The annual Zendesk Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report highlighted the potential for businesses to drive business success with a focus on customer experiences. However, it also uncovered a gap between consumer expectations and company actions when it comes to customer service.
The 2022 report reveals that 68% of Asia Pacific (APAC) consumers feel as though customer service is an afterthought for businesses - despite 80% reporting that the quality of customer service they receive impacts their purchase decisions.
The need to close the gap between these expectations and CX delivered has never been more urgent – especially as more customers are vocal about their increased expectations. In APAC, 71% of surveyed participants say they would switch to a competitor after one bad customer service experience. The opportunity cost for many is nothing short of revenue loss and missed opportunities for growth.
“Businesses cannot afford to take a transactional approach to their relationships with their customers. Customer service is now a key differentiator, but this year’s report reveals some gaps exist between expectation and delivery,” said Adrian McDermott, chief technology officer, Zendesk.
He added that 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.
Zendesk’s chief operating officer, Wendy Johnstone, noted that the increasing demand for quality customer experience is evident here in APAC.
“Businesses that leverage the right strategies to deliver exceptional customer experience will be able to set themselves apart from competitors and grow their customer relationships,” she continued.
Good customer service drives growth
Among APAC businesses surveyed, 69% agree there is a direct link between customer service and business performance. About 60% estimate that customer service has a positive impact on business growth.
At the country level, however, just 67% of Singapore businesses agree with this direct link, lagging other markets such as India (88%) and Australia (77%).
Beyond delivering a single solution-based interaction with the consumer, businesses need to take the opportunity to drive customer engagement and deepen the relationship. Customer engagement in APAC is up by only 4% from the previous year, signifying more work needs to be done to better serve customers. Singapore experienced the slowest growth in customer engagement, up by only 1%.
Customer expectations stifle growth plans
As consumers spend more online, a majority say their customer service expectations have increased in the past year – potentially stifling growth plans. Channels play a big part in meeting these increased expectations and particularly, being where the customer is.
However, more than half of the APAC (51%) companies surveyed did not have a strategic plan for customer service over the immediate to medium term.
- 71% of APAC consumers say their customer service expectations have increased over the past year.
- 94% of APAC consumers say they are willing to spend more with companies that personalise the customer service experience. This is even higher for Singapore consumers (96%).
- 93% of APAC consumers say they are willing to spend more with companies that offer them the chance to find the answers they need themselves.
- Companies are evenly divided between those who still view CX as a cost centre (33%) and those who believe it is a revenue-generating engine for growth (34%).
The Agent X-factor
Zendesk’s research found that 68% agree that customer service agents are essential to driving sales with 73% of APAC consumers saying they are open to product recommendations from service agents.
When it comes to resolving issues, almost half the consumers surveyed (44%) are looking for agents who are helpful and empathetic - and this often translates into a positive experience.
Many businesses have yet to recalibrate their view of customer service as a cost centre, meaning investments in optimising the function have not kept pace with growth – let alone with increasing customer expectations.
The majority of businesses acknowledge customer service agents as being pivotal to customer retention, only 16% of APAC agents are extremely satisfied with their workloads.
Agent empowerment is a clear focus area for 2022, as agent burnout continues to be a challenge. While just 20% of APAC agents are extremely satisfied with the quality of training they receive, 75% of APAC customers feel that businesses need to improve agent training.
This also includes better performance metrics, clear advancement opportunities and, fundamentally, more respect.
Mapping paths to growth
While 68% of APAC business leaders say their organisation views customer service as a critical business priority, close to half (47%) report that it’s still not owned by the C-suite.
The insights clearly indicate a business case for investments in customer experience. However, this isn’t necessarily being followed through with executive sponsorship or the right tools or programs, such as training for agents.
Alongside this is the need for customer service metrics to be mission-critical and reviewed with the appropriate frequency and gravitas. Sixty per cent of business leaders say the ROI of their organisation’s spend on customer service over the past 12 months has been positive.
Only 23% strongly agree that customer service spending has kept pace with company growth.
McDermott opined a clear business case for customer service needs buy-in from the top as a critical first step.
He added that getting this engagement relies on evolving the key metrics - look beyond CSAT and identify the broader business impact that can tell a compelling story.
“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,” he concluded.