Customer Experience - Image by Tumisu from PixabayZendesk has published its latest CX Trends report; the subtitle for this year is the rise of immersive experiences. Customer service is seen as increasingly important. Despite the economic challenges in 2023, 80% plan to increase budgets in 2023. However, it isn’t clear whether this increase factors in inflation. With that potential increase in budget, 71% plan to revamp the customer journey.  To do that, they are turning to AI to deliver natural, convenient and fluid customer experiences. Is this the first step towards the immersive experience that 61% of respondents eagerly await?

What is in the report

The report is a lengthy 62 pages in length and is broken down into five key trends that the report uncovers after an introduction that sets the scene for how CX has evolved over the last few years.

  • AI experiences are becoming more evolved and seamless
  • Conversational experiences are empowering consumers
  • Customers are eager for deeper personalization
  • Consumer well-being and sentiment are reshaping CX
  • CX teams are breaking down silos as they become more integrated

It is based on a survey of data from over 4,700 customer service and experience leaders, agents, and technology buyers from 20 countries, from nearly 3,700 Zendesk customers. It also leverages data collected from product usage of over 100,000 Zendesk customers worldwide. This does mean that the data is possibly skewed towards the Zendesk view, though it is a large enough sample to have significance.

Each section within the report provides a mix of data points, statistical visualisations, analysis and small customer case studies to illustrate points. The section briefly describes how Zendesk technology leads the trend and can provide customers and prospects with the next step on their journey.

Matthias Goehler, Chief Technology Officer EMEA at Zendesk
Matthias Goehler, Chief Technology Officer EMEA at Zendesk

Matthias Goehler, Chief Technology Officer EMEA at Zendesk, commented, “In the past two years, we have seen customer expectations rising like never before and businesses having to up their CX game at an unprecedented speed, all in the midst of major macro trends shaping the global economy.

“Insights from this year’s CX Trends Report show the importance of strategically investing in CX, particularly during times of uncertainty. In EMEA, we have seen that almost the totality of respondents (70%) stated that building business resilience through customer services becomes a top priority during an economic downturn”.

Report Highlights

There are some fascinating data points in this report, some of which are provided by customers, and some are provided by clients of customers.

AI experiences are becoming more evolved and seamless

AI/bots are becoming more human-like, according to 65% of CX  leaders. More importantly, there is a growing trust in bots, with 77% of customers noting that they are helpful for simple tasks, and 67% believe they provide correct information.

The report would have been stronger if these data points had been compared to previous years. A report from Capgemini in 2020 showed that trust in bots is increasing, 30% in 2018m, 49% in 2020 and now 67% in 2022. While the samples might differ, it strongly indicates that bots are improving rapidly.

As trust grows, so does the expectation of consumers, with 48% believing voice-based AI will play a significant role in how service is provided. CX leaders believe they will need to invest to meet those expectations, and if they can find the budgets, 72% see investment as slightly or very important. Ai and bots are here to stay, and Zendesk believes its bots, powered by Flow Builder, can provide an answer, as Sezzle, a Zendesk customer, has proven.

Conversational experiences are empowering consumers

As the first trend showed, AI-powered bots are growing more mature, and customers want more. This is no longer about the bot delivering an automated attendant that works but more conversational ones and ones that bridges the gap between human, digital and physical.

71% of consumers demand natural, conversational experiences. More importantly, 70% of consumers will buy more from customers offering this service. It is not just about a better sales cycle. It is also how organisations deal with issues. 64% of consumers will buy more if their issues are resolved in their chosen channel.

Dorm Room Movers leverages Zendesk messaging to deliver such an omnichannel experience. Zendesk Sunshine Conversations enables businesses to connect to any messaging service across any channel, both asynchronously and synchronously. This enables consumers to engage when and where they want.

Customers are eager for deeper personalization

This trend is trickier, and the report highlights that 62% of consumers say personalized recommendations are better than generic ones. ET believes this is not a trend for everyone in every situation. Customers may want personalisation, but not everyone and not everywhere, though the authors do not pull this out.

The example in the report is that a barista knows what drink a customer wants and their name. This is all part of the interaction at Starbucks. However, collecting that data should not become intrusive and go beyond what data is required, and there are also legal issues with collecting such data.

Organisations may need to collect more data, but they must also use their data more effectively. The survey responses acknowledge this with organisations wanting to merge service data with customer feedback (82%), product (79%), sales (78%), and marketing (77%) data. What the survey did not show is how many are already doing that.

Some organisations are already achieving this, the authors citing Siemens Financial Services as an example, who have created a Zendesk custom app that surfaces customer information from disparate sources into a single view.

Consumer well-being and sentiment are reshaping CX

Well-being is seeping its way into CX. Just as organisations have to deal with well-being amongst their employees, they also need to consider the well-being of the consumers they deal with. 52% states that customer service engagements leave them exhausted.

A recent example of this culminated in an Enterprise Times article with BT as the culprit, not a Zendesk customer. The experience left several people drained, cost person-days and certainly did nothing for the reputation of BT, even though the problem was eventually resolved.

Again there is a positive impact on lowering customer stress levels and making the customer experience pleasant. 77% of business leaders recognize that deeper personalization leads to increased customer retention, and 66% believe it lowers acquisition costs. CX systems must be integrated into other solutions within firms to ensure they deliver the right information at the right time to customers during their sales or service journey.

Zendesk sees a future where AI can help deliver the right answers to customers’ questions and those they want to ask next. Zendesk intelligent Triage leverages AI to automatically enrich support tickets with highly valuable information: customer intent, sentiment, and even language predictions.

Goehler commented, “It is clear that customer sentiment towards AI has shifted, with more customers increasingly recognising the benefits this technology has brought in assisting with their queries.

“On the other hand, companies are more and more committed to investing in AI driven solutions, with 65% of EMEA leaders believing AI will drive large business benefits over the next few years. With customers’ expectations towards AI increasing fast, the time to invest in this technology  is now or risk losing customers to competition.”

CX teams are breaking down silos as they become more integrated

The authors advocate that the leaders are breaking down the silos between service, sales and marketing. It is a theme that works in B2B and B2C and was one of the topics of conversation between Jon Miller, B2B Guru and now CMO at Demandbase and Enterprise Times. He indicated that the CMO might have a role across the entire customer lifecycle in marketing, sales and service. The breakdown of the walls between functions is the theme of the final trend. However, there is a way to go with only 22% sharing data.

Organisations are, however, starting to see service centres as revenue drivers. Deliver a good customer service experience, and customers are more receptive to sales approaches. This is in line with Daniel Pinks’s view that everyone sells. What is interesting and relevant is what Pink says in To sell is Human, “Anytime you’re tempted to upsell someone else, stop what you’re doing and upserve instead.”

One way organisations seek to achieve this is by merging responsibilities. 72% believe that merging teams and responsibilities around the customer experience will increase operational efficiencies, and 64% already have plans in place to do so. The aim is for all teams to be responsible for customer service. What the report does not show is whether this includes teams such as finance and sales that also have touchpoints with customers

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

This is a fascinating and easy-to-read report with many interesting insights. It lacks a degree of qualitative insights and trend analysis that could easily have been included from previous years. However, it shows that CX is leaning towards using AI, not just to improve what it does already but to bring in new solutions as well. The report could have been strengthened with more quotes from either Zendesk leaders or customers.

It will be interesting to see how Zendesk continues to develop its products to align with these trends and how customers leverage those products to move their CX forward.

Goehler concluded, “In 2023 and beyond, harnessing the power of exceptional customer experiences will be a key for business resilience and growth, especially as we navigate through uncertainty. Companies that understand the value of investing in technology to provide what their customers want -a seamless, immersive CX-, will be those gaining more customers, building on loyalty, and becoming profitable in the long run.” 


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