Consumer behavior has significantly changed over the last 18 months — and as a result, eCommerce and Support industries have had to quickly react to create seamless online experiences that meet customer expectations.
Even with (parts of) the physical world reopened, these shifts toward increased digital reliance are here to stay, and it's more important than ever to empower both your customers and agents to self-serve and get direct, actionable answers to support questions online. During a recent fireside chat with Josh Grau (CMO of Yext) and John Finch (VP of Product Marketing at Zendesk), we dove into the technology shifts we've seen, how retailers are pivoting, and where we anticipate future trends moving. Below, an excerpt from that conversation — or you can view the video on demand here.
JG: So as there are so many mar-tech companies these days, how do you explain what Zendesk does and what you're up to lately?
JF: The company started in 2007 and came out of a group of innovative individuals from Denmark and moved to California & NYC to employ more than 5,000 people today. Customer service has been the core DNA of what Zendesk is. We have hundreds of thousands of brands today and we'd like to call ourselves the champions of Customer Service (CS) for everyone. That CS continues to evolve and it's about the way people communicate today with each other, those individuals want to communicate with brands the same way. So via telephone chat, web chat, email messaging, app messaging, social channels, communities, review sites, help centers, all of these plethora of things – they want to be able to serve themselves and they want to be able to do it well and efficiently.
JG: What are some of the customer experience trends that you've seen emerge, particularly in the last couple of years, as there's been just more of a massive shift to online and as e-commerce has become a business plan that every business has to try to find?
JF: It stems from the fact that individuals are doing more and more of their purchases online. The online experience has evolved in such a way that makes it very easy, and to that end, individuals want to get information quickly. And I think that's the biggest thing – it's on the modes of communication that are most important to them at that time. Whether it's a status update on the delivery or a size change, they expect to get that information quickly. Expectations have changed and they don't want to wait on hold, they want to find it on their own or find out from a chatbot quickly.
JG: We, as consumers, are so used to having those in-person interactions and people typically have the same expectations online – how is conversational service relative to customer expectations evolving in the digital world?
JF: It really is about that conversation with a friend – we can text each other or interact on social media and you are going to get that same information and you're going to know how to interact with me and vice versa. And that's the same expectation that individuals have as well – you can get into a conversation with a brand to make a purchase, to find out where your order is, or see if there's inventory. These components would be more conversational, so you can start and stop them and then pick up sort of where you left off. And so it's not sort of the one and done like a phone call or the web chats of the past, where once you interacted and you've moved away or closed out a web browser and hung up the phone you were done, now you can continue to have that dialogue. And that's important for brands to keep the customer interested to keep that buying cycle going until the purchase is made.
JG: So, it's December 1st, and we're in the absolute thick of the holiday season, which means e-commerce is soaring – but so are the demands on support teams. What is the state of the union in terms of support teams in this sadly-not-yet-post COVID world?
JF: I think it's still a challenge, right? I mean, we're going through a number of things right now. We're going through the great resignation where individuals have many more choices in places that they're going to go work and where they're going to spend their time. There's also the fact that some people are in hybrid work environments where some of the individuals that may be working back in the brick and mortar office again and some are still working at home or many are still completely remote because a lot of folks have been hiring completely remote. So, organizations are sort of faced with "How do you enable agents to work better, work smarter, and feel good about the stuff that they're doing?" And I think that there's a lot of tools that surround that. In the relationship, especially that we have with you, it is to enable consumers to solve these problems as much as possible for themselves. And I think that's sort of the front end triage, if you will, of maintaining great service levels. Having that access to that same knowledge base on the backend, to be able to answer the question correctly and quickly. If others, before them have run into this problem, that information gets stored in the knowledge base that they have access to and so it makes the whole experience better for everyone. So an agent's key to success is being able to access and log in from anywhere, provide the highest level of service with the toolkits and the same in the front end as well.
JG: **We ran some research recently and 63% of people start with search, and we all search at least once a day if not multiple times a day. And if that's the search stat, even more so, 81% want to take care of matters themselves. Working with your teams, we understand that support volume can be solved by self-service channels.**In the realm of support and digital support tools and strategies, what are some of the things you've seen e-commerce businesses do that have really given them an advantage?
JF:It's critical to your point and I think that organizations today, if they've been around for a while, have legacy technologies they've implemented, and there's point solutions where there's a one-off sort of go and buy the best web chat solution and add that to an existing environment. A lot of those technologies are very disconnected and I think the biggest thing is to have that connectedness, right? So no matter which channel it is having that digital first approach. So if the telephone is an important component for escalation, being able to have all of those things together so that when a ticket is entered or there's a problem, and the ticket is associated with that, the agent can then take that information and do their work to solve it quickly, that's a key component. I think it's every channel that you possibly can think of, it's a single solution that has at its core. Customer service, customer engagement and values, and being able to drive that around the multiple channels. It's the idea of bringing the marketing, service, and sales components that you have as a retail brand organization together and think about the journey that your customers have and that thoughtful process about each of those channels.
JG: Some might think that marketing and customer support departments are worlds apart and don't have to be concerned with the other. From your perspective, why do these two functions need to be in lock step?
JF: Yeah, because this is, this is the revenue, right and this is the Black Friday. This is the time to make the money and having everything aligned prior to that makes what is happening currently, much more smooth. So I think as marketing is looking at the channels and having that marketing strategy and building in how you're going to service those customers and make them happy so that they keep their product and then tell their friends about it for customer satisfaction is absolutely key. So being in lock step with your service organization as a marketer is very important.
With the overabundance of information at customer fingertips, it remains crucial to keep customers engaged from search through to the final clicks during their purchasing journey. Expectations have shifted as eCommerce continues to pave the way for omnichannel shopping and exceeding these expectations is no easy feat. Organizations will fall behind the moment that business units are not in lockstep. John & Josh made clear, it's most important to be Digital Best, not just Digital First.
Learn more about the power of the Yext + Zendesk here.