Reflections from Relate

It was a great week in San Francisco at Zendesk’s annual user conference, Relate.

Sadly, the smoke from the fires just north of the Bay Area filled the air outside, but that didn’t deter a couple thousand Zendesk users from coming together to learn. The goal remains the same for all Zendesk users—to create better experiences for the customers they serve. From helpful reminders to reassuring best practices and new innovations, the ideas were endless. Here are 5 key themes that rang true throughout the week:

Some things haven’t changed

While discussing the key trends impacting customer experiences in 2019, Max Luthy, Director of Trends and Insight for TrendWatching, outlined that the rate of change continues to accelerate. In fact, the rate of change over the last 25 years is greater than the rate of change the previous 250 years. But he brought us back to center to remind us that we shouldn’t be overwhelmed because this core fact remains true:

“We are the same old humans with the same old human needs.”
—Max Luthy

Relating that to a better customer experience, Max noted that consumers crave feelings of delight, fairness, relevance, and empathy, which is consistent with historical preferences. If you’re like me, you quickly read these items and think, “yeah, yeah, of course.” But Max encouraged everyone to stop and think about whether these items are at the core of their customer experience strategy, team, or technology. This notion, which is simple in thought, yet difficult to keep top-of-mind, was a great reminder. If these values are at the core of what I want as a consumer, I should keep those things at the core of every business decision, too.  

Tech-spectations are enormous

Technology has evolved to the point where we expect nothing less than great. We expect technology to work, work quickly, and work intuitively. Think about how you feel when your iPhone’s home button doesn’t work or your computer decides to take a day off—it throws a wrench in the day. Just the other day I thought, “I wish Alexa could hear my wife and me discuss needing to return these clothes, order a return label, and maybe pack it for us. Oh, and please send me a text to let me know the money has been returned to my account.” That’s my ideal kind of A.I.

So, what’s the takeaway? Sure, it’s important to ensure newly created technology works the way their consumers demand. But it’s also crucial to remember that if and when it doesn’t, it can create poor experiences that will require human intervention. Humans will make or break the customer experience. This is when it’s crucial to remember Max Luthy’s words of advice and anticipate your customer’s wants and needs.

BPOs—Necessary evil, or part of your growth strategy?

While we’re on the topic of people, let’s talk about teams. Business Process Outsourcing, or BPO, refers to the outsourcing of some, or even all, of a customer service team. When I started learning about the customer service and contact center world, I mentally (and unfairly) gave BPO a bad rap. My naive thought process was that outsourcing part of a support team was “the cheap way.” While it can save money, it isn’t about being cheap. Instead, it’s about focusing on what teams are good at and letting other teams handle areas they’re proficient in. Now, I’m learning how companies consider BPOs as a part of their growth strategy instead of a necessary evil. Here’s why:

  1. BPOs offer more than just outsourced work: They also consult on in-house best practices. For example, Sitel promotes consulting as a key focus area.
  2. BPOs accelerate economies: Whether onshore or offshore, hundreds of thousands of jobs are created through these organizations. Take a look at what the SupportNinja team is doing and why they’re doing it.
  3. BPOs help maintain specialization, and therefore, efficiencies: It’s pretty powerful stuff. Hundreds of agents focus on being a positive extension of your brand while providing great customer experiences.

Future forecast—a lot of sunshine

The big reveal at Relate was Zendesk’s new CRM Platform, Sunshine. As Mikkel Svane, Zendesk’s CEO, outlined, “It’s time to break free from the CRM platforms that think they’re the center of the universe and lock you into an outdated view of the world.” Additionally, the Zendesk team shared that, “Sunshine lets you seamlessly connect and understand all of your customer data. It’s fast, powerful, and gives you the freedom to build whatever you want.”

The Zendesk team has stayed true to the idea of creating technology that truly results in a better experience for the end customer. Ideally, it’s a great experience for both the consumer and the business. This is the same vision that Lessonly CEO, Max Yoder, championed from day one. We put the learner first and build our training software to provide a great experience first and foremost for the end user— the learner.

Sunshine, Sell, Explore—oh my!

In addition to Sunshine, Zendesk launched Explore and Sell.

Sell, previously known as Base CRM, was acquired by Zendesk just two months ago. This sales force automation tool is designed to assist sellers to work with prospects, manage their pipeline, and view performance dashboards. The product fits extraordinarily well around Zendesk’s focus on creating holistic yet simple tools for their customers. Ryan Nichols, VP of Product and Marketing for Sell, noted, “It’s the tool you’d expect from Zendesk. It helps you sell the way your customers want to be sold to.”

Explore is designed for managers and admins to get better insights into their customer’s experience. As stated on their website, “Explore is more than just pretty dashboards. It’s a comprehensive customer analytics toolkit that helps you measure and optimize every interaction a customer has with your business.” Three big product releases in two short days by one solid company. Good for you, Zendesk.

It’s time to be the customer’s hero

The combination of people and technology drives consumer experiences. The key to remember, though, is that it’s always a combination of the two instead of an “either/or” proposition. With every challenge we tackle, problem we solve, and solution we create, it’s important to keep that front of mind. If nothing else, let this serve as a reminder to not be the villain of someone else’s poor experience story. We don’t want to be on that end of the story; with that, I know we can all Relate.

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