CX leaders on adaptability and the future of customer experience

A discussion from Zendesk, Zip, Ecosystm and Slack about the importance of flexibility, culture and employee experience.

Author: Nina Hendy31st March 2021

Today’s customers have high expectations, and companies need the right combination of tech stack, culture and employee experience to compete in this new landscape.

We’ve come a long way when it comes to customer experience (CX) tools. At one time the call centre was considered a true CX innovation, despite being expensive to run. Now call centres are practically obsolete, replaced by a range of rapid-fire communication tools and channels.

During our recent webinar in partnership with the help-desk software company Zendesk, Malcolm Koh, a customer experience strategist at Zendesk; Jesse Morse, a director of customer experience at financial-technology company Zip; and Audrey William, a principal advisor at technology research and advisory firm Ecosystm, discussed flexibility, culture and employee experience in modern CX, particularly over the past year while navigating the move to remote work.

The importance of flexibility, culture and employee experience for CX teams

The companies best equipped to transition to remote work had one thing in common: Each fostered a culture of flexibility and adaptability. It sounds great in theory, but, for many, the challenge in this approach was finding the balance between giving staff the ultimate say on where they worked while still trying to manage and measure productivity.

At Zip, this year provided a much-needed opportunity to reflect, Morse says: “We saw an opportunity to engage the team to ultimately build a culture that’s owned by our team. In turn, this will drive a better customer experience. If our team’s happy, then they’re going to be able to deliver a good experience for the folks that are calling or emailing us.”

To do this, the company implemented a cloud-based tech stack: Zendesk, Slack and Amazon Connect. The Lattice app helps track employee engagement, while DigitalGenius provides message automation.

Similarly, Zendesk realised the importance of empowering workers to do their job from anywhere. It moved swiftly to roll out the same tech and tools for everyone to work from anywhere.

Leading the charge was William. “We’ve been giving people that flexibility to come into the office or work from home, which has created a much happier environment,” she says, adding that to build an open, flexible culture, companies need to trust their workers.

“The more you trust your people, the more they’ll want to be true to their job. We want to set really clear expectations so that they know exactly what they need to do to be really successful in their role.”

Audrey WilliamPrincipal Advisor, Ecosystm

Using Slack to embrace conversational CX

Modern-day customers reach companies using their mode of choice, William points out, whether that’s the phone, WhatsApp, web chat or Twitter. By opening up these options, she says, you’re sending a message that you’re flexible and that you care about customers, empowering them to reach out anytime on any platform.

For companies like Zendesk and Zip, Slack has emerged as a tool to grow customer loyalty and bring cross-functional partners, data and knowledge together, to drive humanised experiences closer to where customers live. 

The proliferation in communication tools gives companies the ability to save conversation histories in Slack channels, providing context like never before and taking CX to the next level. 

Morse says, “Having information in one place [Slack] allows you to really provide customers with the right information and really get their questions answered, which has been a really important piece of the puzzle that we’ve solved.”

Koh raises the possibility of measuring satisfaction by the transactions you have and automating an appropriate response. In fact, some brands are already doing this.

For example, he recounted a recent journey via a ridesharing service that took longer than the promised 10 minutes to arrive. It could have warranted a complaint, if he was so inclined. But before he’d left the vehicle, a voucher hit his inbox, along with an apology for the wait. It was glorious, Koh says. “There’s automation a level-up there, which comes after evolving and understanding the customer at the core of your business.”

The best tools to stay ahead in a post-pandemic world 

The right tools have helped some companies survive and thrive through the pandemic. The end goal is simple: putting yourself in the position of the customer and understanding what their expectations are. 

In Slack, agents can tap into a collective knowledge base, without having to toggle between multiple windows. And with Slack’s powerful search, finding answers becomes easier and faster, with predictive results that build naturally as teams work through complex issues together.

This speeds up time to resolution by bringing critical information that exists across systems, departments and teams into a single place and bringing the right people into the conversation in real time. Slack allows teams to connect ticketing systems with the rest of the business, so agents can instantly access the experts.

As Julie Walker, Slack’s head of marketing for APAC, explains, Slack provides the collaboration layer across all your other tools. “When your ticket comes in from Zendesk, that automatically gets plugged into all our Atlassian suite,” she says. “We might have to escalate it to an engineer, who then resolves it and feeds it back into Zendesk, which all happens automatically to all of the agents that potentially need access to that information.”

The way we’ll work

There’s no going back, that’s for sure. Conversations are being had well beyond chatbots. Conversational AI will make companies more and more intelligent.

Experts agree that future investments must either simplify systems or create better processes to empower agents to improve their experience. But the answer isn’t in the machines—embedding humanity in both customer and employee experience is crucial.

Experimentation will reign supreme, with tech iterations popping up based on what the data reveals to decision makers. And while it sounds like a brave new world, customers will always need to speak to someone knowledgeable who can help quickly.

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