents the tools, including training opportunities and technology, to excel at their jobs. When customer support agents are viewed as strategic partners instead of one-off troubleshooters, it helps the individual agents, it helps customers, and it helps the business. And, it shows: Champion organizations struggle less with agent retention, and their agents are more efficient, according to the data.

Agents at Champion organizations handle nearly double the requests of Starters.

Champions reduce average total resolution time by 34%, or nearly three hours, compared to Starters, and they’re a staggering six times more likely than starters to exceed formal CSAT goals. In other words, support agents at Champion companies are nailing it in terms of efficiency, which is a direct result of their efforts in these areas:

  • Providing more education and training
  • Investing in technology that allows agents to meet customers where they are
  • Regularly digging into data and acting on what it’s saying

Running agile business operations

Champions also lead on what ESG describes as “customer-centric agility.” In other words, these companies put customers first when making their business decisions—about support, staffing, perhaps even about the products themselves. They listen to what customers are telling them, and they adjust operations accordingly to meet those needs.

Take meal-delivery service Freshly, for example, which revamped its entire self-service support experience by crafting high-quality content and making it easy to find. The moral of the story: the solution wasn’t merely creating a new channel (self-service), deploying it, crossing fingers, and hoping for the best. It required additional investment: making the content relevant, searchable, and easy to use for their unique customer base.

There is no agility or adaptability without data analysis. A lot of businesses truly don’t know what they don’t know, and ESG findings indicate that it is hurting them. While many Starter companies report infrequently reviewing CX metrics, nearly half of the Champions review metrics daily.

All in on CX

Here’s the thing about the three keys to achieving CX maturity: Businesses can’t choose just one of the three, focusing in one area and putting the others off until later. Focusing on all three and ensuring they form a true CX infrastructure is essential—and it’s actually quite difficult to be good at one without investing in the others.

ESG data indicates that organizations were more focused on adding value than reducing cost, which is easier said than done for smaller operations, in a lean year, or maybe a little bit of both. But CX is a long game that requires a long-term, all-in approach that is known to pay off. Take it from the Champions—78% of which were confident in their company’s future.

Become a CX champion

Dig into the complete ESG findings for more of the CX Champions’ secret sauce.