Investing in advanced technology, policies and people to boost customer experience (CX) is strategic to driving a thriving business in Asia Pacific.

Strategic CX investment is driving greater business efficiency, resilience and growth in companies in the Asia Pacific region, yet few enterprises are leveraging the highest levels of CX maturity to reap its benefits.

Released in November 2021, this is one of the key insights from Zendesk’s 2021 State of Customer Experience (CX) Maturity Report on how businesses in the region are investing in CX.

Against this backdrop, Wendy Johnstone, COO, APAC, Zendesk, shared with DigiconAsia her insights into how CX champions in APAC differentiate themselves from their competitors, and how businesses can build a strategic CX investment plan to drive business outcomes.

Wendy Johnstone, COO, APAC, Zendesk

How critical is customer experience (CX) in business strategy for Asia Pacific organizations today, and why?

Wendy Johnstone (WJ): With the rise of the digital-first economy, customer experience (CX) is gaining importance as part of the business strategy for organizations in Asia Pacific (APAC). Customers have more options than ever before, and delivering the best experiences is crucial to gaining and retaining their loyalty. CX is also being recognized as a point of differentiation and revenue driver.

Our 2021 State of CX Maturity Report revealed 90% of businesses in APAC agree that CX innovation is required to protect their business from competitors. With every business focused on maturing their CX capabilities, organizations must look to transform their customer service teams in this highly competitive environment, ensuring that they are moving fast enough to keep pace with growing customer expectations.

What are the top CX technology investments among APAC organizations?

WJ: APAC Champions – what we call the organizations with the most mature CX – invest not only in technology, but also in policy and culture, to empower agents and drive superior CX. Technology-wise, two-thirds of APAC Champions invested in the utilization of public cloud services and 60% adopted new collaboration tools in the early stages of the pandemic. We also are seeing an increased focus on using data to drive CX innovation, with APAC Champions being 7.4 times more likely than their least mature counterparts to be using service data extensively. Other investments and process changes by APAC Champions include more flexible remote work policies (64%), expanded mental health/wellbeing initiatives (64%), and more flexible working hours (60%).

Across all organizations, we are seeing a greater priority placed on delivering conversational customer experiences, with investments into the support infrastructure to make this possible. In APAC, 73% of organizations predict that chat and social channels will be most used by customers three years from now, up from 54% that say this is the case today.

How mature are APAC enterprises when it comes to leveraging CX innovations for better customer retention and business outcomes?

WJ: While less than a quarter of companies in APAC are at the top of their CX game, those who are the most mature are yielding significant benefits, even in comparison to other regions.

The 22% of businesses in APAC that are identified as Champions offer shorter response times, positive experiences and greater agility to respond to customers’ needs. These organizations enjoyed faster growth and increased market share even during the pandemic, with APAC Champions 10.8 times more likely than their least mature counterparts to have significantly grown customer spend.

This is the highest among Champions globally, including North America (8.7 times), Europe (7.3 times) and Latin America (6.5 times).

They were also 4.4 times more likely to have grown their customer base over the past six months, the highest rate across all regions.

Please share some examples of how advanced technologies such as AI is transforming the CX landscape in the region.

WJ: A great case example would be rewards and discovery platform ShopBack, which has fewer than 60 agents, but seamlessly manages more than 170,000 tickets per month – and AI and Automation play a huge role in making this possible. With Zendesk’s knowledge management capabilities, Shopback’s help center offers a popular self-service channel to customers, and sees more than 800,000 views on average every month. Paired with their chatbot, these integrations swiftly solve 70% of Shopback’s customer queries, allowing agents to focus on dealing with more complex queries.

In general, implementing tools to support overwhelmed service teams is a decision made by APAC Champions to ensure consistent and reliable outcomes. APAC Champions have a 72% higher agent productivity than their least mature counterparts, and still expect a 25% increase in the number of remote agents, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer an issue. This shows us that these Champions understand the world will never revert to how it was, and are instead focusing on building powerful teams to look ahead and drive the transformation in the CX landscape.

“Happy employees make for happy customers.” In this context, how should brands build stronger and more authentic customer relationships through technology?

WJ: Employee and customer experiences are tightly linked, and technology plays an important role in enabling both. With the right tools, employees can better meet customer expectations, track performance indicators, and stay connected with their teams. Internally, this can look like leveraging an internal help desk to find relevant resources at any time. Externally, it’s about having a unified platform that allows agents to engage customers across various channels, such as messaging, chat, email and phone.

Our APAC Champions best exemplify this, as they are 9.4 times more likely to deliver excellent cross-channel visibility than their least mature counterparts, and also 4.3 times more likely to see excellent agent retention. With the customer service function sitting at the heart of all customer relationships, CX solutions like Zendesk are essential to building strong customer relationships and maintaining long-term business success.