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New research reveals that 31% of customer service professionals believe that their organisations view customer service as an expense rather than an opportunity for growth, up from 23% last year.

With 86% of customers experience experts also claiming that consumer expectations are higher than ever, there is a clear disparity between expectation and the reality for the function in modern businesses.

The findings are based on HubSpot’s 2020 State of Customer Service annual report which surveyed 1,125 customer service professionals from the UK, US, Canada and Australia in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. With additional HubSpot data revealing that UK businesses saw  customer-initiated conversations rise by 27% during the pandemic, it’s clear that customer service is more important for ensuring business growth than ever before.

Cost versus opportunity

The report shows that, globally, 86% of service teams agree that customer expectations are higher than ever, with 31% also agreeing that their companies view customer service primarily as an expense, up from 23% in 2019. UK service teams responded similarly (91% and 29% respectively), making it clear that businesses need to resist the trend of customer service being a necessary evil and instead ensure that it’s seen as a key driver of growth alongside marketing and sales.

Experience disruptors win

The report also finds that high growth companies are more likely to be tuned into their customers’ thoughts, feedback, and feelings towards their business. While 39% of businesses in general are not tracking customer satisfaction at all, 69% of high growth companies are doing so. These ‘experience disruptors’ are pulling ahead of other businesses through their ability to provide seamless, effective service to their customers.

UK companies are particularly good at tracking customer satisfaction, with 72% doing so regularly, putting them above both the high growth average and American companies (59%).

Using tools & data to succeed

UK customer service experts are also among the best at using tools and data to improve the customer experience. While adoption of any single tool still remains surprisingly low, UK businesses are ahead of the average when it comes to CRM (37% vs 32%), help desk systems (52% vs 42%) and live website chat (36%).

However, with 93% of respondents agreeing that CRM is key to managing data in order to improve customer service, it’s clear that more work needs to be done to help teams get the tools they need.

Additional findings from the report show that:

·       Brits are more demanding when it comes to customer service, with 70% of UK respondents claiming that dealing with upset customers is one of their biggest challenges, compared to 42% of respondents globally and 32% in the USA

·       Adoption of customer service tools is poor – no single tool (CRM, ticket system etc.) is used by more than 42% of customer service teams

·       35% of respondents said that cost cutting is in their top three priorities for the year

·       69% of high growth companies track customer satisfaction, compared to 51% of low/no growth companies

“The evidence in this report shows that the ability of customer service to drive business growth is being undervalued,” says Inken Kuhlmann-Rhinow, Marketing Director, EMEA at HubSpot. “It’s important we focus on our customers and take care of them by investing in the correct tools to listen to their feedback. This can no longer be perceived as a burden for companies, but a real growth opportunity and perhaps the most significant way to ensure sustainable growth. Remember that customer retention is also a two-sided long game that requires persistence and strategy, so as a growing organisation, it’s important to scale both the employee and the customer.”

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