Hundreds of entrepreneurs and startup founders from around the world gathered in Vancouver last week for Traction, featuring a lineup of speakers from global tech companies sharing their thoughts on what continues to drive some of the fastest growing companies.
Zendesk’s COO, Jeff Titterton, took to the stage to talk about how today’s leaders are leaning into the relationship between customer experience (CX) and product-led strategies to see big results. In case you missed it, here are his four key takeaways.
1. Modern leaders grow their bottom line by investing in helping their customers
In a post-pandemic world, we’re experiencing low unemployment with rising inflation, while service staff are nowhere to be seen and companies are making spending cuts. This has created the perfect recipe for the “great service decline”, where customers are growing increasingly dissatisfied, while significant advances in technology have caused their expectations to soar.
“It’s a high stakes game – 61% of customers will now defect to a competitor after one bad experience, up by 22% from last year. Make it two negative experiences, and 76% are out the door, according to our annual CX Trends Report. Therefore, now is the time for a new approach centered around investing in the customer,” Titterton shared. “Companies need to define the new standard of great service and deliver an experience that is personalized and convenient while bringing long-term, sustainable value to their bottom line. Surprisingly, this is an afterthought for a lot of leaders.”
Zendesk’s CX Trends Report also found a third of companies still view customer service as a cost center rather than a revenue-generating engine for growth.
“It’s time for that perception to change. Customer service is a key differentiator between companies at the top of customers’ consideration list, and a profit-generating force in its own right,” he continued.
In reality, great customer feedback and related support insights can fuel customer-centric, data-driven decisions that can boost retention, growth and profitability. The data proves it.
2. Build and deliver a CX that centers on long-term, sustainable value
Companies that turn customer service into a growth engine by paying close attention to emerging trends and creating insights that feed right back to their business are the ones that are reaping big results.
The three key trends CX leaders need to follow are:
Digital is your new front door: You must be wherever your customers are – today, that’s on their phones.
Convenience is paramount: Self-service and workflow automation empower the customer to get what they need fast. Fast response and solution times means more satisfied customers.
Relationships are anchored in conversations: Threaded conversations keep customers engaged and moving towards a solution.
“Industries where we’ve seen some of the biggest shifts are in retail and travel – ones I’m sure we can all relate to. Think back to what life was like before 2020 and where we are now, and you’ll realize how far we’ve evolved in an incredibly short period of time,” he said. “A customer should be able to stand on any corner, anywhere in the world, and communicate on any channel with a brand in real- or near-real time. That’s their expectation. If you’re not delivering on that, you’re missing out on customers.”
Today, messaging is the main way people communicate with their family and friends – and now that is happening with businesses. In fact, messaging is the fastest growing CX channel, with social messaging ticket volumes increasing by 32% and SMS by 28%. WhatsApp ticket volumes increased by 370% year over year. And in case you’re not convinced, 93% of customers say they will spend more with companies that offer their preferred option to reach customer service.
“What’s so powerful about messaging is that it enables you to have a much richer, more engaging conversation with your customers. It’s about fundamentally changing the way agents and customers interact, and it’s increasingly where the action happens,” Titterton said.
Furthermore, thanks to big advancements in AI, CX is moving from reactive to proactive by using customer data to anticipate the problem. “Artificial intelligence and automation can be used to get customers to the right place quickly, enabling them to self-serve and solve problems,” he shared. “After all – quality customer service drives sales, and so exceeding or falling short of customer expectations is directly tied to business success.”
3. Helping the customer means solving their problems before they happen
Titterton further illustrated that many customer service efforts are a bandaid over the real problem – but healing the real problem is the ultimate deflection.
“Healing the real problem creates a much better customer experience. More importantly, it leads to satisfied customers and faster revenue growth. Yet what if there was no problem to begin with?” he said.
Here is where Titterton said customer service departments come into play. They can offer a wealth of insights and intelligence to help leaders prioritize and fix those problems. Valuable information allows companies to understand where products and services aren’t meeting their customers’ needs so they can move quickly to fix those problems.
Still, listening to and acting on support data isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it scenario. Especially with the product landscape and customer expectations continuously shifting.
“We’re in a world where customer expectations are rising continuously into the stratosphere,” Titterton said. “Customer feedback should be an ongoing part of the business strategy. This helps create an environment where change can happen, and is expected and effectively managed — especially change that leads to, or supports, greater customer-centricity.”
4. Design resilience in product and beyond – and obsess about the service layer
Titterton emphasized that it is not just the product team who needs to hear the voice of the customer. Oftentimes, it’s about how companies service people that have breakage: how you market to, sell to and communicate with customers across the organization. Customer intelligence from CX teams can help with this as well.
“Many startups often fail here – they obsess about the product but don’t invest in understanding and fixing the broader service layer that sits on top of that,” he said. “Resolving some of these service areas is often equally or even more important than fixing underlying product problems.”
Making it all work
“Good leaders think about the whole company, not just their departments. They’re nimble and ready and willing to change; and go deep into data, use all of it, use it quickly, and use it for good,” Titterton said. “They also challenge the status quo, identify and clear roadblocks and invest to fix them. They also show a little heart and bring compassion to their colleagues and collaborators. Work is fun, but it’s also hard, especially in today’s environment.”
Leaders also bring lessons in allyship and advocacy to become more human-centered – they use their own products, listen to employees for feedback and feel customer pain to truly understand their problems and work towards fixing them.
In a shifting world where customer expectations are forever changing, there is a lot to think about on the road to success. It requires agility, flexibility, and compassion in business ethos and operations. And it goes well beyond the technology and services you bring to customers.
Watch Jeff Titterton’s Traction 2022 session here.