5 trends shaping immersive CX.
Economic challenges and evolving market trends related to customer expectations are forcing businesses to radically change nearly every facet of customer service.
As these factors continue to evolve, businesses must take stock and make significant changes in response to rising demand for immersive customer experiences (CX).
Businesses that have already responded by investing to enable natural, fluid interactions are already experiencing tangible results with higher CSAT scores and demonstrable return on investment (ROI).
According to Zendesk’s research, 77% of business leaders have seen those investments pay off and consumers concur, with 76% expressing satisfaction with the service they’ve received over the past year, and 57% noticing a marked improvement in their support experiences.
From chatbots that closely mimic real human beings to conversational experiences where customers can seamlessly transition from one channel to another without a loss of context, immersive CX boils down to one simple idea: people want to be seen and heard, and be treated as the highly valued customers they are, not as a transaction or a ticket.
By delivering on this value proposition, businesses stand to greatly strengthen customer relationships and elevate CX, which research shows can drive revenue.
Unsurprisingly, 81% of business leaders see CX and support as growing priorities over the next year, according to Zendesk research, with 80% planning to increase their customer service budgets over the next year. In this regard, 71% plan to revamp the customer journey while 61% eagerly await immersive CX.
To help businesses prepare for the dawn of immersive CX, Zendesk surveyed nearly
3,700 consumers and nearly 4,800 business leaders while analysing extensive product usage data from more than 99,000 businesses that form part of the CRM software developer’s Benchmark programme.
From this research, Zendesk has highlighted five distinct trends that are driving the move towards immersive CX.
1. AI experiences are becoming more evolved and seamless
Investing in artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that support customer service delivers measurable ROI, with nearly two-thirds of business leaders saying that outlays have resulted in significant performance improvements.
As the use of AI in customer service continues to evolve, 65% of leaders believe that the AI/bots they use are becoming more natural and human-like, which is helping consumers become more comfortable with its presence.
Of those who interact with customer service bots on a regular basis, 72% point to noticeable improvements in quality, with these consumers overwhelmingly stating that bots perform well when answering simple enquiries, respond faster than human agents, and can surface accurate and helpful information.
While this points to a growing comfort level with customer support provided by bots, this emerging trend holds enormous potential and poses risks for businesses.
As consumer expectations around AI evolve, 73% expect more interactions with the technology in their daily lives, Consumers also expect that AI will improve customer service quality and efficiency.
For consumers, the ideal evolution of AI will enable them to ask increasingly complex questions of bots. They also want those interactions to feel like natural, fluid experiences, and expect that
synthetic agents will handle multiple questions at once while providing personalised responses.
As such, businesses will need significant investment and a cohesive vision for how they integrate AI in immersive CX. Yet, there is a growing realisation that meeting these consumer expectations will require a more concerted effort.
Predictably, some of the trouble lies in logistics, as 59% of business leaders polled by Zendesk identify siloed data and a lack of tools and expertise as the major barriers to realising their vision for immersive CX powered by AI.
In this regard, Zendesk identifies three main areas where companies will focus AI in the customer experience:
- Measuring sentiment analysis for routing;
- Improving agent workflows (routing, prioritising and solving requests); and,
- Intercepting requests that would otherwise go to sales or customer service representatives
To get there, 67% of leaders expect to boost AI/bot spending over the next year, with nearly half of respondents committing to a sizeable 25% increase in budget.
2. Conversational experiences are empowering consumers
Much like AI-powered immersive CX, the rise of conversational experiences also hinges on the concept of fluid, seamless customer service through interactions that feel natural, friendly and personal.
Consumers also expect to receive assistance immediately, with the ability to seamlessly shift conversations across voice and digital channels without a loss of context or relevance. Moreover, 66% of consumers want interactions to not interrupt their current action.
As Zendesk discovered, conversational experiences will become the new normal in customer service, and forward-thinking business leaders will experience a measurable payoff by providing the convenience that comes from conversational experiences through stronger customer relationships.
Despite these clear consumer expectations for conversational experiences, businesses already lag in their delivery.
According to Zendesk benchmark data, just 42% of businesses offer two or more support channels. Meanwhile, 60% of consumers report interacting with agents who have little or no context, which means customers end up having to repeat themselves.
Customers also complain about support experiences derailing their current task and the inability to stop a conversation and pick it up later with an informed agent.
These unmet expectations mean missed opportunities for businesses as 70% of consumers purchase more from companies that offer seamless conversational experiences while 64% spend more when issues get resolved where they already are.
In meeting consumer expectations for conversational experiences, automation will play a key role in driving efficiency and surfacing the right data to agents. In turn, agents will need to adopt new ways of working that will enable true conversational experiences.
As those customer service teams pivot, their leaders will have to create new metrics to measure the service quality and agent performance. And customer service reps will need training to refine their soft skills so that conversations with customers feel warm, personal and satisfying.
3. Customers are eager for deeper personalisation
Consumers also want companies to use the large amount of data they possess to provide truly personalised experiences that transcend typical marketing efforts.
These expectations around personalisation are more advanced than businesses realise. According to Zendesk’s research, 59% of consumers want businesses to use the data collected about them to create personalised experiences while 62% think businesses could do more with the data they have.
And these customers don’t want to be lumped into some demographic bucket – they crave experiences in which they’re a segment of one, whether it’s in a brick-and-mortar store or on an e-commerce site.
The payoff for getting this right will be profound. By offering personalised support experiences, companies will reap the benefits of deeper, longer-lasting customer relationships. Already, 77% of business leaders recognise that deeper personalisation leads to increased customer retention and 66% believe it lowers acquisition costs.
Businesses can accomplish deeper personalisation by connecting data and leveraging untapped service data. Enacting these plans will require that businesses connect data on the back end by breaking down silos and creating systems in which the right data is surfaced when agents need it most.
If businesses can dismantle these roadblocks and leverage service information, leaders can also start to combine customer service data with the other data sources, such as customer feedback, product, sales, and marketing data, to create real-time customer insights that could help decision-makers form more effective business plans.
4. Consumer well-being and sentiment are reshaping CX
Perceptive business leaders are paying attention to customer sentiment and for good reason – 66% of consumers who feel that a company cares about their emotional state are more likely to become repeat customers, and 73% will switch to a competitor after multiple bad experiences.
When Zendesk polled consumers about their experiences and interactions with support teams, the results were both troubling and eye-opening. Nearly half said their frustration levels have grown over the past year, 55% felt increasingly stressed, and 52% stated that support interactions left them exhausted.
Meanwhile, agents frequently struggle with accessing relevant customer information, which also leads to irritated consumers – 58% of agents say a lack of consumer data often causes negative experience for customers.
Moreover, 37% of agents say that customers often become noticeably angry, frustrated or stressed when they can’t complete simple tasks on their own.
As business leaders attempt to lead their companies toward immersive CX, they must address customer sentiment and wellbeing. The challenge herein is to formalise ways to both capture and understand consumer emotions.
Doing so will create new opportunities to tailor the customer experience to prevent and ameliorate the frustration so many consumers struggle with.
In this regard, companies can use AI-driven technology to predict intent and sentiment, and harness customer emotions to build the strong, personalised relationships that underpin immersive CX. Already, 34% of leaders say that customer sentiment is being used to personalise the experience a customer receives.
Gaining a solid understanding of where customers are emotionally will translate into satisfied customers, less harried agents and that true measure of good customer service: increased revenue.
5. CX teams are breaking down silos as they become more integrated
Business leaders traditionally viewed their customer service organisations as cost centres, not revenue drivers.
This mindset created siloed teams with little connection to their wider organisations. Consequently, agents lack relevant customer data, which hampers efforts to provide the experiences customers crave.
But as leaders increasingly transform their support organisations to offer truly immersive CX, they are realising that service can drive revenue.
To unlock these capabilities, agents need a single detailed view of customer data, which requires that companies break down silos and integrate customer service, sales and marketing data to make revenue generation easier.
Leaders who recognise support as a revenue driver are also training agents how to identify expansion and sales opportunities, and 38% have developed workflows and processes geared towards revenue generation.
Increasingly, business leaders are also contemplating changes to team structures and responsibilities as a growing number of companies see all teams as being responsible for CX.
As these decision-makers slowly move towards a reimagining of customer support — breaking down silos, merging teams and redefining responsibilities — they’ll have to leverage smart technology solutions that enable cross-functional collaboration.
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