What we can learn from the last year to prepare for the next wave of innovation in our customer experience journey.

In the past year, businesses in Singapore have been working hard to adapt to the changes brought upon by the global pandemic.

As we forge deeper ahead into 2021 and beyond, businesses can expect more customers demanding for more innovative products and enhanced customer experience.

As we reflect on the lessons learnt and prepare for the next wave of innovation, it is useful to find that, according to the global Zendesk CX Trends Report 2021, customer experience is increasingly crucial to business success, and the most successful companies are adopting new technology at record speed.

In fact, the report found that half (53%) of organizations in APAC are planning to invest more in CX software in 2021. This is crucial for businesses to set themselves apart from their competitors and be ahead of the curve in the digital economy.

Wendy Johnstone, Chief Operating Officer, Zendesk APAC

For more insights, DigiconAsia interviewed Wendy Johnstone, Chief Operating Officer for Zendesk APAC.

What are some key customer experience (CX) trends and transformed customer behaviors you’ve observed in the Asia Pacific region?

Johnstone: We’re all aware that the past 12 months have dramatically changed the way we live, collaborate and connect – and, in terms of CX, the global pandemic has meant customers have had to reexamine their priorities and values.

Because of this, they’re more focused on and aware of what they expect from the companies they interact and do business with. In fact, according to our global Zendesk CX Trends Report 2021, 2 out of 5 customers in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region say this experience is more important to them now than a year ago.

In line with this heightened need for great customer experience, we’ve also seen customers adopt new behaviors, including a significant shift towards a more conversational world, driven by messaging. Across APAC, more than two-thirds of customers have tried a new way to get in touch with customer service teams in the past year, and support requests over messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have spiked during the pandemic, with social messaging up 117% since February 2020.

What’s clear from these insights is that convenient, conversational, and personal messaging promotes an ongoing dialog between customers and brands, and this dialog allows issues to be resolved in a more efficient manner via a channel that the customer is already familiar with.

Happy employees make for happy customers. How important is it for organizations to empower employees with the right digital tools and the right digital experience to deliver better CX?

Johnstone: Organizations and their leaders need to realize the power and knock-on effect of the employee experience. When employees are well taken care of, they feel empowered to deliver the best experience for their customers.

Harnessing this comes down in part to organizations providing the right digital tools to allow their employees to succeed in this new and often distributed environment. However, we know that only half (51%) of agents in APAC have the right tools to work successfully from home, which means there is a lot more work to be done to ensure employees are well-supported in their day-to-day responsibilities.

One great example of easing the workload of support teams is the implementation of chatbots powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI). It serves as an extension of the support agents in handling simpler customer requests while allowing them to take on higher value tasks in dealing with more complex queries. This approach creates flexibility within the team, therefore boosting overall productivity and efficiency.

In an increasingly distributed (read: work-from-home and social distancing requirements) work and business environment, how can employees collaborate more effectively and how can supply chains be better managed?

Johnstone: Workplaces have undergone rapid change as we all found ourselves as part of the largest global work-from-home experiment in 2020. This has impacted everything about how we work – from the tools we need to stay productive, to how we collaborate across remote teams.

Most support teams shifted to remote working almost overnight, and many had to pick up new tools and processes to get the job done. Today, organizations are heading back to the drawing board to figure out how they can enable better and smarter collaboration across different teams. The key to this is the adoption of the right technology solutions.

Fortunately, APAC organizations are well aware of this, with 76% looking to invest in new ways to engage employees. In addition, global investment in internal helpdesks is forecast to double post-COVID.

Meanwhile, 61% of APAC organizations claim they now have access to developer resources, which means that teams can customize their support solutions to work smarter and enhance employee productivity.

Technology is thus a great enabler in driving better management and collaboration internally and across the supply chain.

How is Zendesk supporting businesses in their CX journey, with the rise of new channels including social media, messaging apps, self-serve tools and more to engage with customers and enhance CX experience?

Johnstone: Messaging is increasingly the preferred channel for customers to engage with businesses for CX support. This is mainly because it is convenient, fast and feels more personalized than other channels. People want to connect with businesses instantaneously, the same way they would with their friends or family, while businesses are seeking the ability to have continuous, easy and personalized conversations with customers across a multitude of channels – web, mobile and social channels.

To address this, Zendesk has recently introduced its comprehensive and streamlined messaging solution as part of the new Zendesk Suite.

This helps businesses meet their customers’ unique needs by making it easy to provide customers with the support they want, sets teams up for success with a unified agent workspace, and helps keep businesses in sync with an open and flexible platform. This is part of Zendesk’s vision to democratize the way businesses offer CX with rich conversational experiences.