Latest Zendesk research signals a dramatic shift in expectations, with 71% of business leaders rethinking the entire customer experience
Zendesk, Inc. has released the company’s latest global Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report, revealing immersive experiences are fast becoming a key differentiator for brands to stay competitive and help ensure customers remain loyal. According to the report, 61% of customers are excited about experiences that are natural, convenient and fluid.
Immersive CX is evolving into the new standard, redefining how companies engage with their customers. This change stems from what people are increasingly demanding of brands today: that they meet them where they are, under their terms, through seamless and engaging interactions. Over the last several years, leaders have recognized how this transformation has required an expanded role of CX, prompting them to make major investments to remain competitive and meet elevated customer expectations.
“Customers have high expectations, little patience and many options when it comes to who they do business with,” said Adrian McDermott, Chief Technology Officer at Zendesk. “This year, our CX Trends shows that this shift in behavior has prompted leaders to invest in technology that creates immersive, seamless experiences. These new standards of customer service are critical to boosting customer acquisition and loyalty, as well as profitability.”
The 2023 Zendesk CX Trends Report consists of data from nearly 3,700 customers and over 4,700 customer service and experience leaders, agents, and technology buyers from 20 countries, as well as Zendesk Benchmark product usage data from nearly 100,000 Zendesk customers worldwide, ranging from small business to enterprises. This year’s key findings highlight that Artificial Intelligence (AI), conversational experiences, personalization, customer well-being and sentiment, and integrated teams are the critical components that businesses need to deliver immersive experiences, which will shape the future of CX.
Customers want (and expect) AI to evolve
Increased investment in AI has not gone unnoticed, and customers are becoming more comfortable with its presence. Of those who interact with customer service bots on a regular basis, 72% have experienced quality improvements and say bots perform well when answering simple inquiries, respond faster than human agents, and are reliable to surface accurate, helpful information.
As customers enjoy richer experiences with bots, their expectations have also risen – 75% of customers expect AI interactions will become more natural and human-like over time, and the ideal evolution of AI will enable customers to ask increasingly complex questions.
“It is evident customers continue to embrace AI-driven customer service with their issues being resolved in ways that are nearly identical to human support,” said McDermott. “We know businesses are working to use AI more, but there is a growing realization that meeting customers’ expectations will require a more concerted effort. They are not willing to wait for companies to make gradual changes, a signal to businesses that change needs to happen fast.”
Customers are driving the rise of conversational experiences. They want fluid, friendly and natural interactions that put them in control and do not interrupt current tasks. For example, if a customer stops an interaction, they expect a new support representative to be able to easily pick up where the conversation last ended. In fact, 70% of customers spend more with brands that provide a seamless experience between all points of contact. Similarly, 64% will spend more if their issues are resolved where they are.
While customer expectations could not be clearer, businesses are still playing catch-up. Seventy-one percent of leaders have committed to reimagining customer service, and 60% want (or are actively planning) to implement conversational customer service experiences.
Customers are eager for deeper personalization
According to the trends, 59% of customers want companies to use the large amount of data they have to provide truly personalized experiences that transcend typical marketing efforts, whether it is online or in-store.
Unfortunately, most companies hold a narrow view of what personalization means and how to deliver it, which is at odds with 62% of customers who think businesses can do more in store and online. If companies deliver personalized experiences, they have the opportunity to reap the benefits of long-lasting customer relationships – 77% of business leaders agree that deeper personalization leads to increased customer retention.
Customer well-being and sentiment are reshaping CX
Businesses are unprepared when it comes to understanding customer emotions. Organizations have made efforts to improve customer well-being, but 63% of business leaders admit those efforts have been unfocused and reactive. Companies have not made strides in tracking emotional data in a more formal way. Only 22% of leaders and managers say that customer sentiment is used to personalize the experience a customer receives.
A negative experience with a company can cause real, lasting emotional damage and creates critics who will spread the word. In fact, 73% of customers will switch to a competitor after multiple bad experiences. More than half will head to the exit after one unsatisfactory interaction.
The road ahead for CX
CX leaders have become increasingly aware of the benefits of creating immersive experiences, and recognize that support functions are capable of driving revenue. In fact, 72% of business leaders believe merging teams and responsibilities around CX will increase operational efficiencies, and 64% already have plans in place to do so.
“As we look ahead, providing excellent customer service will become even more important to build resilience and manage uncertainty,” said McDermott. “The brands that invest in technology to provide a seamless, immersive CX will see a boost in customer acquisition and loyalty, and ultimately profitability.”