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  • March 24, 2020
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Zendesk Stresses Messaging's Growing Role at Relater Event

Zendesk today emphasized messaging as the key channel for customer interactions and a key addition across its product portfolio. The company made these announcements at Zendesk Relater (an online event held as a substitute for its Relate live user conference that was cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak).

Zendesk Support Suite, for example, has been supercharged for messaging, according to Mikkel Svane, the company's CEO. He noted that the platform has handled more than 1.2 billion messages since its launch in late 2018.

Other big changes to the platform include a refined agent workspace, with a new user interface that shows everything that is happening with a customer interaction in real time; an omnichannel Composer that lets agents follow up with customers on the channel that makes the most sense, and a Notifier to let agents know when customers respond so they can jump back into the interaction.

Changes to the Zendesk Sales Suite include the additions of integrated chat and email, dialing, and a prospecting tool.

Zendesk also recently upgraded its Sunshine CRM platform with Conversations, new workflows, and an Amazon Web Services Connector.

But the main focus remained on messaging, which Zendesk's president of products, Adrian McDermott, identified as one of the top five "best bets" for CRM.

In 2020, messaging "is not just for kids," McDermott said, noting that 85 percent of smartphone users engage with some form of messaging.

As the technology matures, messaging will see "even richer conversations and more dynamic use cases," McDermott said.

Other technologies included in McDermott's list included artificial intelligence, which he said "won't be crap anymore."

"AI is worth further investment," he added, noting that the greatest use cases will be in automation, recommendations, and prediction.

Another best bet is self-service, which McDermott said "will be everywhere" and "will get better with age and more data." The challenge, therefore, will be to keep data up to date, because "the foundation of any good self-service strategy is knowledge," he said.

Data, McDermott added, is everywhere. Companies are managing three times more data than they did just five years ago, and while all of that information can be overwhelming, it can also be a "superpower," he said. But, for that to happen, data will need to be democratized, available to everyone who needs it, and put to work appropriately.

The fifth element in McDermott's best bets list was software development, which he said will also need to be democratized with low-code or no-code requirements. The key going forward, he said, is to allow anyone "to develop more with less."

The two-hour online conference was virtual, with a lot of the presenters speaking from their homes as many Americans telecommute to avoid the spread of the coronavirus. It is in these home-working environments where Zendesk has shined lately, according to Svane.

"These are uncertain and stressful times,"he said. "But social distancing does not mean that you have to be disconnected. "A lot of companies have been using Zendesk to coordinate their work-from-home and getting home environments set up for work."

Chat is one of the ways that companies are staying connected amid the business disruptions, Svane said.

Social media is another, according to Henry Davis, founder and CEO of Arfa, a startup created to help consumer packaged goods companies connect with consumers, and the conference's keynoter.

Social media, Davis said, has given consumers "unprecedented power."

Sixty-one percent of consumer acquisitions happen on social media, and 87 percent of consumers have said that social media has played a role in their purchase decisions, he pointed out.

But that only goes so far. As consumer products become commoditized, CPG companies need to do more to stand out.

Leading companies, Davis advised, will be to ones that build the best customer relationships, that truly collaborate with consumers rather than merely crowdsourcing, that respond to consumers where they are today and where they will be tomorrow rather than where they were yesterday, and that react to changing consumer and market dynamics "the fastest and most authentically."

Zendesk also used the online event to announce a strategic alliance with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) to help companies solve increasingly complex technological requirements and provide CRM custom solutions and integrations.The alliance includes alignment between TCS' consulting, implementation, and optimization services with Zendesk's CRM product portfolio.

"We are excited to work with TCS to better support the needs of enterprise companies," said Ricardo Moreno, vice president of worldwide partners at Zendesk, in a statement. "With the combination of TCS' long-standing history of providing information technology (IT) services, consulting and business solutions to many of the world's largest businesses in their transformation journey and our service-first CRM offerings, we look forward to helping companies foster a transparent, responsive and empowered customer experience.""

"TCS leverages its domain knowledge and deep customer relationships to contextualize its comprehensive suite of CRM/CX offerings to create bespoke solutions that provide a superior customer experience and create competitive differentiation," said Akhilesh Tiwari, global head of enterprise application services at TCS, in a statement. "Our partnership with Zendesk brings together the best capabilities of both organizations to help businesses fast-track their digital transformation journeys."

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