San Francisco-based Zendesk has been a much-followed player in customer support software for small, mid-sized, and enterprise companies since its founding 2007, as has been frequently covered here by myself and others. [Disclosure: in 2012 I was the roadshow keynote speaker for the Zendesk Customer Service HeroTour.]
Recently, Zendesk announced the expansion of Zendesk Sunshine, a cloud-based CRM platform, finding its place among the ranks of other support solutions I have covered here recently, like NextOS from Nextiva, Helpshift, and UJET. (The announcement was intended for this month’s Relate in Miami, which unfortunately, for public safety reasons, was canceled.) I took the opportunity of this announcement to talk with Adrian McDermott, the Zendesk President of Products.
Micah Solomon, Customer Experience Consultant and Senior Contributor, Forbes.com: Break it down for me, Adrian. What exactly is Zendesk Sunshine and why does it matter?
Adrian McDermott, Zendesk President of Products
Adrian McDermott, President of Products, Zendesk: Zendesk Sunshine is an open and flexible CRM platform built on Amazon Web Services. Sunshine lets businesses connect all of their various systems in order to bring their customers’ information into focus, giving businesses a truly organized view of their customers. This is of the essence today, now that customers increasingly expect companies to know who they are. Sunshine is what gives agents the information and the context they need to answer questions faster, with more personalization, over any channel.
Solomon: How does Sunshine fit into the competitive landscape of CRM?
McDermott: Traditional CRM solutions were created with the primary goal of helping sales teams sell products and services, addressing just one part of the entire customer journey. This piece of the customer journey is becoming less important as businesses increasingly depend on long-term relationships rather than individual transactions. And that’s where Sunshine excels.
Sunshine is also different from the competition in a few more technical ways. It is built on the public cloud and makes it fast and easy for businesses to build differentiated, frictionless experiences along with a comprehensive view of the customer across systems. It is connected to key AWS services and integration points (developers can bring in their own language and tools). There are no strange java dialects and form based incantations from the 90s, so companies aren’t held back by vendor lock-in and can move quickly and constantly adapt. Developers can build and deploy custom applications and services faster, as well as leverage open standards and the speed of the public cloud.
Who are likely customers for Sunshine?
McDermott: We generally see three customer use cases:
- Companies are giving agents a complete view of the customer
- Using data to hyper-personalize the CX
- Shifting relationships from reactive to proactive
One example is Bestseller, a European clothing brand that provides affordable fashion to women, men, teens, and children. Bestseller chose Zendesk Sunshine for its data accessibility and time-to-value. In just 17 days, they were able to build an app using Custom Objects that allowed them to note the reason for the voucher, track the code, and understand usage of the voucher by that customer, all stored in Sunshine. This reduces the time it takes for an agent to issue a voucher by 50%. Not only are tickets being handled faster, but Bestseller now has the ability to understand the ROI of giving customers these vouchers. If they offer a 15% discount vs a 5% discount for a shipping delay, they have the ability to see if there is a difference in purchase.
Solomon: As a customer experience consultant, one question I get (and have my own answers for) is why the customer experience is so important, and why it’s particularly important now. What’s your take? What is one question you wish I asked (ask it and answer it)
McDermott: Here’s my take: Customer loyalty can be neither bought nor taken for granted. Customers don’t need to be loyal — they have more power, more information and more options than ever. Businesses have to earn and re-earn a customer’s business with every interaction. The Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 shows that half of customers globally will switch to a competitor after just one bad experience, and 80% will leave after multiple bad experiences. This same report revealed that service is a primary driver of customer loyalty, second only to price. Even businesses with a loyal customer base can be easily undercut by a competitor who provides a memorable and differentiated experience.
Solomon: And the natural followup to that is, of course: what exactly contributes to a positive customer experience?
McDermott: There are many factors that contribute to a positive customer experience: affordable prices, range of products or services available, convenience or ease of use, promotions offered and more — but among these, service is foundational. The main difference between service today and service 10 years ago is that customers expect premium service to be built-in from the first interaction through the moment they ask for help, post-purchase, and back again. Customer experience is the sum of each service moment along the customer journey, from one purchase to the next. To position themselves for success, businesses must integrate service into the journey at every interaction point, and use customer insights and service data to enrich the overall experience.
Micah Solomon is a customer service and customer experience consultant, keynote speaker and trainer. He also works as a content creator and ghostwriter and as a customer service expert witness. Micah was recently named “the World’s #1 Customer Service Turnaround Expert” by Inc. Magazine. Email Micah directly, visit his website, or check out his new bestseller: Ignore Your Customers (and They’ll Go Away) (HarperCollins Leadership).