The outlines of a post-pandemic customer experience (CX) landscape are emerging, and it appears that the market dynamic is bringing companies from different segments into heightened competition with one another. Over the past few years, there has been a change in software-buying preferences from niche point solutions to packaged software suites. Organizations and buyers now want more capability and usability across different tools and they want to work with fewer, and better integrated, vendors.
Vendors have introduced fresh features to service and support tools through the gradual adoption of technologies - like artificial intelligence (AI) at the platform level - in response to the shift away from voice support to digital service for many inquiries. Vendors with expertise in service and support now find themselves competing against, or partnering with, those that route interactions, manage workforces, corral different kinds of data, and many other combinations.
At the same time, many organizations are putting effort into making CX a foundational strategic driver. This requires asking questions: Is a process automatable? Is an agent fully equipped to handle complex interactions? Does the self-service infrastructure dovetail with the agent follow up? All these elements need to be in sync to produce frictionless interactions and provide the best customer service and agent success.
Ventana Research asserts that by 2024, seven in 10 customer interactions will occur with a combination of automated conversational self-service and live agents, reducing costs and time, and enabling agents to focus on high-value interactions.
With those factors in mind, Zendesk has been building out the capabilities of its core customer service toolset. Zendesk is a cloud-based customer service and support (CSS) suite with a full set of operational components: case tracking; messaging across multiple digital channels and voice; knowledge management; agent management, tracking and assist; and advanced workflow design to automate as much of the service process as possible.
Its enterprise product includes advanced real-time analytics, customizable agent workspaces and deep API integrations to other necessary tools. Zendesk also offers a parallel component for Sales Management and a platform that includes Sunshine, a CRM system with elements of a CDP baked in.
Zendesk has reorganized how it offers service tools - now bundled together into Zendesk Suite - featuring a new messaging component as a key element. The company is assuming that messaging capabilities are going to be a core need for modern service-delivery teams.
At its recent industry analyst conference, Zendesk shared findings that suggest that during the pandemic, customers relied heavily on messaging to contact companies they do business with. Messaging growth reportedly outpaced growth from other contact channels, particularly on WhatsApp. The company’s messaging solution is built to automate as much of the interaction as possible and is open to third-party integrations with bots and third-party applications.
As a result, the Zendesk Suite is built around a ticketing system that seamlessly integrates all the communication channels used to interact with customers. The goal then is to make it easier for customers to self-serve and to automate the back-and-forth customers have with AI systems and agents. And most important, it connects service processes with back office-related functions via workflows/automation.
By organizing it into a suite, with sales, service and platform components coexisting, Zendesk supports the contention that contact centers are more likely than ever to function in tandem with other customer-facing departments. Zendesk’s move to the suite also highlights the fact that more varied personas are involved in the buying process, and that cross-departmental managers are looking at broader solutions in order to gain insight into the effects of service processes on other activities.
There has historically been a big difference between features used by large organizations versus smaller ones. Now that gap is narrowing, with similar product types marketed to both, regardless of size, as well as a shrinking feature gap.
As vendors race to create more comprehensive suites aimed at a tackling a larger range of processes, Zendesk’s approach to connect related applications and emphasize messaging as a new channel of choice fits within the larger market trend.
The company says that its investment strategy going forward will include focusing resources on automating experiences via AI and low-code workflow design features. Zendesk has also built an agent-desktop environment that includes agent guidance and collaboration tools.
Zendesk’s suite should appeal to any organization with a formal or informal contact center, as well as those with internal help desks. It is also useful for integrating service centers with sales teams. There are many use cases that support the idea of using suites as a hedge against technological obsolescence and to provide a consistent user experience across roles. Zendesk’s decision to make messaging the main focus of their suite should benefit any organization that uses a variety of contact channels to connect with their customers.
From a broad CX perspective, it also seems logical to expect that, at some point, more marketing-related features will pop up in the kind of suite Zendesk offers. Relating marketing outreach to ongoing service issues is the kind of customer-friendly behavior that full CX integration can promote. At the very least, we would not be surprised to see awareness of marketing actions as part of the service toolkit.
For more reading on the upcoming trends in the CX market, see our Analyst Perspective, The Opportunity for CX is Beyond Your Contact Center. More information on these issues can be found at Ventana Research’s Customer Service and Support focus area.