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Rising Customer Expectations Makes “Exceptional” the New Service Baseline

New Zendesk study shows 66% of customers are less patient than last year, while 64% of companies say customer service has a direct impact on business performance

According to Zendesk’s CX Accelerator report (NYSE: ZEN), 'exceptional' is what businesses must strive for when it comes to meeting customer expectations. Yet organizations know they aren’t quite meeting these rising expectations, with Champions - those considered the highest standard-bearers - saying that unresolved queries are up 157% year over year.

However, there is a new breed of customer experience (CX) challengers emerging - the Risers are closing in on CX greatness, with 79% of these businesses adding more customers from competitors than they lost, showing the performance lines are blurring.

No matter where a business falls on the maturity scale, the changes needed to stay on top are consistent:

  1. Balance human and automation strategy
  2. Integrate key data from critical apps
  3. Evolve the role of CX

"In an increasingly tough economy, businesses have a challenge on their hands to stay agile and keep things running efficiently while meeting customers' demands in order to keep them coming back," said Jeff Titterton, chief operations officer at Zendesk. "Our latest research shows it's clear that success is dependent on engaging your customers in relationship-driven conversations, and investing in technology that enables your team to deliver nothing less than exceptional service, and make sure it’s all integrated across your business."

Agents + AI = a winning combination

Customers are clear they want more control over how they engage with businesses, and organizations have a huge opportunity to invest in AI-driven solutions to empower their customers with quick resolutions. In fact, 90% of businesses Zendesk surveyed reported using bots to route customers to the right place, which frees up agents to focus on more complex, high-value tasks.

According to the report:

  • More companies are utilizing bot and human hand-offs - this jumped from 52% to 64% year-over-year
  • 57% of companies cite agent productivity as the biggest gain from using bots
  • Champions lead with mixed chatbot-human interactions at 75%, Emergers and Risers both at 67%, and Starters at 52%

Where businesses need to focus is in how they balance between automation and the human element of the customer experience. This requires a deeper understanding of customer behaviors to place automation where it is most effective and provide agent support where it can have the greatest impact.

Mind the (data) gap

The data deluge is overwhelming business leaders, and they are still lacking meaningful insights into how to drive better, more personalized experiences for customers. Half of the companies surveyed use between six and 15 apps to get a full view of the customer journey, with slightly more than a third (37%) saying they are “very strong” in delivering personalized experiences.

While many understand the need for integration, breaking down the silos continues to pose a challenge, even for Champions who are 3.5 times more likely than Starters to use upwards of 16 apps, and six times more likely to report data fragmentation as a serious obstacle to delivering more seamless customer support. Emergers also face challenges in turning data into meaningful change with only 27% doing this effectively, highlighting the missed opportunities for bolstering customer engagement.

Providing agents with the right information at the right time can help support teams better anticipate customer needs. Customer feedback can also help other teams act quickly to improve product or service offerings. In fact, better collaboration between sales and support teams can optimize customer engagement across all touchpoints, reduce churn, and build stronger relationships.

Evolving CX’s role

According to the report, rethinking the role of support teams requires investing in training and tools to ensure agents have what they need to uncover leads and close deals. In turn, businesses will reap the benefits, and the data proves it: Champions are 6x more likely to uncover a new sales opportunity in more than 25% of their customer interactions; and are 62% more likely to find sales opportunities during customer interactions compared to Starters. However, as customer expectations rise so does the pressure to continue to differentiate a product or service.

“The biggest changes businesses face to keep up with - let alone get ahead of - customers’ expectations are both operational and cultural,” said Titterton. “The role of CX cannot be understated, and business leaders still need to only prioritize their investments but make them work well for their teams. We understand how daunting this can be, but the data underscores just how significant the opportunity is when you get it right.”

As consumers keep raising the expectation bar, the way forward is to ensure that businesses have the right knowledge, skills and technology to meet them. For more, download Zendesk’s CX Accelerator report.


In the second quarter of 2022, Zendesk surveyed more than 4,900 business decision makers who were focused on ensuring and/or enhancing customer service, support, and experience capabilities. The report examines their best practices and identifies stages of customer experience (CX) maturity from Starters at the earliest stage, progressing to Emergers, Risers, and CX Champions sitting at the highest level of expertise. Business decision makers represented organizations spanning all market segments, from small businesses to large enterprises, and multiple industry verticals like retail, financial services, manufacturing healthcare, education, and technology companies, among others. Countries surveyed include: Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Netherlands, Singapore, South Korea, United Kingdom, United States.

About Zendesk

Zendesk started the customer experience revolution in 2007 by enabling any business around the world to take their customer service online. Today, Zendesk is the champion of great service everywhere for everyone, and powers billions of conversations, connecting more than 100,000 brands with hundreds of millions of customers over telephony, chat, email, messaging, social channels, communities, review sites and help centers. Zendesk products are built with love to be loved. The company was conceived in Copenhagen, Denmark, built and grown in California, taken public in New York City, and today employs more than 6,000 people across the world. Learn more at


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