A customer service experience can easily result in a life-long fan or a dogged critic. To create more fans and fewer critics, over 150,000 organisations depend on Zendesk’s powerful suite of customer service and engagement products to deliver top-notch support.
And when you’re in the business of customer support, your own customers hold you to a higher standard. “We certainly have a giant target on our head of not only providing great customer support in general, but really a step or two beyond,” says Jon Brummel, Zendesk’s senior manager of Premier Support.
To meet these expectations, Zendesk’s approach to collaboration – both internally and externally – needed to evolve. Ideally teams across the organisation would act in sync, but different departments were using different communication tools, creating information silos.
“We had Yammer for internal stuff, Flowdock for the engineering and tech stuff, Google Chat for internal sales and partnerships, and it was just maddening,” Brummel says. “At one point, the COO said, ‘All right, everybody out of the pool.’” From then on, teams collaborated using the same tool: Slack. “Once we got everybody there, it was just a godsend,” Brummel says. Today, Zendesk’s teams rely on Slack to effectively swarm issues, cut resolution times and continuously raise the bar on customer service.
“Slack has allowed us to really provide the experience we want to deliver: the satisfaction of the customer always goes up and the overall resolution time goes down.”
Delivering proactive support and faster incident resolution with automated workflows
Zendesk’s Premier Support team provide the company’s highest level of support. They proactively monitor each Premier client’s configuration to identify issues and resolve them quickly. Brummel sits at the helm of the Premier Support division, with teams in Madison, Wisconsin, as well as London, Dublin, Manila, Singapore, Melbourne and Copenhagen. “It’s not just one or two time zones, it’s a 24/7 operation,” he says. “Slack allows me to keep in touch with my global teams and avoid potential bombs that would otherwise sit in an email for 15 hours.”
The team collaborate in #advocacy-premier, a Slack channel where the group share messages and files, and also maintain channels for each Premier-level client. “So much of our ability to swarm around an issue and take care of our customers in times of crisis is heavily dependent upon Slack,” Brummel says. This is especially evident in the company’s incident resolution process. Anyone at Zendesk can register an incident in an internal portal by inputting key details and selecting a severity level – from 0 (a simple non-urgent request) to 4 (a major customer-facing situation).
The submission triggers an automated workflow that creates a ticket summarising the problem and a forum post to keep customers updated. It also sets up a custom Slack channel that uses integrations, which bring in information from other tools and services, to automatically add on-call engineering and incident teams. A Google Doc is populated with a summary of the incident and pinned to the channel so that internal stakeholders have the context they need to reach a resolution. For urgent situations, the team use the Zoom integration to launch into a call right from within Slack.
This process played out in real time one Friday afternoon. A customer submitted a support request, an internal ticket was created and Brummel’s team sprang into action. “Thanks to the Slack post, our team was on it like a hawk within a couple of minutes,” Brummel says. Premier Support partnered with Zendesk’s engineering and operations teams to solve the problem and update the customer. Before Slack, the issue might have extended well into the weekend or Monday. “That collaboration of the hive mind coming together really quickly is only possible through Slack and our integration with Zoom,” Brummel says. “When we look at the response and overall resolution times before using these tools versus after, they just plummet.”
Throughout the incident resolution process, team members use Slack reacjis – emojis that show actions or reactions – to quickly signal the status of an issue or question (👀indicate that someone is addressing the topic; a ✅is used once they’ve finished). “Knowing the state of a particular thread or item is critical. We can tell at a glance exactly what’s happening,” Brummel says.
Because 90% of his team are dispersed around the world, Brummel also relies on Slack to build camaraderie and trust, whether via quick catch-up chats or daily huddles using the Geekbot integration. This contact helps his direct reports structure their day without wasting time on status update meetings. From inception to resolution, Slack allows Brummel and his team to respond to issues, take rapid action and ensure that customers are always in the loop.
“Slack is the dashboard that tells me what needs attention and how I ensure my team has the support they need to move the issue forward, both for the client and the company.”
Managing partnerships efficiently with channels
As Zendesk’s Manager of Technology Alliances, Mike Yakovlev is focused on building partnerships that can help sales reps to turn conversations into opportunities. But juggling 50 or more partnerships at a time via email proved to be exceptionally challenging. ‘It may as well have been a carrier pigeon,’ Yakovlev says. Now, whether he’s organising co-marketing activities, communicating about sponsorships or discussing a joint solution for a prospective customer, Yakovlev relies on channels, which allow teams to easily share messages, tools and files.
Yakovlev is acutely aware of the fact that easy and efficient communication can make or break a deal. ‘Sales reps are all about speed and making sure that they get the answers to their questions as soon as possible,’ he says. With channels, reps can pull partners into discovery calls with prospective customers within five minutes of the original request. ‘Having all of the information about a specific partner available at once is super important. We have a direct line of communication to our counterparts at the companies we work with most frequently,’ he says. Most of Zendesk’s partners are already active on Slack, which makes things even more seamless.
Internally, Zendesk’s sales reps can pop into the #tech-alliances channel to find fast answers on the company’s partnerships. “Some questions are rapid-fire and very time sensitive. They need answers immediately – and it would not be possible without Slack,” Yakovlev says. While responding to incoming requests in channel takes time, he finds it much more efficient than other methods. “You’d invest significantly more time and have nowhere near the same visibility if these requests came in an email,” he says. When he responds to one query, it’s documented for everyone to see, saving him from answering the same question over and over again.
Slack also helps Zendesk build bridges between partners and customers. For example, when Kelly Ryan, a strategic account executive at Zendesk, knows that a customer is looking for a learning management solution, she can quickly reach out via a Slack channel to Lessonly, a partner and learning management system provider, and connect the two. ‘I’m building credibility by recommending the best partner to our customer and giving the partner a business opportunity,’ Ryan says.
“I live in Slack all day, every day. It’s my source of truth for all communication, internal and external.”
Speeding up sales cycles with company-wide knowledge sharing
People familiar with the modern sales process know that closing a deal is truly an organisation-wide effort. With Slack, the sales team can marshal experts from support, product, finance and legal for help. The ability to submit a question or help request in a department’s channel and receive a rapid response ultimately speeds up sales cycles, Ryan says. She estimates that it saves her two to three hours a day. Over the course of a 260-day work year, this amounts to roughly 650 hours, or 81 working days. Scaled across Zendesk’s 875-person sales and customer success department, that’s nearly 570,000 hours that can be reinvested in building and deepening customer relationships.
Ryan, who works remotely, also turns to Slack to stay connected and share knowledge. “Slack is the primary way I communicate, get answers for customers, escalate support requests, interact with my teammates and manager and share sales [slideshows],” she says. Leveraging information from #ask-competition, sales reps can proactively tweak their approach. When someone closes a big deal, they post it in #winwire, giving teammates a chance to congratulate each other and chat about winning strategies. In #askaboutdeals, the revenue operations team answer finance questions, and in #coolcustomers, teammates share interesting use cases and highlight successful deployments.
Today, practically everyone at the company uses Slack to stay connected, whether they’re coming together around an urgent issue, collaborating with partners or tapping the company’s collective knowledge. Slack helps Zendesk elevate customer support both for its paying clients and the millions of people worldwide who’ve experienced outstanding service thanks to one of its products.