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Business Growth & Improved Operations Linked To Customer-Centric Leadership & Mature CX In Asia Pacific, Zendesk-ESG Study Reveals

New CX Maturity Scale finds companies using service and support best practices drive dramatically better success and agility in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic

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Zendesk, Inc. recently released new research in partnership with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) that shows how companies in Asia Pacific (APAC) investing in customer experience (CX) are reaping the benefits. The study found a clear link between organisations with more mature CX capabilities and improved business success in areas such as market share, increased customer spend, and pivoting processes over the last six months. 

The new study, CX Champions: How CX Leaders who raise their game are driving business success, surveyed more than 1,000 CX managers and leaders globally to better understand their investments in CX. It shows that APAC businesses with mature CX capabilities are over 10 times more likely to grow faster customer spend than those with less mature CX, and over 4 times more likely to increase their customer base. Additionally, more than half of APAC businesses with mature CX capabilities said they were able to ensure seamless transition to remote work for customer service and support agents during the pandemic. 

For this research, ESG developed a CX Maturity Scale that segments organisations into three tiers of customer service maturity, based on seven key characteristics that cover how organisations use their support teams, technology and data to drive better performance. The three maturity categories are: Starters, which exhibit zero to three of the seven characteristics; Risers, which have four to five of the characteristics; and Champions, which have at least six of the characteristics in place. 

Key findings from the report show that companies in APAC that invest in CX yield significant benefits, including: 

  • Faster growth: Even during the pandemic, APAC Champions were found to be 10.8 times more likely than Starters to have significantly grown customer spend – the highest amongst Champions globally including North America (8.7 times), Europe (7.3 times) and Latin America (6.5 times). 
  • Increased market share: The region’s Champions were 4.4 times more likely than Starters to have grown their customer base over the past six months, compared to Champions in North America (3.9 times), Europe (3.6 times) and Latin America (2.3 times). 
  • Senior-level support: Champions also secured greater investment and support from senior leadership within their organisation. For example, senior leaders at CX Champion organisations were 4.2 times more likely to see customer service as a differentiator than Starters. 

“The pandemic has been a catalyst for organisations to transform in order to sustain and grow their business. Our new research with ESG confirms the clear link between a focus on customer experience and business success. In fact, the business impact of investing in CX is even more pronounced in APAC than in any other regions,” said Wendy Johnstone, Chief Operating Officer, APAC, Zendesk

“The accelerated shift to digital means customer expectations have never been higher, and the pressure is on for organisations to respond. The new reality is that delivering exceptional customer experience has become a business imperative for any organisations looking to future-proof their operations.” 

Adam DeMattia, Director of Custom Research at ESG, said, “Our research identified a clear connection between CX excellence and business growth. Companies that are at the Champion stage of the scale not only see better outcomes in traditional service metrics, such as resolution time and CSAT, but they’re also experiencing positive business outcomes in customer spend, retention, and board-level support of CX as a business priority.”  

Significant untapped potential for APAC companies to level up in CX maturity

The research found that companies in APAC were at varying stages of CX maturity. While most organisations are identified as Starters (48%) or Risers (30%), with significant room for improvement in their customer experience, 22% of businesses in APAC identified as Champions, offering shorter response times, positive customer experiences and greater agility to respond to customers’ needs.

Among APAC countries represented in the research, Indian organisations lead in maturity with 43% of respondents’ organisations being categorised as Champions (relative to 25% of those in Australia, 13% in Singapore, and 0% in Japan).

In Singapore, only one third (34%) of the respondents feel that they have sophisticated channel toggling capabilities and the agility to better serve customer needs. While Singapore is ahead of Australia (31%) and Japan (22%), they are still lagging behind India with over half of the respondents (58%) resonating with the same sentiment. 

Performing under pressure (and in a pandemic)

Reflecting on the first half of 2020, when companies globally had to rapidly transition to remote working, Champions were able to easily pivot to enable customer service and support agents to work from home. In fact, Champions in APAC were 14 times more successful than Starters at pivoting to remote work. Over half (56%) of Champions reported the shift to remote working as smooth, while over half of Starters (52%) say the transition could have been better, or that it has been tough. 

During the pandemic, APAC organisations reported bullish business trends, with 67% of Indian businesses reporting growing market share in the last 6 months, followed by Singapore businesses (35%), Australia (28%) and Japan (14%).

To prepare for the future and adapt to unforeseeable economic and societal disruptions, CX teams in APAC are putting the processes in place now and those leading the pack are feeling significantly more prepared for ‘what’s next’. Champions are 17.5 times more likely than Starters to be very confident in their organisation’s ability to handle future disruptions.

“Our results show that CX Champions were not only better positioned to manage the transition to remote work, but they also continued to drive positive customer experiences throughout the pandemic. Champions are four times more likely than Starters to report exceeding customer satisfaction (CSAT) targets,” added Johnstone. “While the future remains uncertain and unpredictable, it’s clear what organisations need to do to stay ahead – increase their ability to be more agile, invest in CX, and always be ready for constant change.” 

Five lessons from Customer Champions

For businesses aspiring to move to the next stage of the CX Maturity Scale, the research calls out five trends that are consistent among Champions: 

  1. Building a culture focused on CX, driven from the top down: Champions agreed more strongly that CX is a critical business priority. They also have greater involvement from senior business leaders with over a third of Champions in APAC reviewing CX Metrics with C-Suite executives on a daily basis – 7.8 times more likely than Starters. 
  2. Don’t forget your people: Service and support continue to be an area of focus among leaders, with agents at Champion organisations in APAC receiving an average of about a day of additional days of training per year than Starters. 
  3. Data-centric support delivers: Champions place a focus on KPIs and metrics to guide their support decisions. In the APAC region, 74% of Champions state their KPIs can be reported in real-time. 
  4. Automation and AI is making an impact: Responding to the increased volume of data and rising customer expectations, 43% of Champions in APAC make use of automated methods of building and updating cross-channel customer profiles. AI tools, such as automated chatbots, are also making an impact on support performance. 
  5. Investing in CX success: When asked about plans for the next 12 months, nearly three-fifths (59%) of Champions in APAC expect their organisation’s spend on CX tools and technology to increase significantly, versus just 7% of Starters. Additionally, 13% of Singapore respondent organisations expect a significant increase in CX investment at their organisations over the next 12 months. 

“As we see the trend that Champions are taking the steps to invest more in their tools, team and processes for CX success, Starters not only have the challenge of catching up to their competition in customer service, but also ensuring the gap doesn’t widen,” added DeMattia. “To make these gains, it will be critical for leaders at lagging organisations to make the most of their budgets by learning from their more mature peers and investing in the areas that can drive the greatest impact on their CX maturity.” 


To gather data for this report, ESG conducted a comprehensive survey of business decision makers responsible for ensuring and enhancing customer service and support at their organisations. Organisations represented spanned the globe, including North America (N=256), Europe (N=250), Asia (N=250), and Latin America (N=256). The 250 respondents in Asia were from Australia (N=64), India (N=69), Japan (N=57) and Singapore (N=60). Organisations represented were split between SMBs (those with <100 employees, N=500), mid market organisations (those with 100-999 employees, N=255), and enterprises (those with 1,000 or more employees, N=257). The survey was fielded between July 14, 2020 and August 8, 2020.

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