The 2016 CRM Service Rising Stars: Zendesk Builds Closer Relationships Between Businesses and Customers

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Building on a strong 2014, which led to a Rising Star award in last year's Service Awards issue, Zendesk had several key advancements in 2015—particularly when it comes to apps. Noting a disconnect between the traditional avenues of communication companies use to reach customers, such as email, and customers' preferred methods of communication, such as messaging apps, Zendesk has focused on improving businesses' app presence for a smoother customer experience.

Adrian McDermott, senior vice president of product development at Zendesk, cites the Zendesk Embeddables suite as an especially important development. The embeddable features enable companies to build customer service and engagement directly into their mobile and Web apps, as well as on their Web sites, games, and other online experiences. Zendesk Embeddables is a response to the ever-increasing importance of using mobile apps to connect with customers, and it also enables customer service agents to gather important information about where exactly in an app a customer encountered a problem.

"You don't want to have consumers experiencing this disjointed experience where they live their entire life in the app and then the moment that they need to get support, they have to break the Brechtian fourth wall of the app and step out into a Web browser and go look at your help page and go to the support tab," McDermott says. "We help our customers bring that support into the app."

Another noteworthy move by Zendesk was integrating with Facebook's Businesses on Messenger product, which enables businesses to communicate directly with customers through Facebook's messaging service, using the built-in functionality of Zendesk's Zopim Live Chat app. Instead of businesses relying on email and customer calls to interact with and assist customers, they can engage customers directly to solve problems faster and build rapport. Service agents can talk to multiple customers at once in different Messenger chats and more easily collaborate with each other to resolve customers' issues. Furthermore, the ability to access a customer's chat history enables agents to easily pick up conversations after a break.

"We strongly believe we're seeing a shift that begins in Asia, that begins with Millennials…shifting most of their communication away from traditional messages into messaging," McDermott says. "In China, for example, the majority of customer interactions happen over WeChat. [Providing integration with Facebook] Messenger is a first-rate move towards opening up a messaging platform for real customer service use, and allowing brands to establish a long-term interaction between themselves and the consumer."

The company's moves have drawn notice from analysts. Zendesk's carefully considered product road map centered on predictive analytics and rapid revenue growth earned it praise from a Forrester report. The report notes that though the company is looking to move upmarket, it works best for small and medium-sized customer service teams seeking a mobile-first multichannel solution, as the software is easy to configure. Forrester also lauds Zendesk's embeddable technology and benchmarking service and says that the company may be preparing to move into the federal government market.

For his part, looking ahead, McDermott sees Zendesk continuing to improve communication and enrich the relationships between businesses and their customers. "We like to see ourselves as providing tools that are incredibly flexible, both agent- and developer-friendly, and that can provide proactive guidance when deployed to really give a great customer experience and build a long-term relationship between a brand and their consumer," McDermott says. 


CEO: Mikkel Svane

Founded: 2007

Headquarters: San Francisco

Revenue in 2014: $127 million

Employees: 1,100

Customer Count: 64,000

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