Article | 7 min read

Best practices for Champions of CX

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 October 22, 2021

Think of the best customer service experience you’ve ever had, and imagine what made it good. Was it personalized? Was it memorable? Was it so efficient and seamless that you can barely recall what happened?

Now imagine the worst: Long wait times, slow responses, frantic managers, or blatant disrespect. It’s not likely you’re a repeat customer any longer.

The point is this: Better customer service means better outcomes for businesses. It’s circular. Great CX means customers are happy and loyal, generating profit. When companies invest in CX by improving the agent experience, adopting new technologies, and putting the customer at the center of their vision, the customers keep coming back.

So what makes a Champion? To find out, Zendesk partnered with analyst firm ESG to build a framework around CX maturity, identifying key characteristics of CX Champions. An organization’s CX maturity is an assessment of the people, processes, data, and technology in place to service customers. Compared to last year’s findings, commercial and enterprise organizations have significantly improved their CX maturity.

Where Champions excel

ESG found that Champions are leading the competition in these seven key ways.

  1. Skilling up the service team
  2. Maintaining appropriate staffing levels
  3. Acting 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

Unsurprisingly, the research demonstrated that adoption of customer service best practices correlates with better business success and improved metrics.

ESG surveyed 3,250 decision-makers who were responsible for ensuring and enhancing the customer service at their organization. Organizations represented spanned all market segments and diverse industries. Respondents were placed into one of four stages of CX Maturity based on how many of the seven key characteristics they possessed:

  • Starters – At risk of falling behind CX standards, 35 percent of midsize & enterprise respondents with three or fewer points
  • Emergers – A new stage identified by ESG in 2021 for businesses still gaining ground, constituting 33 percent of midsize & enterprise respondents with 4 to 5 points
  • Risers – Well on their way to CX excellence, comprising of 21 percent of midsize & enterprise organizations that scored six points
  • Champions – A boast-worthy, well-oiled CX operation; only 12 percent of midsize & enterprise respondents who scored 7/7 points
  • Champions are 2.1x more likely than Starters to say they’ve been accelerating major CX initiatives–like adopting new channels, focusing on agent experience, and investing in better technology.

    Champions get results by investing in 3 key areas:

    1. Customer experience. Champions deliver superior experiences. They reduce customer effort, provide more conversational experiences, and engage with customers on more channels than their counterparts.
    2. Agent experience. Champions put their agents in the best position for success by enabling remote work, delivering a 360-degree customer view, and providing seamless channel-switching.
    3. Business operations. Champions understand CX is a differentiator and make investments to accelerate CX projects in the face of uncertainty. Champions can grow and ramp up new agents faster, and they look at their CX metrics every day.

    Why this is important: Champions enjoy better business outcomes

    There are myriad reasons to invest in customer service, but one of the most convincing for enterprise organizations is that it’s better for the bottom line. Champions are 2.4x more likely to say their service team is a profit center. It’s the gift that keeps on giving–support data can be used to grow sales. In fact, 87 percent of respondents integrate support data with sales, and 76 percent report significant impacts. That’s gold.

    Below, we’ve highlighted some best practices shared universally by CX Champions.

    Best practices for Champions and Champions-to-be

    Focus on meaningful interactions

    What are meaningful interactions? According to ESG research, 97 percent of midsize and enterprise Champions are focused on transitioning away from “transactional interactions” and moving towards “relationship-building conversational experiences.” Customers do not want to feel like a ticket or an anonymous number. A meaningful conversational experience conveys empathy, builds rapport, and helps agents have productive interactions with the customer.

    Champions are 9.7x more likely to have very strong customer visibility, citing the ability to create 360-degree customer profiles by integrating business-critical tools like Atlassian. With insight into previous interactions and conversations, agents understand the customer’s history and relationship with the company, fostering better and more personalized customer service.

    Emphasize conversations

    Conversations are the future of customer service, and Champions understand the importance of being where their customers are and will be: 75 percent of surveyed organizations anticipate heavy use of conversational channels—like chat or messaging and social channels—in the future.

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    WhatsApp use has increased by 154 percent across the globe since the coronavirus outbreak.

    Champions are 2.7x more likely to emphasize a shift to conversational customer support. It makes sense. Messaging is convenient, scalable, and easily personalized—we wax poetic about it all the time. Clearly, CX Champions are getting the message, too.

    Also notable is the trend of quick adoption of these new conversational channels. While changes to a support strategy can be stressful and onerous for agents and customers alike, Champions are almost 3x more likely to adapt in a matter of days.

    And while traditional support channels like email or phone aren’t going anywhere, chat and social are expected to rise as dominant customer conversation channels.

    Where does your organization land on the CX maturity scale? Try our free self-assessment.

    Reduce friction

    It’s been a tough year–service interactions shouldn’t be an uphill battle for your customers. As Shep Hyken writes in Forbes, “Today’s customers know what good customer service is supposed to be, and their frustration can only last so long before they walk away.” He argues that excellent customer service is an investment, albeit a profitable one that drives repeat customers. In accordance with ESG’s CX Maturity Research, there are a few tried-and-true ways to reduce friction.

    Add and manage support channels

    While providing flexibility in how customers engage with your business is important, customer preferences change over time. It is important to anticipate these changes so support teams are best positioned to deliver service in the future. Champions offer an average of 2.1 more channels to customers than Starters do. When you have workforce engagement management solutions, like Playvox, integrated with your support teams, you can manage and predict channel volume against staffing needs.

    Reduce First Response Time (FRT)

    First response time refers to how long it takes a company to respond to a customer support request (but automated responses do not count). Starters surveyed had a higher FRT than Champions, averaging at over three hours. Champions, who are demonstrated to invest more in CX, reduced first response time by 43 percent. Don’t be a Starter.

    Reduce total resolution time

    In this case, the average total resolution time is calculated from the time a customer makes an inquiry, like sending an email, a message, or filling out a form. Some channels are faster than others, but once companies have made contact with the customer, it’s time to get the ball rolling. Champions reach customer resolutions 53-percent faster than Starters and close 84 percent of tickets in single interactions.

    Emphasize customer centricity

    According to Jonathan Brummel, director of enterprise support at Zendesk, “Customer centricity is literally putting the customer at the center of everything you do.” Evolving to meet customers’ needs, investing in the right tech stack, and making customer service a key focus point are all customer-centric qualities that set Champions apart from the rest. Eighty percent of Champions see their support organization as a competitive differentiator, not a cost center. They offer more channels, crush response time, and are 9.6x more likely to generally outperform satisfaction goals.

    You need a customer-centric service strategy. Click here to find out why.

    Increase CX spending

    This is not a drill! CX Champions are spending more on customer experience initiatives at a much faster rate than their competitors. In fact, Champions are 7.6x as likely to have increased customer spending, whereas most Starters have plateaued or lowered their CX budget.

    By spending more on support and investing in modern tools, channels, and even agents, Champions are reaping the rewards: The majority are more likely to see a very positive return on investment.

    That very positive ROI is evidence that CX Champions enjoy better business outcomes than their competitors. Champions are also 2.4x more likely to say service and support is a profit center rather than a cost center, and they are 3x as likely to have grown their customer base over the past six months.

    Most organizations, and particularly those with high maturity, have leaned into CX investments despite business uncertainty–industries like retail, travel, and tech have seen dramatic changes over the last year–not to mention the changes in our personal lives.

    CX innovation is critical to competitive success. Meet your customers where they are and where they’re going.