Immersive experiences are fast becoming a key differentiator for brands to stay competitive and help ensure customers remain loyalty, according to the latest Customer Experience (CX) Trends report from Zendesk. The report revealed seven in 10 (70%) of Australian customers feel it’s important that interactions feel more natural and conversational.

This year’s key findings highlight that Artificial Intelligence (AI), conversational experiences, personalisation, customer wellbeing and sentiment, and integrated teams are the critical components that businesses need to deliver immersive experiences, which will shape the future of CX.

With the economic downturn and cost-of-living top of mind for Australians, 80% of leaders and managers agree that providing excellent customer service becomes even more important. In fact, 82% of leaders and managers agree that strengthening business resilience through customer service becomes a top priority during an economic downturn.

With 80% of Australian leaders and managers feeling increased pressure from customers to deliver a great customer experience during economic downturns, 75% agree that their overall CX budget would increase during such periods.

Increased investment in AI has not gone unnoticed, but customers are still not satisfied with their interactions with AI compared to humans. 44% of Australian customers say they are repeatedly dissatisfied with their interactions with bots, with 66% saying they would much prefer interacting with a human and only 30% agree that interactions with bots have become more natural and human-like.

Even so, 71% of Australian leaders and managers expect AI/bots to replace some human agents over the next few years, with 70% believing they will drive large cost savings. However, 58% of Australian customers wish that bots were able to provide the same level of service as human agents.

Customers are driving the rise of conversational experiences with almost two thirds (64%) of Australian customers spending more with brands that provide a seamless experience between all points of contact. Similarly, 64% expect that anyone they are interacting with at a company should easily have access to past purchases, context from interactions, and other information provided. However, less than seven in 10 (68%) of Australian leaders have committed to reimagining customer service, and 73% want – or are actively planning – to implement conversational customer service experiences.

According to the trends, 46% of customers in Australia want companies to use the large amount of data to provide truly personalised experiences whether online or in-store. Despite this, most companies hold a narrow view of what personalisation means and how to deliver it, which is at odds with over 50% of Australian customers who think businesses can do more.

If companies deliver personalised experiences, they have the opportunity to reap the benefits of long-lasting customer relationships with 80% of business leaders agreeing that deeper personalisation leads to increased customer retention.