Article

Faster, better, stronger—how smart uses of tech make all the difference in CX

Leading CX orgs are customer-centric to the hilt, using technology in smart ways to support agile processes.

By Shawna Wolverton, EVP of Product

Published October 9, 2020
Last updated October 21, 2020

Don’t bother choosing between speed and quality when it comes to customer experience, because businesses need both to be among the best.

Speed plus effectiveness is the formula for CX success, according to findings by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) Research. Leading CX orgs are customer-centric to the hilt; they resolve customer issues more quickly, all while handling more customer requests overall and engaging with those customers on more channels.

Another way to describe speed plus effectiveness is agility. And leading CX orgs have it in spades.

Champions are 6.1x more likely than Starters to be extremely agile when it comes to responding to customer needs.

Champions excel at customer-centric agility

The ESG findings, outlined in CX Champions: How CX Leaders Who Raise Their Game Are Driving Business Success, puts a framework around CX maturity. By surveying 1,000 CX leaders around the globe, ESG identified three levels of maturity: the Champions, the Risers, and the Starters—the leaders, those somewhere in the middle, and those at the greatest risk of falling behind.

These CX maturity best practices allow companies to compare, contrast, and improve their CX operations by identifying their current states and where they can grow. And the stakes are high, as the report plainly puts it:

Let’s dig deeper into what Champions did to hone that agility, exploring how they use technology to create low-effort customer experiences—one of the key hallmarks of excellent CX.

Using tech to create low-effort experiences for customers and support agents

ESG describes deploying best-of-breed technologies for support staff as “a means to many ends,” seeing as how Champions will invest in technology that will make their teams successful.

Not only do they use technologies that are highly rated by their support teams and leaders, 57% of Champions expect their organization to increase investment significantly in the next 12 months, compared to just 9% of Starters. This suggests that CX technology is a continued, scalable investment—far from a “set it and forget it” scenario.

A stellar tech stack has a lot to do with Champions’ enviable successes, but only when it is deployed in a customer-centric way. There are a few ways Champions use technology to drive success:

  • Technology engages customers wherever they are
  • Technology supports people and processes on the CX front lines
  • Technology doesn’t even feel like a technology solution to customers

Technology engages customers wherever they are

On average, Champions offer two more channels of customer engagement than Starters. We know that customers want to engage with companies on their preferred channels, at their own pace, and the ESG findings further support that. Offering multiple channels for engagement is one way to provide the low-effort experiences customers are looking for.

Unsurprisingly, Champions are embracing the full omnichannel experience. Though almost everyone provided phone and email support, Champions were much more likely to also include an online help center, messaging apps, social media support, live chat support, and SMS among their offerings.

Messaging apps and online help centers are the third and fourth most-used support channels after phone and email. They are especially popular among Champions, being used for customer service among 89% and 92% of them, respectively.

Online help centers and external knowledge bases can impact CX because if customers can search for an answer to a problem and troubleshoot themselves, they much prefer to do so. The impact of ticket deflection—tickets that never were—can, in turn, impact a support team.

Next, let’s examine how technology is used at Champion-level companies to support front-line people and processes.

Technology supports people and processes on the CX front lines

Champions are 3.5x more likely than Beginners to be top performers in terms of agent efficiency.

The act of supporting agents does not mean turning them into ticket-processing machines or multiple-chat-window wizards. Providing agents with up-to-date technology is also necessary to decrease the chances of burnout, according to the findings.

When agents have a complete view of the customer—via a customer profile with their support and purchase history—and when they can toggle between channels when engaging with customers, it improves their experience. Few things are more frustrating than technology that lets you down time and time again, and the findings indicate that Champions saw this coming and invested wisely in their tech stack.

When asked to rate their support staff satisfaction with the technology and tools to perform their jobs, 93% of Champions rated their teams’ satisfaction as either a 9 or 10—the best on the scale.

Technology doesn’t even feel like a technology solution to customers

We know that low-effort customer experiences are a hallmark of great CX, and technology plays a huge role in simplifying those experiences. But technology can also complicate matters when it’s not integrated thoughtfully with solutions already in place.

“If our customer must be transferred to multiple departments to find their answer, repeatedly reach out to obtain the right response, or use multiple channels to receive an appropriate solution—we are making them work far too hard.”
2020 CX Champions report, ESG Research

Consider chatbots, which the report found was making an impact with other AI tools in streamlining operations. When deployed poorly—by providing nonsense or irrelevant answers or placed at odd places in the experience—they’re a nightmare. When deployed smartly, they successfully solve an estimated 8% of customer queries and thereby offload repetitive (boring) work off agents’ plates.

The lesson is to not add solutions for the sake of what’s new and shiny, but to do so because it, as mentioned, supports the people and the processes on the front lines.

As one retail leader describes it, the best CX is a simple, customer-facing front end supported by a sophisticated back end that provides a business with the information it needs to keep improving and innovating that experience.

Champions meet—or exceed—customer expectations

The writing is on the wall, and it appears that everyone can see it. When asked to agree or disagree if their organization will lose business to more customer-centric competitors if CX is not continually improved, 89% of all respondents said yes.

Using CX technology in smart ways while keeping focus on customers and their experience is a tried-and-true way to maintain and even grow a customer base. Keeping customer-centricity, especially in periods rife with change, can be a challenge. But take it from Zendesk CIO Colleen Berube, who explains how successful companies lean on technology to improve their CX:

“They are defining industries rather than building on the status quo. This allows them to be nimble and use technology as a tool that helps them meet business objectives, as opposed to a system that drives how they run their business.”