According to new research released by Zendesk in partnership with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG), companies in Asia Pacific (APAC) that have continued to invest in their customer experience (CX) over the past year are 10.3 times more likely to have maximised their resiliency during the pandemic and five times more likely to have grown their customer base in the past six months.
“Organisations across industries, sizes and lifecycles are realising that the customer service function is no longer a cost center, but a revenue driver, and our research with ESG confirms this. In fact, it also found that the connection between CX maturity and greater business growth and revenue remains most pronounced in APAC a year on,” said Wendy Johnstone, Chief Operating Officer, APAC, Zendesk. “Today’s digital-first economy has made the customer service function the hub of all customer relationships, which is why continuous innovation and investment in CX must be a business imperative for long-term success and growth.”
The 2021 State of CX Maturity Reportsurveyed more than 3,400 CX decision makers globally – of which 921 were from APAC – to understand the characteristics and benefits of customer experience leadership. ESG built a CX maturity scale to identify common patterns and behaviors that separate high-maturity CX organisations – what ESG calls the “Champions” – from three levels of less-mature ones: “Starters”, “Emerging”, and “Risers”. The report outlines what businesses need to do to move up the maturity scale.
The researchfound that the number of Champions within mid-sized and enterprise companies in Asia Pacific has increased from 6% to 8% since 2020, with India (16%) and Australia (12%) having the highest proportion of Champions. The greatest gains in the region were tied between India, Australia and Singapore, which all saw a 6-percentage point increase from 2020.
“The findings indicate that the shift to digital and remote work during the pandemic served as a trigger for companies to accelerate their adoption of new technologies, policies and processes to benefit from a higher CX Maturity,” added Adam DeMattia, Director of Custom Research at ESG. “Across Asia Pacific, Champions recognise that service excellence can be a differentiator, and are actually accelerating investment in CX projects.”
There also continues to be a clear correlation between improved CX maturity and the benefits of increased customer satisfaction (CSAT), faster response times, and effective customer service. Notably, the study also calls out the connection between CX maturity and greater business growth and revenue.
- This connection is most pronounced in Asia Pacific, with midsized and enterprise Champions from the region 4.7 times more likely than Starters to have grown their customer base over the past six months, and 10 times more likely to have increased per-customer spend significantly over the same time period.
- Champions are also changing how the customer service function is viewed across their organisation. With digital interaction being the main connection point with many customers, Champions in Asia Pacific are three times more likely than Starters to operate profitable service teams, where direct revenue exceeds the cost of customer service.
- APAC Champions are also better positioned to adapt and thrive in the face of change, taking roughly half the time to grow their team by 50% and onboard new hires (22 days versus 43 days for Starters) and add a new channel (21 days versus 45 days for Starters).
Other key imperatives for CX Maturity that the research identified include:
APAC Champions most likely to see game-changing impact with CX-led innovation as a competitive differentiator
The vast majority of respondents in Asia Pacific (90%) agree that CX innovation is required to protect their business from competitors. They also see the value of data to help focus this innovation – over half of respondents (56%) recognise they could do more to use customer data to expand sales opportunities and business growth. Among the four levels of CX maturity, Champions are taking the lead in driving continuous innovation in their CX and using customer service data.
- APAC Champions are 7.4 times more likely than Starters to be using service data extensively.
- When used, that data is delivering results – APAC Champions are 17.3 times more likely to identify the impact on sales success as “game changing”, outstripping counterparts in North America (12.7 times) and Europe (9.4 times).
- APAC Champions are also 2.8 times more likely than Starters to have accelerated major CX projects over the past year.
Investment in CX leads to better agent retention and productivity
Agent turnover, technology, flexibility and wellbeing all emerged as areas of investment and focus for teams over the course of the past 18 months. This led Champions, in particular, to move quickly to implement tools to support overwhelmed service teams.
- Investments and process changes made by APAC Champions in the early stages of the pandemic include increased utilization of public cloud services (66%); more flexible remote work policies (64%); expanded mental health/wellbeing initiatives (64%); more flexible working hours (60%); and the adoption of new collaboration tools (60%).
- Larger APAC businesses have also increased customer visibility in the past year, with 43% saying they have achieved a “single source of truth” when it comes to customer profiles compared to 25% a year ago. A closer look at APAC Champions found that they are 6 times and 9.4 times more likely to deliver excellent customer visibility and cross-channel visibility, respectively, to agents than Starters.
- As a result, APAC Champions are 4.3 times more likely to have excellent agent retention and 72% higher agent productivity than Starters. That said, staffing turnover continues to be a challenge for more than one in three APAC organisations, up from 23% in 2020.
- Between accelerating CX investments and adapting service policy changes earlier in the pandemic, Champions in APAC are 10.3 times more likely to believe they made the right investment and policy decisions during the pandemic to maximise their resiliency.
- They also expect a 25% increase in the number of remote agents, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer an issue.
Conversations, not transactions, create stronger customer relationships
Globally, Champions are three times more likely to prioritise delivering conversational customer experiences that can build deeper customer relationships. And in APAC, Champions unanimously agree that pivoting to a more conversational experience with customers is a key goal for their teams – signaling the shift away from transactional service focused purely on resolving tickets.
- Organisations in APAC have increased the number of service channels year-over-year from an average of 7 to an average of 7.8.
Many anticipate that preferences and changes will continue to shift as well: 73% of APAC organisations predict that chat and social channels will be most used by customers in the future, up from 54% who say this is the case today.