Article

CX and COVID-19: What agile companies are doing differently

See how companies are adapting to meet their customers where they are, even as the world keeps changing.

By Shawna Wolverton, Executive Vice President, Product

Published August 25, 2020
Last updated September 15, 2020

We think it’s safe to say that no organization has made it through the peak of the pandemic easily. But COVID-19 Benchmark data tells us that some have managed to adapt to constant uncertainty and continue supporting their customers, even as the world keeps changing.

At Zendesk, we’re looking at the most agile companies—those from our Benchmark that have maintained stable ticket resolution times while also seeing request volumes increase by 10 percent or more—to help guide the path forward.

We’re learning a lot from them, and so can you. Read on to see what the leaders of the pack are doing differently that will shape the CX industry now and in the future.

  1. Prioritizing real-time conversations

    Benchmark data shows that customers have been increasingly turning to social messaging apps, live chat and phone for customer service. In particular, WhatsApp usage has surged since the crisis began. The Facebook-owned messaging app has seen a 124 percent increase in usage globally since late February, the highest of any channel for contacting customer service.

    It makes sense that customers are favoring messaging apps and live channels. Given the ongoing uncertainty, customers simply don’t have the energy to keep up with the back-and-forth of an email thread. The most adaptable companies are going where their customers are, adding new channels so they can better assist customers in real time. These organizations have seen a 29 percent increase in messaging adoption and a 13 percent increase in adoption of live channels like phone and chat.

    While ticket volumes may be stabilizing across sectors, these shifts in customer behavior could be lasting. Now is the time to follow the lead of these digital-first companies and get serious about conversational business. We can enable your team to message customers directly from a unified agent workspace. We can also help make those conversations better by unlocking customer data and facilitating multi-party messaging.

  2. Deflecting more tickets with artificial intelligence (AI)

    As many organizations face resource constraints due to the pandemic, AI chatbots are helping them to do more with less. Among the agile companies already using Zendesk’s AI-powered chatbot, Answer Bot, over half have ramped up Answer Bot resolutions by 10 percent or more. Meanwhile, more small and midsized companies (SMBs) have added the tool for the first time. Among smaller companies, usage of Zendesk’s Answer Bot has increased 70 percent since the start of the year.

    Discord, a group communication app originally developed for the gaming community, has invested heavily in Answer Bot and other AI-powered tools, and it paid off when they were able to scale rapidly in the early days of the pandemic. They saw a 70 percent increase in customer service views as their audience quickly grew to encompass students, book clubs and other groups looking to collaborate from a distance.

    For companies like Discord, Answer Bot enables them to provide customers with fast, accurate answers to the easy questions while allowing agents to focus on more complex conversations. You reduce the strain on agents while also maintaining customer satisfaction. It’s a win-win.

  3. Empowering customers to self serve

    Customers are increasingly turning to self service help centers and FAQ pages to find answers to their questions. In some categories, such as remote working and online learning, self service views are outpacing ticket growth. More than half of top performers have added to their help centers since late February, and one in six have added more agents to their help center.

    If this trend of increased reliance on self service continues, which seems likely, opening customer service tickets could become the exception. When businesses empower customers to self serve, they not only deflect ticket volume but also give customers greater control over their experience. With so much still outside our control, knowledge is power—the power to find a missing food delivery, troubleshoot a child’s online learning, or schedule an important telehealth appointment.

    It’s never been more important to share information with your customers, employees and stakeholders. To make it even easier, we've rolled out new tools like Content Blocks, so you can deploy important information quickly across multiple locations and help centers.

  4. Adapting with new workflows

    There will likely be no return to “normal,” and digital-first companies will be best prepared to adapt. Top performers from the Benchmark data are embracing change by adding new customer service workflows. They’ve added 10 percent more macros, triggers and automations compared to other companies in the Benchmark.

    But adapting your support process in the midst of a global crisis can be risky. One wrong move and you could potentially disrupt service at a time when requests are more urgent and time-sensitive. Using a sandbox environment allows you to build and test new workflows in a safe space that functions like the real thing. With Premium Sandbox, you can feel comfortable adapting your support environment to meet your rapidly changing needs.

The truth is, the trends we’re seeing among the most agile companies were already starting to emerge before the pandemic, but they are now playing out on an accelerated timeline. As a result, organizations need to adapt quickly if they want to remain competitive.

There is no going back, so it’s time to embrace change. That means looking at the data, talking to customers and following the lead of those who have been successful. It means constantly recalibrating to provide the best customer experience no matter the circumstances. It also means accepting that you’ll never be done and that maybe that’s a good thing—because it means you’ll become a more reliable, more empathetic company every time the world changes.

Take a look at our COVID-19 Benchmark Snapshot for more CX trends you should be watching.