Many of the diverse challenges that businesses are facing in 2020 — from the COVID-19 pandemic to Brexit — are completely unprecedented. And while even the best leadership teams can't plan for unforeseen circumstances such as these, they can create strategies that allow them to be more agile so they can more swiftly and easily adapt to changing market conditions and consumer behaviour. Three quarters of customer experience (CX) leaders surveyed by Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) and Zendesk for a recent study into the CX maturity of more than 1,000 small, medium and enterprise-size companies agreed that agility matters more in a post-COVID-19 world.
Having access to strong data insight, in order to understand and react to your customers and their evolving expectations, is crucial to achieving this. So is prioritising good, consistent customer service and experience to encourage brand loyalty. However, perhaps even more interesting, the research found that those companies that recognise the value of CX as a competitive differentiator are also benefiting from improved business growth, in areas such as market share, increased customer spend, and pivoting processes.
But how can companies with room for improvement in their customer service become more mature when it comes to CX, and in the process boost their growth? The research identified five consistent trends that companies of all sizes can tap into:
1. Build a culture focused on CX, driven from the top down
Companies categorised by the research as Champions — the highest tier of CX maturity — agreed more strongly with the idea that it is a critical business priority. These companies benefited from greater involvement from senior business leaders who see CX as strategically important. The research found that 33% of midsize and enterprise and 42% of small business Champions were reviewing CX metrics with C-Suite executives on a daily basis.
2. Don't forget your people
Service and support continue to be areas of strategic focus among senior leaders, who are willing to invest in these teams to a greater extent. Agents at midsize and enterprise Champions were reported to be receiving an average of two and a half additional days of training per year than companies categorised as Starters by the study. Particularly at a time when many teams are working remotely — and planning to make these changes permanent — it's important to have virtual learning tools in place, and consistently refreshed, so that teams are equipped to get the most from their technology and provide the best experience.
3. Data-centric support delivers
Champions appear to place a greater focus on KPIs and metrics to guide their support decisions, using insight tools and dashboards to stay informed and up-to-date. After all, these insights can help teams understand where they may have gaps in their service and how they can quickly adjust their processes to better meet customer needs. Nearly two thirds of the Champions (63%) surveyed in the midsize and enterprise segment stated that their KPIs can be reported in real-time.
4. Automation and AI can make an impact
As volumes of customer enquiries surge, automation can be invaluable in helping them to respond to repetitive requests across a growing number of channels. Champions are making greater use of AI tools, such as automated chatbots, to respond quickly on a broader range of channels, including WhatsApp and Live Chat. In turn, this frees up more of their agents' time for more challenging questions.
With increasing customer interactions comes a growing volume of data and here automation can also help to build and update cross-channel profiles, surface gaps in customer support information or help offer insights into how processes can be improved.
5. Invest in CX success
When asked about their plans for the next 12 months, nearly three-fifths (57%) of midsize and enterprise Champions and half (50%) of small business Champions said they expect their organisation's spend on CX tools and technology to increase significantly, versus just 9% of midsize and enterprise companies categorised as Starters and 6% of small business Starters.
From the research, we can see that Champions are taking steps to invest more in their tools, teams and processes for CX success. And it is for this very reason, the research also found them to have fared better during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with midsize and enterprise Champions 4.9 times more successful in pivoting to remote work quickly, preparing them to manage surges in customer requests.
As businesses continue to navigate these uncertain times, those companies that are failing to keep up with customer expectations have some work to do. Not only must they catch up to their competitors but, as these Champions surge ahead, they must also ensure the gap between them doesn't widen even further. By investing wisely in areas of their business that can drive the greatest impact on their CX maturity, making CX a business-wide priority and empowering everyone with the right tools, all companies should be better placed to stay one step ahead of whatever comes next.