Zendesk strikes up Duet to harmonize sales and service

Profile picture for user pwainewright By Phil Wainewright June 12, 2019
Recognizing the ongoing convergence of sales and service, Zendesk today packages the two together in Duet, along with new chatbot and self-service content features

Man and woman sing duet with colorful background © Dmitry Molchanov - shutterstock

Sales and customer service used to be two very distinct functions in all but the very smallest of businesses. But in today's hyper-connected world, the two are merging into one, as enterprises look to sustain long-term customer engagement. So it should come as no surprise that cloud CRM vendor Zendesk is launching a new offering today that brings sales and service together.

It's less than a year since Zendesk added sales automation alongside its established customer service ticketing product with the acquisition of Base CRM, which it has rebranded as Zendesk Sell. Today sees the launch of Zendesk Duet, which offers both Sell and Service in a single bundle for $59, just $10 per user more than each of the two individual products, which retail at $49 each.

The new package reflects Zendesk's findings from talking to customers, says Matt Price, Senior Vice President and General Manager of Zendesk Sell:

What became abundantly clear as we started to work with both is that there were many use cases where a support person needed the sales tool or where a sales person needed the sales tool.

Along with the new bundle, Zendesk is also announcing that its App Framework, which connects over 500 third-party applications and resources into Zendesk Service, is now being extended to Sell — all running on its AWS-native Sunshine CRM platform. The first partners offering App Framework integrations to Sell are Mailchimp and GetResponse.

Sales and service in harmony

There are many different scenarioes where users need access to both sales and service functionality, says Price. In very small businesses, people often wear both hats. But even in larger organizations, it's often the case that support agents find they need occasional access to the sales tool, for example when processing a subscription renewal. Or sales people may need to go into the service tool from time to time to check the status of a ticket or log an issue. Price says it didn't make sense to discourage people from providing that flexibility:

We wanted to lower the false economic barriers to people being as flexible as possible in how they respond to customers.

Another barrier comes when each function is using completely different tools and datasets. Having a single platform for both makes it much easier for enterprises to converge sales and service and provide a more seamless customer experience, says Price:

Quite often, companies want to change the way they do things ... Deploying a whole new tool for that base takes a long time to get set up and running, whereas if you have a single tool you can adapt to what the customer wants very quickly.

It's also the case, of course, that lowering the cost of adding service capabilities into Sell and vice-versa will accelerate the pace at which Zendesk can cross-sell to an expanded customer base in the wake of its acquisition of the sales automation tool.

AI-powered Answer Bot and content guide

Timing its announcements to coincide with the opening of its Showcase customer event in London today, Zendesk is also extending the reach of its AI-powered Answer Bot. Previously available as a web widget, this is now available in a mobile SDK, as an API, and in email and web forms. It can also be deployed for internal enterprise use within Slack or the Zendesk application.

AI is also powering new capabilities within Enterprise Guide, Zendesk's self-service knowledgebase platform. "This is about 'enterprising-up' our content management products," says Shawna Wolverton, Senior Vice-President of Product at Zendesk. Together with the Answer Bot enhancements, the aim is to free up agent time and helping customers get their issues resolved faster, she says:

With interactions on the rise, this is about automating a lot of very simple interactions so you have more time to deal with the more complex cases.

The new Enterprise Guide capabilities are:

  • Content cues to help managers optimize the knowledge base, for example by automatically prompting them to check that the most popular articles are up-to-date.
  • Article events to help manage content, for example by setting automatic intervals when articles should be checked to make sure they are still up-to-date, or when short-term articles should be retired.
  • Flexible hierarchies, theme templates and search enhancements to cater for more sophisticated multi-brand and multi-country requirements.

Announcements at Zendesk Showcase are becoming a habit — for last month's New York event, Zendesk revealed its acquisition of conversational messaging hub Smooch.

My take

The integration of Sales and Service on the new Sunshine platform continues apace. The new pricing won't do any harm to Zendesk's prospects of cross-selling each product to the other's customer base, either. Most important of all, the announcement of Duet is fully on-trend with the gathering convergence of sales and service as a result of what at diginomica we call the XaaS Effect. Customers don't want to be sold products, they want a continuous engagement that delivers an all-singing, all-dancing experience from cradle to grave. Duet is playing their tune.