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Customer service finally sits at the head of the table

Businesses are finally giving customer service the attention it deserves. While customer service has always been important, it’s vaulted to the forefront of business strategy, and for good reason. 

There’s a big opportunity for customer service to inform insights and drive business decisions, according to a new report by Zendesk and Enterprise Strategy Group, The State of CX Maturity.

After interviewing business leaders worldwide, the report identified four levels of customer service maturity: the Champions, the clear leaders; the Emerging, those that are well on their way to excellence; the Risers, companies that are still gaining ground; and finally, the Starters, who are at risk of falling behind. Not only were Champions more likely to outperform customer satisfaction goals than their peers, but they also found success in areas often considered outside the scope of customer service. 

In fact, 87 percent of Champions use support data to drive sales, and 76 percent of those organizations report a significant impact from doing so. Compared to Starters:

  • Champions were more than 3 times as likely to grow their customer base over the past six months 
  • Small and midsize business (SMB) Champions were 7.6 times more likely to increase customer spend in the past six months, while midsize and enterprise Champions were more than 5 times more likely 

Their success is part of the customer service evolution from cost center to profit center. 80 percent of SMB Champions say their support team is a profit driver from which direct revenues exceed costs, and 75 percent of midsize and enterprise Champions agree. 

What this data shows is that support teams shouldn’t just have a seat at the table, they deserve to be at the head of it. By keeping customers as their north star, these unsung teams can play a vital role in leading their businesses to success. 

Champions use customer feedback to drive business decisions

Tech-savvy leaders have always known that customer feedback is a gold mine of insights. They see customers’ opinions and reactions as an opportunity, starting with what the customer needs and working backward to determine a solution.  

Champions create reliable processes for listening to what customers want them to know. With social messaging seeing a 110 percent increase in popularity among customers, Champions meet customers where they are, such as on chat and messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. They also offer choices throughout the customer journey, engaging with customers on an average of 2.5 more support channels than Starters. But the truth is that customer feedback, good or bad, is only valuable if you know how to use it.  

When businesses use technology to capture the voice of the customer and circulate it across their organizations, it can help them improve their offerings and overall customer experience. From the product team to marketing, customer feedback and related support insights can fuel customer-centric, data-driven decisions that can boost retention, growth, and profitability. 

“Customer service departments can offer companies a wealth of customer insight that can help them prioritize and make the right decisions to help their customers,” said Jeff Titterton, Chief Operating Officer at Zendesk. “Customers are writing to you because you haven’t solved one or more of their problems. Companies can use this information to understand where their products and services aren’t meeting customer needs, and to prioritize and fix those problems.”

In other words, paying attention to customer service can pay off in the long run. In fact, business leaders at Champion organizations are eight times more likely to review CX metrics and key performance indicators daily. 

Take Emily Weiss, the founder of the innovative beauty brand, Glossier. Glossier has a dedicated Slack channel for all customer feedback that everyone from the CEO to the company’s interns can read daily. “Sometimes it’s a single comment, or sometimes it’s a macro-trend that we hear about that translates into innovation,said Weiss. Postmates, a meal delivery company, also uses insights from its front-line team to drive product innovation. Listening to and acting on customer feedback helps the business get into the customer’s head and constantly improve.

Champions are in a better position to handle future disruptions

The impacts of COVID-19 continue testing businesses’ ability to adapt to change, and organizations with the most mature support teams came out on top here, too. Champions already invested in technology that helped them become more agile, and they led the way in using support data to quickly turn insights into action. 

Champions were able to implement changes to business processes earlier in the pandemic, and they’re also 9.6 times more likely to say their COVID-19 adjustments maximized resilience. Looking ahead, they’re nearly eight times more likely to be confident in their ability to handle future disruptions. 

Getting data isn’t the problem. Businesses are often so bogged down with retrieving data, they can’t focus on actually understanding and drawing insights from it. Picture a 20-minute drive extended to two hours in standstill traffic because of a bottleneck on the freeway, and you’ll get the idea. Without timeliness in data aggregation and reporting, it’s hard to see where your business is going and impossible to know how long it’ll take to get there. 

Everyone in the organization—from agent to supervisor to business stakeholders—needs to have the right data at the right time. No one wants to sit in traffic. Bottlenecks in data make it difficult to adapt and change—both toward things that customers want, but also away from products or services that it turns out customers don’t need.

Listening to and acting on support data isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it scenario. Champions take an iterative approach to customer feedback and make it an ongoing, built-in part of their business strategy. This helps them create an environment where change can happen, and is expected and effectively managed—especially change that leads to, or supports, greater customer-centricity. 

Data for all

If support teams have easy access to data from other parts of the customer experience, such as a customer’s purchase history, unopened email discount offers, how they’ve used a product or service, or if they have a loaded shopping cart, agents can make conversations with customers more meaningful. Agents can use that information to form more personalized customer interactions that may increase customer spend and retention.

Champions are 12 times more likely than Starters to give agents excellent customer visibility. That means they build a 360-degree customer view, so agents have key customer context. A complete view of the customer also makes it easy for other teams to access support data, including feedback from customers. 

Customers have a voice at the table

The game of musical chairs is coming to an end, and customer service is sitting at the head of the decision-making table. This is all good news for customer support teams. But it’s even better for the customer, whose voice is finally being heard loud and clear. 

Find out how your organization can be a Champion. Get the full report.