As Zendesk’s Relate conference kicks off today, the firm has announced a number of new and upgraded product offerings around conversational CRM and employee experience.
As per the official release blurb, conversational CRM includes:
- Enhanced FlowBuilder and bots for smarter service to allow businesses to expand automation to social apps such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, and build custom bots that scale easily.
- AI-powered routing, monitoring and triage to allow incoming customer inquiries with high urgency to be prioritized automatically by leveraging natural language processing and machine learning.
- Analytics to provide “smarter sales and service”, allowing businesses to manage high volumes, and analyze historical trends to provide better staffing reflecting the channels customers and sales prospects are communicating on.
- Sales triggers and Sunshine Platform custom objects to automate repetitive sales activities in order to free sales teams up to work on more high value sales opportunities, and capture data that is specific to business needs in one single view.
There’s also a “renewed focus on meaningful employee experiences", with Zendesk Suite combined with service packages and support from Zendesk vertical experts for an offering that the firm pitches as:
- Providing a single source of truth for HR, Finance, Operations, IT and other teams who are crucial to connecting employees with internal services
- Transforming the way teams work with simplified workflows and automation
- Removing repetition, friction and unnecessary administrative processes to make it easier for employees to have access to critical information, resources and services
- Understanding trends and emerging issues to continually improve the employee experience.
I caught up with Matthias Goehler, Zendesk EMEA Chief Technology Officer, who drilled down on the new offerings and what they mean for the firm and customers, beginning with the rising popularity of using messaging apps and platforms for support:
When we talk about conversational CRM, we really see the future in this. When you look at our platform, we have about three trillion tickets on our platform. We believe that there will be a point in time where [conversation/messaging] will be the biggest channel. Obviously the reason for this is that as a customer this is super-convenient. I can just ask whatever I need to. I don't need to wait on the queue on the phone. I can communicate, as I communicate with my friends.
When I was young, I was still picking up the phone when I was trying to meet somebody for a Saturday evening. Today if I call my daughter, she thinks that somebody died or is in the hospital. So why wouldn't you do what we are used to it in private life? More and more business interactions are happening through messaging and through apps. You can enrich messaging to include product recommendations. You can enrich it with loyalty components. You could also merge the two. Let's say I'm on a messaging conversation, but then I find out that we're stuck, we're not getting there. So I can press the call back button or press to initiate a call with that merchant. I think this, compounded with the convenience for consumers, will basically in the next couple of years make it really the predominant channel.
That call back capability is one that is important, both in terms of having a human response available to consumers when they need one, but also has implications in terms of staffing up and headcount of support teams. The trick is ticket deflection, said Goehler, citing the hypothetical example of a firm with 100 agents in place today, but scoping for growth and 1000 agents. That's going to cost a fortune, he noted:
So, we are actually working together very actively with customers to see how could they deflect some of these tickets and some of the requests? There are so many simple requests that you could actually help yourself. So things like self-service are very important. Having proper FAQs. Having a proper customer portal community type of thing where you can hopefully find a lot of stuff. A good answer bot is important.
We are seeing more and more use of technology. We are getting more and more used to it. And we are more and more valuing the convenience. I could go online late in the evening when I'm coming home from dinner and I just have this one question and if I find it, I'm happy.
Save the human interaction for tricky questions, he advised. This approach also allows for better use of analytics and prediction, he added:
You can learn a lot actually when you think about how many agents do you need? Also, what skills do they have - could be language skills, could be product skills. You can do a lot of looking back and then do predictions for the future and see if there are any skill gaps? Are there any gaps in the pure number of resources? And then obviously, you can cover for it.
On the employee experience front, this is an area that ought always to have had the highest priority within organizations, but as the Vaccine Economy takes shape and the future of work is still being debated, it’s more important than ever. Goehler said the pandemic and the work from home shift has shaped thinking:
The use of digital significantly increased in all of our lives, our private life, but also in business life and in the interaction with colleagues and with the employer...Everybody has adapted to this new way of doing it. Employees expect it and ask why is this experience so broken when it could be so much better? You can also think about it from a productivity point of view. If you have a proper employee experience solution - proper self-service, proper deflection with bots, where you can get the simple answers - it is so much more productive for the company to have an increased employee satisfaction.
There has been some pressure from some sectors to get people back into physical offices, a movement that was perhaps only to be expected after organizations splashed out so much money over the years on costly real estate. Goehler thinks there will be a compromise here and also innovations. He pointed to a consumer products customer in Europe as a good exemplar:
They have leaders for employee engagement or employee experience. For me, the fascinating thing was how many different scenarios they have enabled. They have, let's say, the classical HR with all the HR processes run, but then vaccination was the second [function] where they basically were taking care about vaccination status. They had their own vaccination program, the roll out, the communication, tracking of status. And they also use employee experience solutions for things like auditing. It's a very interesting breadth of use cases that they have built on top of on top of [a system] that's for employees.
Overall, as the Vaccine Economy beds in, there will be fresh challenges around CX, EX and more, concluded Goehler:
This new normal will not go away. Business travel will not go back to where it was. In the future, conferences will be both virtual and in person. E-commerce is here to stay. And with all of this, how I interact with a company and how I deal with a company, how I reach out if I have a question if I have a problem, is also more and more digital.
And one piece of advice for organizations across all sectors:
You should hopefully have a plan already. If you don't, it's really time.