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Zendesk study finds customer experience maturity leads to business resilience, revenue growth and agent retention

by wrich

SAN FRANCISCO – October 2021 – Companies that have continued to invest in their customer experience (CX) over the past year are 16 times more likely to have maximised their resiliency during the pandemic and three times more likely to have grown their customer base year over year, according to new research released today by Zendesk, Inc  (NYSE: ZEN) in partnership with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG). 

“This research confirms what our customers across industries, sizes and life cycles all tell us: that customer experience requires continuous investment and innovation to truly set their business apart,” said Jeff Titterton, Chief Operating Officer, Zendesk. “The way the customer service function is viewed is changing – it’s the hub of your customer relationships in this digital-first economy. Having the tools for proactive service, information sharing, and cross-selling are now just as important as issue resolution. These are the skills that will shift your call centre from being a cost centre to a revenue driver.” 

The 2021 State of CX Maturity Report surveyed more than 3,000 CX decision makers globally – including 229 in the UK – to understand the characteristics and benefits of customer experience leadership. ESG built a CX maturity scale to identify common patterns and behaviors that separate high-maturity CX organisations – what ESG calls the “Champions” – from three levels of less-mature ones: “Starters”, “Emerging”, and “Risers”. The report outlines what businesses need to do to move up the maturity scale.

The research found that the number of Champions within midsized and enterprise companies has increased from 5% to 8% since 2020. The UK had one of the highest proportions of Champions, at 8%, second only to Spain leading the way with 13%. The greatest gains in the region were seen in France – shifting from 0% in 2020 to 5% in 2021. 

“The findings indicate that the shift to digital and remote work during the pandemic served as a trigger for companies to accelerate their adoption of new technologies, policies and processes to benefit from a higher CX Maturity,” added Adam DeMattia, Director of Custom Research at ESG. “Across UK & Europe, Champions recognise that service excellence can be a differentiator, and are actually accelerating investment in CX projects.” 

There also continues to be a clear correlation between improved CX maturity and the benefits of increased customer satisfaction (CSAT), faster response times, and effective customer service. Notably, the study also calls out the connection between CX maturity and greater business growth and revenue. 

  • Related to their peers, midsized and enterprise Champions in Europe were 2.9 times more likely to have grown their customer base over the past six months, and 5.5 times more likely to have increased per-customer spend over the same time period. 
  • Champions are also changing how the customer service function is viewed across their organisation. With digital interaction being the main connection point with many customers, Champions in Europe are 2.7 times more likely than Starters to operate profitable service teams, where direct revenue exceeds the cost of customer service. 

Other key imperatives for CX Maturity that the research identified include: 

CX-led innovation is a competitive differentiator 

The vast majority of respondents in UK (91%) agree that CX innovation is required to protect their business from competitors. They also see the value of data to help focus this innovation – over half of respondents (61%) recognise they could do more to use customer data to expand sales opportunities and business growth. Among the four levels of CX maturity, Champions are taking the lead in driving continuous innovation in their CX and using customer service data. 

  • Champions are 8.5 times more likely to be using service data extensively. 
  • When used, that data is delivering results – Champions are 9.4 times more likely to identify the impact on sales success as “game changing”. 
  • Champions in Europe are also two times more likely than Starters to have accelerated major CX projects over the past year, with half of all midsized and enterprise-sized companies in the UK accelerating their CX initiatives in the last 12 months. 

Conversations, not transactions, create stronger customer relationships

Nearly all Champions in Europe (94%) agree that pivoting to a more conversational experience with customers is a key goal for their teams – signalling the shift away from transactional service focused purely on resolving tickets. 

  • Champions are three times more likely to prioritise delivering conversational customer experiences that can build deeper customer relationships. 
  • Organisations in Europe have increased the number of service channels year-over-year from an average of 6.4 to an average of 7.6. 
  • Many anticipate that preferences and changes will continue to shift as well: 75% of UK organisations predict that chat and social channels will be most used by customers in the future, up from 52% who say this is the case today. 

Investment in CX leads to better agent retention

Agent turnover, training, flexibility and wellbeing all emerged as areas of investment and focus for teams over the course of the past 18 months. This led Champions, in particular, to move quickly to implement tools to support overwhelmed service teams.

  • More than a quarter of UK organisations (33%) say staffing turnover continues to be a challenge, up from 8% in 2020. 
  • Organisations in the UK expect a 23% increase in the number of remote agents, even after the COVID-19 pandemic is no longer an issue. 
  • Investments and process changes made by UK Champions in the early stages of the pandemic include increased mobile device use by agents (44%); increased utilisation of public cloud services (36%); more flexible work policies (46%); adoption of new collaboration tools (40%); and expanded mental health/wellbeing initiatives (32%). 
  • Between accelerating CX investments and adapting service policy changes earlier in the pandemic, Champions in Europe are 16 times more likely to believe they made the right investment and policy decisions during the pandemic to maximise their resiliency. 
  • Champions across the region are nearly 9.8 times more likely to have excellent agent retention. 

Additional Resources

  • For more information, download the report, The State of CX Maturity, here 
  • Read the blog content series on how businesses can achieve CX maturity here


In the second quarter of 2021, ESG conducted a double-blind survey of 3,250 line-of-business decision makers who were responsible for ensuring and enhancing the customer service at their organisation. Organizations represented spanned all market segments, from small businesses to large enterprises, and multiple industry verticals like retail, consumer and corporate services, financial services, healthcare, education, and technology companies, among others.                                                                                                                                             

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 5,000 people across the world. Learn more at www.zendesk.com

About ESG                                                                  

Enterprise Strategy Group is an integrated technology analysis, research, and strategy firm providing market intelligence, actionable insight, and go-to-market content services to the global technology community. Learn more at www.esg-global.com

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