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New Research: Customer Service Trends Include Automation and C-Suite Representation

Our 5th edition of the State of Service Report surveyed 8,000 customer service professionals all over the world. Here’s what we found in Australia and New Zealand, including how service organisations are managing the need to do more with less.

Previous years saw service organisations rushing to support customers during the pandemic and retain employees during an abrupt transition to a work-from-anywhere world. Many of these shifts and challenges remain, but new research shows that organisations are also adapting to growing economic uncertainty. 

The latest edition of our State of Service Report surveyed thousands of service professionals, including those in Australia and New Zealand. We found that recent trends are turbo-charging shifts toward automation-enabled efficiencies and workforce management, helping free service agents manage larger caseloads and provide greater attention to more complex customer cases. 

But the Great Resignation and other technological trends are also influencing what customer support looks like today — and how leaders are forming service strategies accordingly.

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Ongoing uncertainty and complexity drive service automation

Rising customer expectations have been pushing service organisations to find more efficient ways to manage caseloads and build better customer relationships. This plays out in the survey responses — globally, 78% of surveyed service agents say that it’s difficult to balance speed and quality, an increase from the 63% who agreed in 2020. 

But this is layered on top of economic uncertainty, meaning that many service teams are needing to do more with less. These compounding factors are prompting an acceleration in the use of automation and AI, though Australia slightly trails in the portion of service organisations who have adopted workflow automation (52% compared to 58% globally). 

That adoption is paying off for some organisations. Service agents in organisations that have adopted automated processes report major to moderate benefits in connection with other departments, error reduction, and greater time to take on new projects. 

Service channels are increasingly digital

While this trend pre-dates the pandemic and more recent uncertainty, the research reveals that this is a long-term trajectory rather than a once-off product of circumstance. A mix of customer expectations and business needs appear to be driving service toward digital channels like online chat, social media and customer portals. 

Globally, the largest jump was in video support — 43% more organisations say they’re offering it in 2022 versus in 2020. And Australia and New Zealand organisations outstrip their global counterparts in this area, with 75% of those surveyed using video support compared to 66% worldwide. 

Digital channels may be helping organisations to support customers when and where they want, but curlier cases still require a human touch. Over 80% of service professionals say the phone remains the preferred channel for complex issues. But automation is helping to boost efficiency here, too. A majority of organisations in Australia and New Zealand (76%) say they’re using automation to digitally transcribe phone conversations.

Hybrid work persists — and field service gains steam

In Australia and New Zealand, only 22% of survey respondents report working from an office. One-third say they have hybrid arrangements (a mix of home and office or store), reflecting that the work from anywhere shift isn’t fading. The contact centre is less and less a mainstay of service organisations.

However, this might also be partially due to the continued rise of on-site service delivered in homes and businesses. This used to be the domain of those in industries like utilities or telecommunications, but it’s gaining popularity as more service agents are meeting customers where they’re at — literally. This includes delivery service in retail, but it’s also seeing a surge among products related to internet of things (IoT) technology like medical devices or geotracking devices in transport. 

Service leaders’ survey responses in Australia and New Zealand make it clear that this isn’t an accident. Over 80% say that field service workers are important for upselling, that they see major returns from field service investments, and that it’s critical to scaling their business. 

Still, ‘success from anywhere’ comes with its own hurdles for workforce management  — 84% of those surveyed say that adequately equipping mobile workers is a challenge.

The Great Resignation has impacted service retention strategies

With back-to-back challenges like climate events, the pandemic and economic headwinds, service agents are often grappling with greater volumes of more complex customer problems. 

But organisations have clearly tried to pre-empt losses from the Great Resignation. In Australia and New Zealand, since the start of the pandemic, 46% of survey respondents say they’ve been offered more leave and time off as a perk, while 43% say they’ve been offered wellness benefits.

Perhaps most critically, more service professionals are seeing paths forward in their career. The global percentage of service agents who report a clear path for career growth has risen to 85%, compared to 67% in 2020. That number is a bit higher in Australia and New Zealand, with 87% saying they agree that there are clear career paths. 

Employee retention strategies may be colliding with customer demand and a growing focus on customer experience — that means more customer service roles showing up in the C-suite. In Australia and New Zealand, 41% of service organisations have C-level representation, while 26% say their top service employee is in a Vice President role or equivalent. 

This might be primed to grow. A whopping 96% of those without C-level representation say that having a leader in the C-suite would benefit their organisation.

It provides a clear career path, sure — but it’s also a signal that organisations are increasingly building strategies and structures around the importance of customer experiences.

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Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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