Competing in the ‘now’ economy - here’s what to invest in to win at customer experience

Peter Lorant Profile picture for user Peter_Lorant April 26, 2021
How much should you invest in customer experience? It's all about balance - Peter Lorant shares the key highlights from Zendesk's latest CX report.

Miniature people workers with blue team uniform building cube wooden block with acronym CX on table with blackboard © eamesBot - Shutterstock
(© eamesBot - Shutterstock)

Right now, many businesses are in recovery mode, and the first shoots of economic regeneration are sprouting. Amidst continued uncertainty and with a long winding road ahead of us, for some, the first instinct is to cut budgets and slash spending until a clearer picture of the future emerges. For others, it might be to invest more, quickly.

I often get asked how much companies need to invest to deliver great customer experience (CX). There is no easy answer to this question because the answer is simultaneously 'not very much' and 'never enough'.

According to Zendesk's latest Customer Experience Trends Report, 67% of UK customers are willing to spend more with companies that provide a good customer experience. As such, before red lines are drawn all over your budget, it might be more valuable to think about where investment in your company will bring the best return on value to set yourself up for sustained success.

We've reached the digital tipping point

The same research found that over half of businesses worldwide expect CX technology investment to increase next year. This follows findings that COVID-19 sped up tech adoption at more than two-thirds of companies. It's not just the teams using these tools seeing the benefit — customers have felt it too. Reaching this digital tipping point has helped accelerate the rise of the ‘now' economy, where waiting longer for a service can drive customers to seek out more responsive businesses.

However, as businesses look to level the playing field, it's not just your sector peers you need to benchmark your CX investment against. Like a sports team, who are often only considered as good as their last game, to a customer, you're expected to improve on the last experience they had as a customer — be that with your business, their local coffee shop, their bank, or their online supermarket. It's an open playing field. To stay in the game, companies have to adapt or get left behind.

And when you do adapt and deliver that winning experience, it can open up new business models and paths for growth too. The reason why Amazon was able to pivot from selling books and CD's to become the world's most successful retailer is their brand known for customer obsession enabled them to expand their services to adjacent (and often unrelated) sectors. This is the true power of CX — if companies get this right and develop a strong brand then it offers them an opportunity to expand their business and reach new growth markets.

Investment in tech tools

Whilst it appears investment is increasing, the answer isn't as straightforward as simply increasing your spend on CX technology. You need the right tools, in the hands of the right team.

The system used to keep track of customer experience is important. Whether the customer engages via WhatsApp (requests for support on WhatsApp doubled during the pandemic) or through the website, for customer experience agents using omnichannel tools, the conversation looks the same.

Furthermore, if your sales and customer experience teams use common tools for conversation with your customers — irrespective of the platform the customer uses at their end — and share information, they can resolve issues and deliver a fantastic, personalised experience at speed. This can also turn the customer experience team into a real profit centre, by generating leads and relevant upsell opportunities for sales teams too.

The tech used can also help increase agility and responsiveness. For the best time-to-value on investment, seek out the tools that can scale for purpose and provide valuable insights hour-by-hour.

At busy periods, you may need to grow your CX team quickly to keep up with demand or reassign existing staff members to make sure that you have the right people in the right place at the right time. Fortnum & Mason experienced this during the pandemic. With stores closed, online orders grew quickly. Luckily, they had a scalable and agile system that allowed them to bring the expertise of their brilliant shop-floor staff online, helping customers by email and telephone.

Getting quick feedback on customer data and insights also plays a role here, keeping a finger on the pulse of customer contact with powerful, real-time analytics tools. This could be as straightforward as recognising a spike in the number of enquiries relating to website issues, and immediately dispatching a team to investigate. Or, it could mean spotting a sudden peak in inbound phone calls, quickly reassigning staff to help man phones, and identify the cause within an hour.

Investment in team culture

Research from Zendesk and the Enterprise Strategy Group found that tech was only one side of the coin. CX Champions (the 15% of businesses who were leading in customer experience) were more likely to have upskilled their service team, maintained appropriate staffing levels, and delivered high quality technology to their service personnel. They were also the businesses 7.3x more likely to have increased customer spend, and 3.4x more likely to have expanded market share — further making investing now a win in the long-run.

A team that is well trained, has a shared mission, and is invested in success is more likely to consistently win, regardless of who their performance is tested against. Your CX team is directly interacting with your customers and setting the tone for your business. They can personify your brand and send a message about your values and relationship with the customer. They're a valuable front line to the business, and cultivating skills and culture is an investment well made.

All said, recovery and long-term success can come down to the right tools and the right training — and businesses of every sector are paying attention to their customer satisfaction now more than ever. At a time when customers hold the power to demand the convenience of ‘now', investing in team, tools and training is the trademark of champions, and a great place to start if you're looking for your next win.

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