Sandie Overtveld, VP, Sales, APAC, Zendesk and KT Prasad, Country Sales Director, Zendesk India, in an interview with Techseen discuss how it is important for companies to keep the service agents happy, technologically updated and trained, so that they can interact and engage their customers with ease and translate it into optimum client satisfaction. Both Sandie and KT talk about the various channels of communication that companies are using to speak to their customers and how Zendesk is helping its clients stay ahead of the curve with their tools and applications. Excerpts:
Techseen: You have tools and apps ranging from live chat, integrated call centers, social messaging, analytics, to segmentation. Talking from an India perspective, which of these tools is most used by enterprises? Do you give them the entire package?
Prasad: The email and phone is the most widely used, that is the prominent chunk that we see clients using at this point of time. But we are seeing that changing from year to year to multichannel. And this is a trend ewe have seen not in India but across the globe. So primary is email, next is phone and the third is chat.
Overtveld: A big chunk is related to the age categories and company availability. We hear a lot of clients say that their customers want to reach them by phone, because the only thing that one can find on their website is a phone number, which actually self perpetuates. But actually if you look at the research around the age groups, the millennial which is a large age group in India actually have a preference to use Chat or Mobile Apps, or some sort of digital form. A research of ours says that only 12% of them use phone as a contact if they had a choice of using a different channel.
If you look at the indian population, by 2020 India will have the largest workforce globally under the age of 29 and that is the target group many companies are going after, therefore we are seeing a big switch in the channel.
Techseen: CRM and intelligent project apps today are collecting large amounts of customer information and providing them to their client’s agents for better relationships. How is Zendesk different?
Overtveld: CRM is a difficult word, because most people equate CRM with Salesforce automation and that is not a problem that we are trying to solve. There are a couple of great companies that are trying to do that and we integrate into their systems to let you access the CRMs. Leads, opportunities, closure of the deal that is what we look at. Really what we are focusing at is customer engagement with the core focus on the key thing that we are trying to solve is how do you communicate with 10 million or 100 million customers and keep the engagement personal rater than just an interaction.
One of the key things that differentiates Zendesk is that we are a very integrated solution so within the application we have 85,000+ paying customers now who have 300 million end users and agents and we do about 4.5 million tickets a day. One of the great things with that is you start doing a lot of learning, use the intelligence of how customers are doing and present that information in a way to make the interaction more personal.
Having all those channels in a single repository we can report on and let customers get real time response of the interaction and real time information on how people are interacting with their websites and mobiles as well as proactively engage them. That is where we stand out, we can cater to a company that can have one support agent or 19,000 support agents, we can scale and have stability to support a huge size.
Techseen: Talking about agents, do you think we live in a world where the agent’s productivity is assessed by the number of tickets he has solved or does it go beyond?
Overtveld: I think it goes way beyond, I think its about the satisfaction of the customer. We do something really cool – predictive satisfaction based on specific companies. Once we have 100 tickets we see how typically customers react to questions or how frequently customers interactions take place. We have a deep-learning machine to see whenever there is a language change or interaction change we know that the level has dropped and this would give the team leader a heads up on what to do.
One of the things about customer service is that it is under-appreciated, it is one of those things that you cannot create in advance, you cannot store it and call it when you need it and is typically done with interactions with employees on the front lines not managers.
Your customers are always creating the service. Hence, it is very unique and all about creating the correct toolset to provide the customer what they need, when they call in whatever channel preference they can have. In the end it all boils down to how satisfied they are and how many people do they recommend to use your service.
Techseen: Zendesk claims to go beyond customer satisfaction. Customer satisfaction is something that can have variables and calculations, how do you measure happiness?
Overtveld: The known measures are CSAT and MPS which is the likeliness to recommend. But what we found in all our research is that if we have a happy agent it makes the customer happy. People can hear when you call someone in a contact center somebody is trying to flip through 15 screen and apologizing because the system is slow, you can hear the unhappiness and that is what is passed on. Happy agents make happy customers.
Prasad: The CSAT and MPS are outcomes of the conversations. If you give the agents the right productivity tools and make their life easy; enable them to quickly respond to the tickets, address their customers quickly, increase the knowledge base for when they speak to the customers and encourage when they resolve the issue – that is a line we believe helps them be happy which translates into happy customers.
Overtveld: Uber and Ola are both customers of ours, I’ll use the Uber example here; one of the things that they have done that has changed their perspective on customer service is that they realized that the person that interacts with the customer is not an Uber employee and the vehicles they use is not an Uber vehicle. So what they do is that at the end of the ride is driver rating, if you rate anything which is 3 stars or less then they flag it as an unhappy ride. They will then reach out to you by email or phone to raise a ticket to see if they can change your perception about Uber as a company and see that the transaction that you have had can be compensated for. I think that is what customers take seriously and it makes them feel as if they have been reached out personally.
Techseen: Is it the kind of software that you use or is it the people or a mix of both? Is it technology assisting the agent?
Overtveld: It is always the three; people, process and technology. You need to train your agents because if they don’t know what they are talking about they might upset their customer. And you need to have a process to get them to escalate the problem if required. But very often we find that the biggest challenge is the technology. Suppose you have a well-trained agent and if they don’t have the answers to the questions they are asked and they are unable to log into the software to see something important, that causes a very high level of customer dissatisfaction.
I think we all have faced the issue, phoning a company which you have been a customer of for 10 years and they cannot solve your problem because they do not have a central view of you, or if they are unable to speak to you, or have no desire to speak to you, they pass you onto the next person, so you keep on going from department to department.
What we provide is all the data in a central location, so no mater who you speak to they will be able to provide you with all the information. That is what are few strengths and benefits of a cloud system, you can do it cross-location, cross department and you do it on the basis of access rights. The information might be stored on premise in the HQ but the regional office can also access it.
Techseen: Zendesk also made Text generally available. In an era when catboats and social apps are growing, do you feel that text based SMS are dying out?
Overtveld: SMS is considered a personal channel, people SMS their friends not company and so the tone is different. In India and a huge portion of Asia there is a huge number of people who don’t have a smartphone, so you do require a method of communicating easily through text. But if we look at demonetization in India and the rise of the e-wallet, we are going to see a dramatic shift to higher penetration of smartphones. As that happens, there will be an ability to communicate through a richer format like Messages rather than SMS.
Prasad: We have a 1.3 billion people in India and have 1.5 billion devices. But the smartphones that you see is about 200 million. Hence you see a huge gap in the outreach from those devices to the people, so an SMS or text could be a good channel for them to gain the experience. I think over a period of time it will change with the different policies and campaigns.
Techseen: From an India perspective, what are the challenges or roadblocks you faced when customers acceded to your solution? Or companies like Zendesk if they want to make a play in the Indian market, what are the challenges it can face?
Overtveld: We have been in India and selling in India and supporting it from Southeast Asia and the US since our inception. From a cloud perspective anybody can sign up. We were 1700 customers in India when we opened office and the number one feedback that we got from our customers was that they wanted a local team and local support. They wanted people who could go to the offices and understand what goes on in the Indian offices and can help adapt to the changes that happen in the market. I think number one for me is to have a local presence and people who engage with the companies need to understand that.
The second feedback that we got from our customers is – we have global scale and global coverage, and for many companies it important for them to build up their global presence and us supporting them in doing that. We have a whole host of customers who started as 5-10 agents and have scales to 2000-5000 agents and we keep supporting them as they grow because we can scale up.
The other piece is that we will always be looking at supporting the Make in India initiative to help those exporters drive to the rest of the world. I think we have developed that platform for multi-lingual capabilities that will help companies go forward.