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Customer expectations are at an all-time high, and loyalty is fleeting. According to a new report, half of customers will switch to a competitor after just one bad experience, and 80% will leave after multiple bad experiences. The research also reveals that service is a primary driver of customer loyalty, second only to price in determining whether customers feel loyal to a brand.

The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020, analyses how businesses can drive customer loyalty, what matters most to people when they engage with businesses, and what differentiates leading companies from their competitors.

The annual report is based on global survey results and the Zendesk Benchmark, an index of product usage data from more than 45,000 global companies using Zendesk and the gold standard of data on how companies use their customer experience solutions

The weight that customers place on service continues to increase. Gartner’s recent report, Delivering Relevant Content and Knowledge to Customers Is Key to Great Customer Service (Gartner subscription required) predicts that, “By 2023, organisations at advanced stages of digital transformation will find that poor customer experience is their biggest barrier to further success.”

“We are in an entirely new era of customer expectations to such an extent that service can make or break a company,” said Elisabeth Zornes, chief customer officer at Zendesk. “To build a loyal customer base and truly differentiate themselves, companies of all sizes across industries and geographies must provide an easy and frictionless customer experience, earning and re-earning a customer’s business with every interaction.”

While customer expectations continue to rise, the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 shows that companies aren’t living up to these expectations. For example, according to the report many of the channels people want for fast, efficient resolution aren’t being offered – only a third of companies offer self-service options like knowledge base help centres, and less than a third offer chat, social messaging, in-app messaging, bots or communities.

At the same time, businesses are facing competition from companies that are providing purpose-driven solutions that are in service of the customer, raising the stakes for everyone. Well-established and iconic brands like Disney, Levi Strauss & Co., and the Four Seasons remain one step ahead because they invest in new technologies in continued pursuit of an easy and excellent customer experience.

This presents a challenging landscape, and for companies that are struggling to navigate, the report identifies what businesses of all sizes, in every industry, can do to provide excellent customer service and create loyal customers, starting with the initial sales process. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020, the most successful companies do the following:

Maintain one seamless conversation

Customers today expect uninterrupted conversations that don’t start or stop in the middle of their interaction or get lost in a different communication channel. They want companies to reach them where they are on the channels they’re already using to communicate with friends and family. Companies that do this actually provide better service, with high performing teams more than twice as likely to be taking an omnichannel approach that combines support, self-service, and live channels like chat or phone. Customer experiences must be rooted in a single thread of communication across channels to ensure the fast, efficient responses that customers demand.

The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 also found that sales and support teams should partner to connect early customer interactions with later ones. Customer service leaders say their teams collaborate more with sales than with any other internal organisation. As sales leaders expect both revenue growth and team growth, companies need to put data to work across teams, using shared tools to engage with customers from the initial sale throughout their experience with a product or service.

Harness customer data

When it comes to data, customers are less concerned about privacy than they were a year ago. In 2019, Zendesk research showed 28% of those 55 and above in the U.S. and 32% in the UK wanted to share as little data as possible.  This year that number has dropped to 12% in the U.S. and 10% in the UK – a marked decrease in just one year. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 findings show that customers prefer companies to keep track of their data if it leads to better experiences, with more than 75% of customers wanting the personalisation that comes with better insights. Being able to manage and interpret data is crucial for understanding customers and proactively identifying opportunities to better serve them.

High-performing customer service teams are successfully connecting the dots with an open and modern CRM platform -linking data sources to provide personalised service based on customers’ preferences and ensure that customers don’t have to repeat their information. Zendesk findings show companies that leverage the most data see 36% faster resolutions, and a 79% reduction in wait time, while solving four times the customer requests.

Embrace Artificial Intelligence 

Gartner predicts that, “By 2025, customer service organisations that embed AI in their multichannel customer engagement platform will elevate operational efficiency by 25%.”

AI is the future of customer service, and there is still a huge opportunity for companies to start taking advantage of the technology. Zendesk’s report shows that only 37% of customer experience teams are using AI, according to customer experience managers while 43% of UK consumers say that it is helpful for simple issues. High-performing customer experience teams are twice as likely to embrace AI, incorporating the technology across more channels and interactions with customers.

Give customer experience a seat in the C-suite

More companies are realising the value of prioritising the customer experience and forward-thinking companies are bringing in leaders who can understand and champion the customer. In fact, a recent Forrester report found that the number of customer experience executives grew more than a thousand percent over five years in both B2B and B2C companies. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 shows that newer, forward-thinking companies that were started in the past five years are 64% more likely to have a Chief Customer Officer (CCO) that owns the customer experience.

According to Zendesk findings, customer service leaders expect both their customer requests and teams to grow, by 42% and 36% respectively. As companies continue to invest and make the customer experience more of a central focus, it’s critical that they make customer service teams a central part of their company culture and strategy. With the right tools and systems, companies have the resources to set up agents for success and leverage data to make smarter decisions.

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