Q&A: Mikkel Svane, Zendesk, Discusses The Future Of Customer Service

If you have customers then you need customer service software. Zendesk is a leading cloud-based customer service app loved by customers for its simplicity and elegance, making it one of the easiest and fastest ways to provide great customer service. The solution is easy to try, buy, implement, and use. Both you and your customers will start seeing positive results immediately. We spoke to Zendeck’s CEO, Mikkel Svane, to learn more.

Why was Zendesk set up?

In a nutshell, Zendesk was set up to help companies easily connect with customers and improve their customer service. We recognised that in today’s digital environment organisations need to be able to engage with customers regardless of how, when and on what platform they choose to connect, so developed a platform that can integrate with Web pages, e-mail systems and social media. We now have more than 15,000 customers worldwide.

How did Zendesk disrupt the customer service industry?

Zendesk is designed to meet the needs of the next-generation of customer service. Being cloud-based it’s painless to install, cost effective and easily scalable to support fast-growing businesses. Traditional customer service tools have been anything but those things.

Those solutions were acceptable in the days when companies told customers how they could contact them. Now, it’s the customers that are making those decisions. Using Zendesk, companies can connect with customers easily and efficiently, no matter what their size.

Our e-mail ticketing, customer self-service portal and general help-desk reporting and tracking solutions allow businesses to monitor, prioritise and react to a customer query whether it came via a Facebook page, tweet, e-mail or instant message chat, creating a two-way dialogue with customers and providing a single view of each interaction.

How do you think customer service is changing?

The rise of social media means that customers have become less concerned with conversing formally with a company and expect their issues to be resolved immediately. This pattern of behaviour is setting the tone and pace for how businesses and customers interact, especially as it relates to customer engagement and customer service. Boilerplate responses are no longer going to cut it.

Customers expect authentic, truthful and open communication; they’re going to see though anything that seems insincere or phony. Plus, the proliferation of smartphones means customers want to be able to raise an issue at a time that is convenient for them. If businesses don’t react to this they run the risk of alienating customers and leaving themselves defenceless to very public criticism. They will also miss out on the chance to celebrate positive feedback and converse with their fan-base.

What will customer service look like in the future?

In my view the issue of customer service will, one day, be at the top of the management agenda and will dictate a business’s strategy and processes. Because technology exists that can provide a scalable, flexible, yet powerful, communication solution, the customer service function within businesses will become more streamlined and effective and require less resources, so it won’t seem like such a daunting task for companies.

How do companies benefit from cloud software?

Being cloud-based means Zendesk is ready to use as soon as an account is created. There is no complicated installation and users do not have to worry about servers or software updates as these are carried out ‘over-the-air’. It also means that Zendesk can be installed on any device, from PCs to mobiles, and that businesses do not need to create their own IT support system.

It also means we can help businesses save time by storing solutions to commonly-asked questions in an electronic knowledge-base, lower costs by saving them money they would have spent on training staff to learn the skills that could be fulfilled by a helpdesk solution, ensure accuracy and minimise the risk of customer information being leaked, and ultimately win customer satisfaction as technicians can either find solutions in the knowledge-bases, or the tickets will be assigned automatically to the related department to deal with, which will speed up the response time.

Was Zendesk created specifically for SMEs?

Not at all, the beauty of Zendesk is that it can be used by any company that needs to offer customer support, whether they are a global conglomerate, or a small business.

As Zendesk is an online solution, it can easily scale to support increasing volume a big business may face meaning you’ll never outgrow it; companies like Groupon have expanded from a small team to one of the largest in the world, using Zendesk the whole way. However for small companies the affordability of Zendesk is an attraction along with the fact that it is a ready-to-use service and a centralised customer support system, meaning that issues are properly tracked and a full history of an issue is recorded for future reference.

Why do you think so many companies remain wary of social media as a means for customer service?

We live in a world population where more than half is under the age of 30 and digitally literate. This is the customer-base that is changing the rules for customer service so at Zendesk we believe that companies need to accept the changes and implement technologies that help them to move with the times.

Many businesses assume engaging with customers via social media will put a drain on resources and require too much time, but the reality is that while there are a variety of social channels to monitor, solutions (such as ours) exist that bring them into a single view making it easier for the support technician to react to customer enquiries quickly.

What are the big mistakes that companies can make when dealing with customer service?

The primary mistake companies make is to think that they won’t make mistakes. In customer service, mistakes are common—it’s a tough environment—but customer satisfaction will improve if companies embrace their mistakes and learn from them.

The key is to make sure that when they’ve done wrong; they figure it out and are on top of it right away. As customers we strive for a relationship with a brand that’s very similar to what we want from a relationship with a person. The recipe for success is honesty, transparency, authenticity and the certainty that when we need an answer, we will get one.

Is there a lot of opportunity for collaboration in the cloud? If so, how are you taking advantage of this?

Certainly, and as technologies continue to develop we will see even more collaborations in the cloud. In 2011 we launched Zendesk Voice, a cloud-based VoIP system that adds a call centre to customer support. The service is powered by Twilio and it transforms voice conversations and messages into transcripts which are embedded into Zendesk tickets.

What are your future goals for Zendesk and for Europe specifically?

We are continually looking at how to expand the company to give our customers the best possible service. We currently have a European HQ in London, an Asia-Pacific HQ in Australia and our global HQ in San Francisco. From these offices, we run a global operation, offering local languages and local language support.

Christian Harris is editor and publisher of BCW. Christian has over 20 years' publishing experience and in that time has contributed to most major IT magazines and Web sites in the UK. He launched BCW in 2009 as he felt there was a need for honest and personal commentary on a wide range of business computing issues. Christian has a BA (Hons) in Publishing from the London College of Communication. In his spare time Christian can be found in a gym, supporting his 8-year-old son from a football pitch sideline, or more likely obsessing over the latest tower defence game.

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