customer experience challenges

How CX leaders can tackle their three biggest challenges


By becoming more aware of these issues, leaders can begin to work on implementing long-term solutions that deliver value for both customers and for the broader organisation.

12th Apr 2023

Customer service and support leaders face a myriad of challenges, which are exacerbated by economic headwinds, tightening budgets and complex customer expectations. There are three key challenges that leaders must face head on over the coming year: 

  1. Self-service adoption rates do not match stated customer demand

  2. Complex tools and systems hindering rep experience and customer outcomes

  3. A narrow view of the value provided by the customer service function 

By becoming more aware of these issues - and their solutions - leaders can begin to work on implementing long-term solutions that deliver value for both customers and for the broader organisation.

Challenge #1: Customers say they want self-service, but don’t use it

According to Gartner research, 49% of customers say they prefer to solve problems themselves, rather than contacting customer service.  However, despite indicating a preference for self-service, 74% of B2C customers and 67% of B2B customers still end their service journey in assisted channels.

Almost half of these customers choose to move to an assisted channel because they weren’t confident in the information they found, or it didn’t meet their needs. This shows that despite significant investment, self-service tools still lack the information and functionality customers need and therefore customer service organisations will fail to see the expected cost savings and customer experience benefits they expected. 

The solution: Adopt a self-service mindset

Historically, assisted service has been prioritised over self-service. This has contributed to low self-service success rates and, in turn, low customer adoption of self-service solutions.

The key to improving self-service adoption resides in the ability for service and support leaders to reverse this trend and develop a self-service first mindset which prioritises self-service so that it becomes the dominant strategy. There are five keys to adopting a self-service first mindset:

  1. Designate self-service as a product with funding and resource allocation

  2. Invest in foundational, self-service capabilities that power the search to resolution journey

  3. Appoint a self-service product manager to own the strategy, roadmap, investment and adoption plan

  4. Build a knowledge management program that serves as the foundation for both self and assisted service

  5. Shift volume to create cost savings and reinvest a portion of those savings into capabilities that can add additional value

Challenge #2: Reps are overwhelmed by tools and systems 

Customer service representatives’ jobs are becoming more complex in response to shifting customer needs. According to Gartner research, 73% of reps agree that doing their job in today’s environment requires complex skills.

Reps are also using a growing number of tools and systems: Gartner research shows that, on average, customer service representatives need to be proficient with seven systems to do their jobs well — and only 34% of service and support leaders feel like their current rep desktop is effective.

The solution: Enable reps to deliver value through the ‘connected rep desktop’

The solution is to enable reps to handle this complexity by designing a desktop experience that connects reps with what they need to provide efficient, high-quality customer service.  Effective design of the rep desktop is essential – reps need to be able to easily see all of the key information relevant to the customer interaction. 

  • Design elements: While customer interactions are increasingly complex, understanding the customer doesn't have to be. Make information easy to consume so reps can quickly understand the nature of the customer's need – and opportunities for value-add service. 

  • Context and guidance: Design rep-facing technology to provide context around the customer, their history and status, and guidance to aid their decision making and overall performance. 

  • Dynamic guided workflows: While providing information to reps so they don’t have to search for it is beneficial, an even better approach is to provide reps with dynamic workflows that incorporate pieces of customer information and company knowledge.

In addition to improving customer outcomes, this approach will also improve efficiency. Gartner predicts customer service functions that implement the “connected rep” will improve contact centre efficiency by 30% within the next three years.

Challenge #3: Service and support leaders struggle to demonstrate the function’s value beyond cost

A recent Gartner survey shows that other functional leaders see customer service as having a significant responsibility for customer experience (CX) and as an ideal collaborator for CX activities. 

Unfortunately, despite this perception  service and support isn’t always seen as the or even a leader for the company’s CX strategy, which can result in the head of service and support being excluded from important CX initiatives.

There are four common reasons for this: 

  • Limited visibility into other functions’ key priorities.

  • Reports tailored to service and support mandates, limiting their value to other teams.

  • An overfocus on the effort service and support expends.

  • Lack of a clear link between service and support’s work and enterprise-wide business outcomes.

The solution: Demonstrate thetrue value of customer service

Service and support leaders should focus on expanding the value of customer service by harnessing the unique and powerful data collected by customer service and support to create the insight necessary to improve decision making across the organisation:

  • Collaborate with other functions to understand other stakeholders' key outcomes. 

  • Tailor reporting, focusing on items and initiatives that contribute to stakeholders' goals. 

  • Focus on the impact service has rather than effort expended.

  • Select metrics that show service’s impact on enterprisewide outcomes.

Brady Holbrook is director, advisory, and Sarah Dibble is director, research, in the Gartner Customer Service and Support practice.

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