Zendesk Explore shares real-time customer experience metrics across the enterprise

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright August 25, 2020
Zendesk adds real-time metrics to its analytics offering as the focus of customer experience flips from efficiency to outcomes

Zendesk Explore Enterprise product image
(via Zendesk)

The definition of customer experience is broadening and deepening as we move into an Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS) world, where successful outcomes are just as important as in-the-moment satisfaction. To help its customers adapt to this fast-changing landscape, CRM vendor Zendesk today launched a new version of its Explore analytics package. The new Enterprise edition feeds real-time metrics to customizable dashboards and reports that can be shared with people across an organization without them needing a Zendesk license.

This advance on the existing Explore offering is designed for large-scale customer operations where real-time metrics are needed across many different functions — and where the business case can be made for the higher cost of this new edition. Those who are content to work with hourly data and manual refresh can continue to use the existing Explore Professional edition, while all Zendesk customers have access to an entry-level edition. But the customization available in both of the paid editions is increasingly valued at a time when the whole nature of customer metrics is changing, as I discussed in a pre-briefing call with Jon Aniano, Senior Vice President of Product at Zendesk. More on that in a moment.

Post-COVID access to metrics

The need to access real-time customer experience data across an organization is particularly strong in a post-COVID world, where sharing information on a bank of screens across the wall of a contact center is no help to agents and managers now working from home. Not only is the information people need to track more varied, it also has to be shared in many different ways, Aniano explains:

You may be reviewing up-to-the minute requests inside of a Zoom meeting or in a Slack channel or in your collaboration tool of choice. If you've got a scaled customer experience operation [with] hundreds or thousands of agents, you have a lot of people in there whose job it is to make sure things run efficiently ...

Support leads need real-time views into what's going on, more so than ever, because they can't look out on the call center floor. They can't check who's working on what, what's going on. Having these live team dashboards — having a real-time feed on a screen on a second monitor or running in a tab on your desktop — is super important.

The new edition comes with a set of pre-built live team dashboard templates, as well as pre-built live metric components. Customers can build their own custom dashboards to include live metrics alongside other historical metrics that are still important to operations but don't update as frequently.

Explore brings in metrics from across the full breadth of Zendesk's products and can also plug in third-party data via Zendesk's underlying AWS-native Sunshine platform. The new enterprise edition adds real-time data from Support, Talk and Chat initially, from Sell and Guide in Q4 this year and from Sunshine in Q1 2021. This breadth of content is increasingly relevant for today's customer experience operations as they adjust to new business realities, says Aniano.

People that have had to shift their business model in the pandemic times are coming up with new and innovative ways to serve their customers ... Metrics have always been something that has evolved slowly as new tools become available. But I think if you look — not only with the accelerating need for adaptation in a COVID world, but even the last few years of social messaging, of new business models — metrics right now are in flux. And so our customers need flexibility.

They need to be able to customize their metrics, they need to be able to do custom functions and aggregations, and that's what Explorer is all about.

Flipping from service efficiency to customer experience

One of the biggest changes has been a switch from emphasizing efficiency to more of a focus on customer satisfaction, sentiment and outcomes. Whereas customer service teams used to be measured on metrics such as call handling efficiency along with net promoter score as a snapshot of customer sentiment, businesses today are focusing foremost on customer experience. Aniano sums up:

I think we've seen that flip upside down. We know how to be efficient generally. But that can't be the first principle, the first principle should be, what is our customer's experience?

What business has come around to in the past couple of years is, we need to have customers that come back to us over a long period of time — whether that's because you're in a new subscription model-based business; whether service models are more important than individual transaction models; whether companies have moved to direct-to-consumer and therefore they have a closer tie with their customer.

These types of shifts in business have started to turn those metrics upside down. How can we make sure the customer is happy with us, in our long term relationship? How can we make sure that the customer comes back to us once a year or once a month or once a week, and uses our products and services?

So you flip those metrics upside down, you start measuring different types of things about what you know about your customers' happiness, and then efficiency comes second ...

Certainly, those are the types of conversations I'm having with my customers. And it's the types of things that we're working on in all of our products at Zendesk. How do we make building the best customer experience simple for our customers? And then, as they build those experiences, how do we keep their agents efficient?

My take

Aniano's perspective is a useful reality check on what I think of as the demise of the Net Promoter Score. NPS is only meaningful in the context of purely transactional customer service — was my issue resolved and did I like how the agent dealt with me? But customer relationships are more complicated than that these days. Businesses are seeking to build continuous engagement and their goal becomes satisfaction and successful outcomes over time, not just in the moment. At diginomica, we talk about this as the XaaS effect because this continuous engagement is a result of being digitally connected to customers, and the transformation of software into SaaS was one of the first examples.

These more complex relationships require more sophisticated metrics — and there are many more channels and sources through which to collect these metrics. No wonder therefore that vendors like Zendesk are finding their customers looking for new agility, responsiveness and transparency in their analytics platforms.