Zendesk’s annual research has highlighted the disconnect between Australian business leaders and their support agents on the level of customer service they provide, with their customers echoing the same sentiment.
The global Zendesk Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report 2022 identified that 67% of Australian business leaders give themselves high marks for their customer service, however only 16% of agents feel satisfied with the quality of training they receive. Customers are noticing too, with half believing that businesses need to improve agent training.
“Businesses cannot afford to take a transactional approach to their relationships with customers. Customer service is now a key differentiator, but this year’s report reveals gaps exist between expectation and delivery,” said Adrian McDermott, Chief Technology Officer, Zendesk. “Customers are noticing this gap and voting with their business – and that’s perhaps the clearest signal to businesses that change needs to happen, and fast.”
“It’s a challenging time for Australian businesses, with the need to keep adapting to their customers’ ever-evolving needs. Business leaders need to ensure they are really listening to their employees and customers. Our research found that customers are noticing the disconnect. To remain competitive, leaders must focus on customer experience as a priority by investing.” said Wendy Johnstone, Chief Operating Officer, APAC, Zendesk.
The report draws on input from customers, agents, customer service leaders, and business leaders from across 21 countries. Data was also gathered from more than 97,500 Zendesk customers who participated in the company’s Benchmark program. As customers call out increased expectations and the readiness to switch after just one bad experience, the need to close the gap between these expectations and the customer experience delivered have never been more urgent. The opportunity cost for many is nothing short of revenue loss and missed opportunities for growth.
Consistent Truths – Customer Service Can Drive Growth
Majority of Australian respondents (77%) see a direct link between customer service and business performance, with two thirds (66%) estimating that customer service has a positive impact on business growth. The opportunity is not simply to deliver a single solution-based interaction with the consumer, but to use that point of engagement as an opportunity to deepen the relationship. Customer engagement is up 13% from the previous year, representing more opportunities to upsell or cross-sell to happy customers.
This cuts both ways though, and the insights reveal that customer expectations can drive or stifle growth plans. As customers spend more online, two in five (44%) say that their customer service expectations have increased in the past year. Channels play a big part in meeting these increased expectations and particularly, being where the customer is. Despite this, Australian businesses are not investing enough to support their CX teams to drive growth, with only half (50%) having a strategic plan for CX over the next three years.
- 90% of Australian customers say they are willing to spend more with companies who personalise their customer service experience
- 84% of Australian customers say they are willing to spend more to buy from companies that offer them the chance to find the answers they need themselves
- Only 17% of Australian companies are set up with one platform that connects all service channels.
The Agent X Factor
Increased expectations lead to increased pressure on agents, who act as the front line. In fact, the research found that a significant number of respondents across APAC (68%) agree that customer service agents are essential to driving sales.
When it comes to resolving issues, almost half of the customers surveyed across APAC are looking for agents who are helpful and empathetic. And customers will parlay this goodwill in a positive experience to being open to recommendations from service agents. Many businesses, though, have yet to recalibrate their view of customer service as a cost center. This has meant that investments in optimising the function have not kept pace with growth, let alone with increasing customer expectations. So while a majority of businesses acknowledge customer service agents as being pivotal to driving sales, a very small number of those same agents are extremely satisfied with their workloads.
CX teams in Australia are burnt out and undervalued:
- Only 11% of agents are extremely satisfied with their workloads
- Only 7% are extremely satisfied with the career paths available to them
- Only 25% feel empowered to do their job well
- Only 5% of staff are satisfied with customer service metrics used
- 78% of leaders agree that customer service agents play a vital role in customer retention. However, 36% say the customer service team is not treated as well as others in the organisation.
Agent empowerment is a clear focus area for 2022, as agent burnout continues to be a challenge. Only 16% of agents are extremely satisfied with the quality of training they receive. Pair this with the fact that half of customers feel that businesses need to improve agent training, and you have the first case for investing in what agents need. These also include better performance metrics, clear advancement opportunities and, fundamentally, more respect.
Closing Gaps and Mapping Paths to Growth
Majority (68%) of Australian business leaders say that their organisation views customer service as a critical business priority, but 45% report that it’s still not owned by the C-suite. While the insights clearly indicate a business case for investments in customer experience, this isn’t necessarily being followed through with executive sponsorship or the right tools or programs, such as training for agents or investment in artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, Australia is falling behind other APAC countries when it comes to AI adoption, with only a quarter of businesses allocating 25% of their CX tech budgets to AI and more than half (54%) have been ad-hoc in their AI implementation.
- Only 33% of Australians expect AI to improve CX quality, compared to 87% in India and 61% in Korea
42% of Australians expect AI to make their life easier, compared to 91% in India, 68% in Korea and 67% in Singapore
- Only around half (56%) of Australians want to engage with a bot
- Only 4 in 10 customers agree that AI is good for society
- Only 15% of Australian leaders say they get a very high ROI from AI
“AI can accelerate business transformation and improve CX, but businesses must help close the confidence gap in Australia. They can do that by showcasing how AI can create positive outcomes for customers,” said Wendy Johnstone, Chief Operating Officer, APAC, Zendesk.
“The business case for customer service is clearer than ever and getting buy-in from the top is a critical first step. Getting leadership engagement relies on evolving the key metrics – look beyond CSAT and identify the broader business impact that can tell a compelling story,” McDermott adds. “This year’s findings bring into sharp focus the need for there to be a more concerted effort across the organisation – including better integration of systems and a regular review of metrics. In short, let the insights lead you.”
The 2022 CX Trends Report surveyed more than 3,511 customers and 4,670 customer service leaders, agents and technology buyers from 21 countries and organisations ranging from small business to enterprise during July and August 2021. Results from each survey were weighted to remove bias from the survey samples.
You can read the full report here.