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Conversations as the core of customer-business relationships — it seems like a no-brainer.
But with time, many businesses have gotten off-track with this concept, particularly as they’ve grappled with implementing emerging technologies.
In a COVID-impacted world, though, businesses must get back to conversational basics – customers expect to be engaged on their terms and on preferred channels quickly, easily, and on a 24-7 basis.
This has led to a rise in customer experience (CX) management and customer relationship management (CRM). According to Grand View Research, Inc., the global CRM market was valued at $52.4 billion in 2021 and is anticipated to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of roughly 13% between 2022 and 2030.
“The last few years have made it obvious that digital is the front door, convenience is paramount, and relationships are anchored in conversations,” said Mikkel Svane, CEO and founder of Zendesk.
A 15-year-old San Francisco-headquartered public company, Zendesk is one of a growing number providing software-as-a-service (SaaS) products around CRM and conversational CRM. The company held its annual Zendesk Relate event this week to announce its new products and discuss the CRM new normal.
“Customer service has become integral to customer relationships beyond just the traditional support,” Svane said at Zendesk Relate. “Human behaviors and patterns have changed forever since the world shut down.”
Relating to customers
The Zendesk conversational CRM platform integrates front and back office functions. This allows the front office to provide support as well as a range of intelligent real-time data services around customer engagement, Svane explained.
At Zendesk Relate, the company released several new tools delivered through its Sunshine Platform.
These new capabilities include conversational automation via bot technology, which allows businesses to expand automation to messaging apps including Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. It also enables organizations to build and train custom bots to address common issues and use third-party data to match incoming customer questions with the most relevant answers.
Similarly, new advanced omnichannel routing capabilities automatically direct conversations to the right agent and closely monitor performance, while conversational data orchestration connects processes with event data and custom logic tools. New analytics and custom reporting functions allow businesses to manage high volumes and analyze historical trends to improve staffing on customers’ and prospective clients’ preferred channels.
Zendesk has also added conversational channels to its Zendesk Sell platform, which enable sales teams to message customers and automatically capture every interaction so that they can be managed, tracked, and reported on. This will begin with a WhatApp integration, with bots for sales expected to roll out in winter 2022.
Another feature introduced at Zendesk Relate is an agent home platform that allows agents to organize their caseloads, manage their days, and set their status.
The digital front door
Based on an annual CX survey performed by Zendesk, 90% of customer relationships now happen online, Svane said. With COVID, “digital became the DNA of our society,” he said. The online world has us gauging our lives with “new conversational paradigms. Things will never go back to how they were before.”
Describing digital as the new, ubiquitous front door, Svane added that people have “zero patience and zero loyalty” and “no scruples” about moving on if a company isn’t interacting with them the way they want it to. “The way customers expect business to be done has changed forever,” he said.
Zendesk senior vice president of product Mike Gozzo agreed that customers “want you to know who they are, where they’ve been, and what they’ve come to you for.”
This means that businesses must have the ability to pick up where they last left off while also solving any new issues or questions and facilitating purchases or reservations. “You need to be able to solve that issue, serve that need, however it arises, whenever it arises,” Gozzo said.
Stanley Black and Decker, a manufacturer of industrial tools and household goods, has aimed for this new reality by replacing its “fragmented network of support systems across the world” with the Zendesk platform, according to Orlando Gadea, global vice president of customer experience transformation.
Speaking at Zendesk Relate, he said: “Being there when the customer needs you and where they need you is a very dynamic thing. These problems are extremely complex. The magic here is that they need to be very complex for you as an organization. You need to absorb all the complexity. For the customer, it needs to be seamless.”
Personalized experiences in hybrid work
But, Svane emphasized, personalized, timely service driven by data and automation isn’t just in the customer domain – in today’s new norm of hybrid work environments, employees have new and different needs and expectations.
To address these, Zendesk has announced new capabilities to its Zendesk Suite. The platform now includes tools around integrated self service and case management. Simplified workflows and automation provide an integrated system for HR, finance, operations, IT and other internal support teams. These also help to remove repetition, friction, and unnecessary administrative processes, while simplifying and improving employee access to information, resources and services, Gozzo explained. The platform includes new tools to enable insights around trends and emerging issues, as well.
Zendesk has partnered with Myndbend, SweetHawk and EZOfficeInventory on this Employee Experience package.
Zendesk customer Virgin Pulse uses the platform to ensure that members and employees receive accurate, timely responses on numerous channels, said Michael Pace, vice president of global member services.
The software company services 14 million members across 190 countries. “But we believe our employees are the number one driver of members being successful in their journey and delivering our business goals,” Pace said.