Matt Price, Zendesk: Brands must resolve the call centre's Catch 22

27th Feb 2013 caught up with Zendesk’s Matt Price to discuss the changing nature of customer service and its challenges.


There’s no denying that the perception of the contact centre is shifting. Whereas years ago it was seen as inconvenient and a drain on resources, companies are now beginning to see how it can actually provide value, both to the customer and the business. According to Forrester analyst Kate Leggett in her customer service predictions for 2013, customer service organizations are slowly starting to adopt a balanced metric scorecard that includes not just cost and compliance but also customer satisfaction, which are more suited to drive the right agent behaviour and deliver better outcomes.”

Matt Price VP and general manager of Zendesk’s EMEA operations agrees that a trend towards customer-satisfaction based metrics is emerging in the contact centre. “We’re seeing it a lot,” he says. “Of course, we have a bit of a warped view because the more enlightened companies tend to come to us. But because we've been growing so quickly, perhaps that’s reflective. It's safe to say that we are seeing that and companies are hugely focused on customer service.”

European expansion

Providers of free Cloud-based customer service software, Zendesk has experienced rapid growth since its launch in Denmark six years ago. Now based in the US, the company is expanding its European operations and most recently attracted $60 million of new financing from a number of backers including Redpoint Ventures, Index Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. Now equipped with a European head office in London and 40 staff, Zendesk has 7,000 European customers that make up its total 25,000 client base, with a roster of big name clients to boast.  

“We work closely with companies like Groupon, which continues to invest heavily within that area,” explains Price. “But the Catch 22 for these companies is how do you increase service without increasing support costs in a time where you want to have your operations reasonably lean?

“We spend a lot of time working with them, showing them how self-service can be a very good thing for clients if you do it correctly, and that by providing information customers need or being proactive with service information, as well as making sure that agents have what they need, they can respond very quickly.”

Price explains that through this work with clients, Zendesk found that the biggest correlation to customer satisfaction is response. “It’s really interesting that just by making a few changes you can drive up the efficiency of your agents and the quality of the interactions, and increase customer satisfaction too.”

After every interaction, customers are emailed a single feedback question ‘Were you happy with this interaction?’ which they can reply yes or no to, and by keeping it simple resulted in a very high response rate. Price explains that this is exactly the kind of information that can help you improve your service and make sure that the customer doesn’t have a bad experience twice.

And that data is also very valuable from an internal perspective, he adds. “Where else do you have such rich content of customer feedback? Big Data is an overblown phrase but extracting the value of our core data can be very powerful." Asked if this is what’s changing the perception of customer service from a cost centre to a value provider, Price explained it’s just one of the reasons.

“Ultimately, the big driver is customer satisfaction and being able to improve the customer interaction. It’s a bit like peeling an onion, the first layer is how well you're agents are interacting with the client and can they respond well to them, then the next layer is how good the whole customer interaction process is across the organisation, then the next layer is how good the product is performing for the client.

“So the customer care team can take advantage of and manage the first level of information, as long as they're well resourced, which they can then use to try and improve that customer interaction across the whole organisation. Then the next level feeds that into the product to make the product service changes.”

Technology partnerships

Alongside its European expansion, Zendesk has also penned nearly 100 technology partnerships to integrate its customer service software into CRM and ecommerce systems such as, Microsoft Dynamics and Magento, enabling both technologies to share information, simultaneously.

“You can plug Zendesk into and immediately share data between the two within minutes or maximum an hour, which means sales people now can get reports and the support agents can get information about the customer too,” says Price.

“We’re finding that there are a lot of companies who have a certain level of CRM but mainly a very basic level of customer care; they really want to start differentiating themselves on service. Zendesk enables them to put up a self-service portal and open up new chats with their customers via social information channels that use a simple user interfaces very similar to something they would use at home, such as Facebook.

“The Magento deal is actually reflects what we're all seeing, which is a major shift towards online ecommerce and the change of customer interactions. Obviously phone's still an important channel but the interaction via web portals and email and social is increasing. With the Magento platform, eventually Zendesk becomes almost like an added customer care system that plugs in, so anyone that has a Magento system can automatically use Zendesk.”

Looking ahead, Price explains that how customer service departments interact with their customers has been characterised by how customers want to interact with organisations, and will continue to shape the customer service space. As explained by Forrester analyst Bill Band, consumer behaviour is changing and customers now living in a world of heightened expectations and abundant options.

“Some markets have already seen the tipping point whereby they absolutely have to go away from the traditional contact centre approach to an integrated channel approach that involves everything from mobile to social,” says Price. “We're still at the early stages for a lot of organisations; we'll still see a lot of companies with separate teams for Facebook, ecommerce etc. However, things are changing so quickly. The change in the way that customers are interacting with businesses will drive change in customer care.”


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