February 01, 2024

2023 Hero Experience Report

Empowering the modern customer service team


Resource cover photo

The Current Landscape

In today’s fast-paced world, customer service teams are finding it more and more difficult to keep up with the unrelenting demand for instant results.

Gladly — the only customer service platform built around people, not tickets — teamed up with Stitch Marketing Research to survey 1,500 US consumers. The result was our Customer Expectations Report. The findings were eye-opening. One of the most urgent takeaways to come from that 2022 report is that 42% of customers said they would stop buying from a brand altogether after just two bad service experiences.

Talk about high stakes.

As if that isn’t enough, pressing changes in the customer service industry are affecting the way many businesses behave and invest in customer experience (CX).

  • Digital upheaval: Faster online shopping and automation have made the average customer feel like light-speed answers should be the standard, putting enormous stress on already overworked agents.
  • Accelerating competition: Ecommerce brands continue to pop up every day — meanwhile, massive retailers continue to push out small to midsize businesses for similar products they can afford to sell at cheaper rates.
  • Rising expectations of workers: In trying to cope with all these changes, C-suite and executive leaders are implementing many complex solutions and technology at once — often without filling common employee skills gaps properly.

The Big Idea

Customer service is a ground-up operation.

If the roots of an organization aren’t well nurtured, a successful support center and company as a whole can’t flourish.

In the face of external pressures and industry-wide challenges, it’s essential to remember that your service agents are at the front lines of your brand, facing and managing the unhappy customers whose expectations may not have been met. These agents, who are doubling as ambassadors of your brand, need the means to truly thrive in the workplace for any other aspect of your customer experience to thrive.

At Gladly, we recognize the impact customer service teams have on the success of a business. That’s why we spearheaded this report.

The Research

Our mission is to amplify the voice of the customer service 
 agent, and by doing so, help create happier, more efficient, and empowered customer service teams. To achieve this, we teamed up with Stitch Marketing Research to create the Hero Experience Report 2023.

With this report and the experiences we share, we hope to equip customer service teams and leaders with the insights needed to transform agents into heroes, becoming true brand ambassadors.

We conducted a survey across 350 customer service agents in the US (60%) and internationally (40%) to represent service teams both domestically and abroad in top customer support hubs.

All respondents are currently full-time at US-headquartered B2C companies from mid-market (100-500 employees with $10M-$1B in AR) to enterprise (500+ employees and $1B AR).

Why ‘Hero’?

At Gladly, we believe that any customer service agent can be a customer service hero, but that’s often not the status quo.

Being a customer service hero means…

  1. You treat your customers like a friend, empathize with them, and get to the bottom of their issue so they forget there was ever a problem to be solved.
  2. You show up to work feeling motivated, supported, and empowered, and carry this through in your conversations with customers and your team.
  3. You go above and beyond what’s expected by knowing the customer’s name, preferences, history with your brand, and pain points before they even ask.
  4. You and your customers hang up feeling seen and accomplished, not frustrated.


The math is simple — understanding customer service agents’ motivations can lead to higher employee retention rates and increased engagement and productivity. If we look at the geographical breakdown of top motivators, we see differences in ranking order, but the key motivators — connection, growth, and job security — stay the same, instilling 
the idea that customer service is not just a job, but a trade with dedicated and loyal employees.


Unlike Gladly, legacy customer support systems have built a business around closing tickets and treating people as cases —but customer service agents’ motivation is contradictory to this flow.

An average of 47% of all respondents ranked engaging and conversing with customers as a top motivator — yet they’re being forced to work in systems that treat customers as cases to resolve rather than people to help and build connections with. The sentiment is similar on the customer side. In the 2022 Customer Expectations Report, we discovered that 73% of consumers want to be treated like a person, not a case number, further emphasizing the idea that both sides want to engage as people, not tickets. With the rise of automation and AI in customer service, “busy work” — like call notes and follow-up emails — will decrease. This will allow agents to focus their time on conversations, building genuine connections, and helping customers.

In the US, the second most significant motivator is the satisfaction derived from resolving service issues (37%), further proving this underlying theme of engagement.


Not only are agents people that thrive on connection, but they are experts in their fields. The stigma that agents aren’t educated enough to achieve higher employment levels or are restricted to entry-level roles is a false narrative.

More than 50% of our respondents have a four-year degree or higher, and 61% of agents have been in the industry for six years or more.

For these professionals, service isn’t just a job; it’s their trade.

Longevity is the name of the game, with 89% of survey respondents planning to stay in their field. This is an encouraging number, especially when considering the total organizational 

costs of employee turnover is estimated by Harvard Business Review researcher Keith Ferrazi to be between 100% – 300% of exiting employees’ salaries. It pays to have more open conversations between management and agents around growth and career longevity.


As many industries have adapted to the new “future of work” post-COVID, customer service agents are still finding their groove. In-office teams thrive on competition and formality, while remote teams relish their autonomy and flexibility. Hybrid teams must navigate a blend of confidence and confusion, raising doubts about the viability of this work model altogether.

This begs the question: which work environment truly serves the needs of both organizations and employees? Here are some best practices to consider for each scenario.


Remote work, celebrated for its flexibility and freedom, can present challenges like feelings of isolation among employees. 44% of survey respondents noted that feeling disconnected from managers and peers in remote work environments was their top challenge.

However, these insights don’t mean remote work isn’t a valuable tool for a functioning workforce. Our research concluded that the environment requires a deliberate approach to fostering intentional communication and camaraderie. This approach ensures that companies remain agile and thrive in today’s dynamic market, harnessing the power of remote work while mitigating its drawbacks.

The Remote Solution

While only a small proportion of customer service agents spend their work time remotely

— 26% of agents in the US, 17% in India, and 26% in the Philippines — it’s still critical to
understand how to best support these teams. Due to their remote work setting, agents may 

not always have the chance for one-on-one interaction with their peers

To address this, you should facilitate the creation of communities and events that remote 

agents can join. Offering mentorship opportunities can also further support the growth of
remote agents, regardless of their physical location.

Pro tip: Check out these 12 must-haves for your remote customer service team. From communication tools to productivity trackers, this checklist covers all the bases to ensure your team is well-equipped to provide exceptional customer service — no matter where they’re working from.

Respondents who work remotely

Hybrid work has become increasingly popular due to its flexibility and potential cost savings. However, this approach has its challenges. Our data found that 63% of employees in a hybrid environment experienced unnecessary difficulties. One significant drawback of hybrid work is the potential for lack of consistency, which can adversely impact customers’ experiences and stunt agent growth.

The Hybrid Solution

To make hybrid work easier for employees, you can take several steps to ensure all team
members feel connected and supported. This means making it easy for folks to connect with
their manager, whether working in the office or from home. Ongoing training and development
are also essential to keep everyone up-to-date with the latest industry trends and automation
tools like ChatGPT that can help increase productivity and help them do their jobs better.

Pro tip: For this specific group of employees, sticking to either solely remote or in-office work could be preferable, especially considering the disadvantages and challenges a hybrid work situation poses. It could be impractical for agents to work from home three days a week and from the call center for the remaining two days to handle customer interactions — constantly switching between working from home and the call center could lead to confusion and inconsistencies in service. If resources are available to support fully remote or fully in-person work, it’s worth considering the shift for happier, more engaged, and more efficient employees.


Despite the rise of remote work and the prevalence of hybrid models, in-office work is still a significant part of the customer service industry. Of those surveyed in the US, 60% work in-office, while 49% of respondents in India and 44% of respondents in the Philippines work in-office. As three of the top global support center hubs, this isn’t an entirely surprising trend.

Many customer service teams operate out of centralized call centers or office locations, where agents can work side-by-side and collaborate in real time. Even with in-office work benefits like collaboration and structure, it’s essential to consider the potential drawbacks when deciding on this work arrangement, such as the inconvenience of commuting to work and the struggle to maintain a work/life balance.

Respondents who work in office

The In-Office Solution

Ensuring work/life balance is crucial, especially for office workers. Help employees unwind and
manage stress by encouraging them to take regular daily breaks. Wellness programs, mental
health resources, and other support services are also essential in helping employees cope with
the demands of both their personal and professional lives.

Pro tip: Working in an office environment can contribute to higher levels of burnout in customer service agents due to commuting time and lack of flexibility. To combat this, managers must prioritize employee well-being and implement strategies to prevent burnout.

Management Structures

The structure of a workplace can often be a source of conflict within companies, particularly in customer service roles. Our data found that 17% of respondents felt that the overall hierarchical environment within their company created a divide between executives and frontline service agents. This division can lead to misunderstandings, communication breakdowns, and a lack of cohesion in the team, all of which can have a negative impact on customer service quality and overall business performance.

Management Structures Solution

Promote a collaborative work environment by fostering open communication channels and encouraging team members to share their ideas and opinions.

Creating a safe and supportive atmosphere where everyone’s input is valued can help team
members feel more comfortable contributing to group discussions and projects.

Additionally, you can facilitate team-building activities and encourage collaboration through
group projects or partnerships. Providing opportunities for cross-functional training or 

job shadowing can also help team members better understand each other’s roles and work
together more effectively.

Pro tip: Customer service teams shouldn’t live in a silo; they communicate with customers regularly and have a goldmine of valuable insights to enhance the customer experience. For example, customers may recommend excellent ideas for new potential features to agents, which could be extremely helpful for the product team. Or the marketing team could leverage agent insights into customer pain points for content topics. The possibilities are endless. Check out these other ways to use service data to improve the customer experience.


Despite external pressures and the internal challenges they face today, our data would suggest that customer service agents are still up to the task. Through clear career tracks, developmental support, and ongoing educational opportunities around AI and automation tools, customer service teams can stay motivated and better focus their efforts on customer-centric objectives.

Professional Development

The misconception that customer service jobs are low-skilled and easily replaceable has contributed to high turnover rates and stagnant job growth, as organizations have failed to invest in career development opportunities for their employees. However, as customer service becomes an increasingly critical component of business success, organizations are recognizing the importance of investing in their employees’ growth and development to achieve long-term success.

Professional development also needs to adapt to the ebb and flow of the industry so that agents don’t get left behind. A poignant example, teaching agents how to wield ChatGPT to become more productive and customer-centric will become a critical learning opportunity.

By creating a workplace culture that values growth and development, organizations can attract skilled customer service employees and brand ambassadors who are committed to delivering superior work and increasing customer satisfaction.

Onboarding and Ongoing Training

Investing in onboarding and ongoing training opportunities is key to keeping your customer service agents happy and motivated. When employees feel valued and supported, they are more likely to stick around and do their best work, ultimately leading to happier customers.

Research data shows that over half of the respondents (57%) believe that onboarding training is crucial to hit the ground running. After that, 62% of customer service agents want ongoing training opportunities to help them grow and stay on top of the latest industry trends. Special training programs, mentorship opportunities, and engaging leadership workshops can keep your team sharp and prepared to handle any situation, including the emergence of AI.

Pro tip: These handy resources can help you provide new areas of training and expand agent education as agents grow within your organization.

  • Training exercises to expose agents to new channels and various service challenges
  • Script templates to shape agent communication styles, while giving them the freedom to have more personal conversations as well
  • Ongoing program ideas to continually develop major soft and hard skills that agents needs

Career Growth

Leaders can increase retention and inspire their employees to do their best by providing clear career growth and development paths. According to data research, two-thirds of customer service agents want to climb the ladder to a management role. However, 34% of respondents reported a need for more clarity on how to get there, making it necessary for managers to step in and guide their team members.

Pro tip: Knowing your team’s goals and aspirations enables new internal career opportunities that can enhance the business.

Don’t be afraid as a leader to empower your team to work smarter, not harder. Encourage them to experiment with and leverage tools and technology that will help them learn new skills and not get left behind.

For example, investing in automation and AI can reduce overall workload so agents can focus on the 1:1 interactions with customers that matter. It also gives agents a leg up and allows them to develop additional proficiencies better suited for the modern support center.

By advocating for their professional development and fostering transparency with your team about where their support center skills can take them, agents can feel empowered to take ownership of their career and be motivated to excel in the current role.

What’s Next?

It’s worth repeating — the success of a company largely hinges on the success of its customer support center and the satisfaction of its agents. By investing in their well-being and equipping them with the training and tools they need to excel in their roles, you’re simultaneously investing in every other aspect of your customer experience.

Building the Modern Customer Service Team

More often than not, support centers tend to settle for being satisfactory — but that’s just not enough. Every year, businesses lose a staggering $75 billion in revenue from customers who 

switch to another brand due to inadequate customer service. There’s a clear opportunity to address the need for more exceptional, personalized customer experiences — and it begins in the support center. So what’s stopping them?

Your employees want to provide outstanding service — they want to be brand ambassadors who create positive, helpful experiences that surprise and delight customers. But they may 

not be equipped with the right tools or resources to tap into their full potential.

By investing in new technologies across automation and AI, brands help consumers help themselves and give agents the superpowers they need to be on the bleeding edge of 

the industry.

Turning agents into modern customer support heroes.

Knowing your support agents' challenges and motivators allows you to build the modern customer service team that drives customer loyalty and business value, setting the company up for any unforeseen obstacles.

Our report aims to help you transform your support center into a place where your customer service agents become customer service heroes and can truly shine. The results won’t just be 
 happier employee reviews — you’ll find yourself with more satisfied, long-term customers and a richer bottom line to boot.

Join the Gladly Connect Community

Our report aims to help you transform your support center into 
 a place where your customer service agents become customer service heroes and can truly shine. The results won’t just be 
 happier employee reviews — you’ll find yourself with more satisfied, long-term customers and a richer bottom line to boot.

Join the Gladly Community