Zendesk joins up customer service and sales with a suite approach

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright March 4, 2020
Summary:
Zendesk rounds out its CRM platform with new suite offerings for sales and service and closer integration into messaging and other systems

Adrian McDermott Zendesk on stage
Adrian McDermott, Zendesk

Fast-growing cloud CRM vendor Zendesk is cementing its recently expanded product footprint with the launch of an enhanced Support Suite and a new Sales Suite offering today. It is also celebrating the full availability of its Sunshine CRM platform later this month as additional features roll out. Today's announcements were due to kick off the Zendesk Relate annual conference, but the event, like many in recent days, was called off over the weekend due to coronavirus concerns.

As we've often reflected on these pages, the nature of sales is changing as customers demand a more personalized experience built around achieving successful outcomes. Today's announcements are in tune with that trend, presenting Zendesk as "a service-first CRM company." The company has a different take than other players in the CRM market, says Adrian McDermott, President of Products, who pre-briefed media last week:

The majority of CRM products are designed for sales, not for the end-to-end customer experience.

In contrast, Zendesk comes to CRM from a customer support background, which gives it a head start on a service-first approach. Its focus is on ensuring that everyone has the right information in front of them when they need it to help a customer resolve an issue or question. McDermott: 

Customer support is becoming a team sport. It's becoming everyone in the company's job ...

Great customer experiences are about immediate context. It was more important for us to have this view-of-customer, suite experience.

New Sales Suite and conversation-friendly Support Suite

The new Zendesk Sales Suite wraps functions such as online chat, voice support and lead enrichment around the core Zendesk Sell product, which launched in late 2018 after an acquisition. The aim is to automate repetitive tasks and bring everything sales people need to access into a unified experience, says John Aniano, VP Products:

You have access to that entire suite, you don't have to worry about adding it on to take advantage of those capabilities.

The Support Suite, first launched in 2018, now incorporates multi-channel messaging functionality from Sunshine Conversations, Zendesk's recently introduced conversational business platform. This opens up messaging with popular platforms includign WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Twitter Direct Messages, WeChat, and LINE, allowing two-way interactions. McDermott comments:

It's great to be open for business to those customers ... Messaging is going to put the do-not-reply email to bed.

A new, simplified agent workspace provides a unified experience, surfacing relevant context and tools so an agent can continue the conversation on the channel that makes the most sense. That information can include external data sourced through the Sunshine platform.

More data and process integration

New features round out the Sunshine platform, first launched in late 2018, which is built on Amazon Web Services (AWS) so that customers can easily integrate other applications, often custom built, running on AWS. This means customers can bring together data from multiple sources to present to sales and service agents in context. The aim is to cut through the data challenges that enterprises often face, says McDermott:

So many CX initiatives die on data mountain.

The new functionality being delivered this month joins the existing custom objects, which businesses can define to bring in useful information from other systems. Now Sunshine adds unified profiles to help aggregate customer data from multiple sources and adds custom events, which capture customer activity in a historical timeline. There is also a connector to real-time streaming from AWS events, along with a new e-commerce integration that processes events, such as billing, so that agents can provide real-time assistance to customers encountering payment issues. The overall aim is to be equip customers to be proactive rather than reactive when dealing with customers, says McDermott.

Zendesk is also launching early access to new workflow tools and integrations with partners such as Workato, Qualtrics and Narvar. The focus here is on automating manual tasks, using data to automatically trigger actions or speed responsiveness, and creating reusable process flows.

My take

With sales projected to reach the $1 billion mark this year, Zendesk is now a significant player in the CRM market. These announcements round out an offering that straddles the full breadth of CRM, from sales through customer service and support, while connecting into modern conversational channels for customer engagement. The company has always been popular among digital businesses but today it is building much broader appeal. We'll have more from the company and its customers in further coverage this week and through the rest of the year.