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Emerging into CX leadership — steps to take now to avoid costly fixes down the road

Still figuring out how and where to use AI in support? Struggling to turn customer data into a meaningful change? Are agent training programs less than ideal? You may be a CX Emerger.

By Heather Hudson, Contributing Writer

Last updated September 13, 2023

How mature is your CX organisation?

As part of Zendesk’s survey of almost 5,000 customer service decision makers around the world, we asked questions about the attitudes, behaviors and outcomes regarding their people, processes, and data/technology. This led to our 2022 CX Accelerator report and maturity scale model, which allows you to assess where your business ranks.

CX teams that earned 7 points, based on a set of 7 CX maturity characteristics, are defined as CX Champions, the most mature of all CX teams. Those that claimed 6 points were deemed Risers, those that scored 4 to 5 points were Emergers and the rest are Starters.

Of course, the names are less important than the challenges you resonate with and the hurdles your team is looking to overcome. Here we are focusing on the largest group across the spectrum: Emergers. These are service organisations making great strides and at an early enough stage to still put the right tools, and processes in place to avoid costly fixes later.

You are on your way

At this stage, you have been running for a while. You have analytics in place, have consolidated support instances and may be using custom apps to augment your support, and overall customer experience.

Even so, Emergers typically report that:

  • Agents are overwhelmed and do not always have what they need to deliver personal, conversational service
  • Although you are using bots and human agents to communicate with customers, you are still finding the balance where AI or automation can improve, or detract from CX
  • Turning customer data into meaningful change is not there yet — only 27% of our respondents reported being “very good” at this
  • There is not always a clear line of sight to performance metrics and the customer journey — just 36% said they have real-time visibility
  • Training programs need work and tracks to upskill agents are often “less than ideal”
  • It is tough to uncover new sales opportunities from service engagements
  • Sales and service data is not integrated enough to set shared goals

If this feels familiar, you are in good company — and there is good news. With performance faltering at the top of the maturity scale, Emergers are well-positioned to make gains and grab market share by offering differentiated customer experiences. Now is the time to bring in leaders who seek to bring together disparate systems across the business and get a single view of the customer journey.

Enhance your organisation’s customer experience

The challenge going forward is to optimise for cost as you take your team to the next stage — and beyond. Here we have pulled out some clear action items to raise your service excellence, invest in your agents and tighten your business operations.

Support your customers:

  • Boost efficiency with automation: Reduce agent workload and deliver better customer experiences by offering self-service channels to customers or deploying bots to pitch in. You can also apply intelligent ticket routing or automated email to reduce redundant tasks and management costs.
  • Use data to optimise workflows: Do a regular audit of help centre content and frequent customer questions to identify and fill in gaps in your workflows.
  • Take context into consideration: Look at a customer’s interaction history to deliver a more personalised and relevant experience.

Support your agents:

  • Provide proactive service: Use AI-powered suggestions to serve customers timely and relevant articles from your knowledge base, and provide purchase recommendations.
  • Make customer feedback actionable: Bring in a unified agent workspace so teams can deliver relevant, personal conversations on any channel — no more toggling between screens to understand exactly who a customer is and how best to serve them.
  • Evaluate your investments: Invest in a support platform that can connect to your existing tech stack so you can extend the customisability of your support team without spreading resources too thin.

Build in operational efficiencies:

  • Establish a team of leaders: Put together the quantitative research and qualitative analysis to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a CX organisation. Create a tiger team of leaders to identify internal processes and technology capabilities needed to fill in the gaps.
  • Upskill agents: Consider advancement opportunities that align with tiered training plans. Start with basic technical skills, including product knowledge, and then advance agent knowledge at regular intervals and consider how agents perform across different channels.
  • Benchmark performance: Track performance and set goals around performance metrics, such as first response time, average handle time, and customer satisfaction, and business impact metrics like Net Promoter Score® and Customer Effort Score.

With any service organisation, there is always room to improve. Emergers are in a good position because there are many options for improving both the customer and agent experience, and for testing what works, and making adjustments as you build out a long-term plan.

As organisations move up the maturity scale, the margin for error narrows as customer expectations increase. At this stage, leaders can achieve many wins: improving customer lifetime value, reducing operational costs, enabling meaningful automation that eliminates redundancies and really beginning to employ best practice.

If you want to reach new heights, see how CX Risers are raising the bar.

CX Accelerator report

Read the 2022 CX Accelerator report to learn where CX teams are investing.