Chad Pearce, Vice President at Zendesk for Marketing talks about the ways in which technology and digital innovation can deliver exceptional customer experiences
“Every interaction is now an opportunity to win customers over and convert them into sales.”
1. Tell us about your role at Zendesk?
A key part of my role is ensuring that Zendesk’s marketing department is deeply integrated into the rest of the business. Marketing teams, like any department, can fall into the trap of operating in silos. Those that cross their functional boundaries to integrate with different departments, like communications and sales, are far better at ensuring how and where brands should show up. Since I started my role in July, I’ve been working with the team to ensure our goals and executions are intertwined with functions across the business, so we can have a real impact on the bottom line.
2. Can you tell us about your journey into this market?
From my first job at IKEA, to my time at Microsoft and now Zendesk, my role has always involved a regional remit. I’ve seen how much the marketing function has evolved in Asia Pacific, particularly during COVID. The pandemic has made it clear that it is now mission critical to maintain both employee and customer relationships and as a result, we’re seeing digital laggards adopt solutions at an accelerated pace. There’s a big opportunity for businesses in the region to become customer experience leaders.
3. How do you think technology is upgrading the marketing sector?
There’s been a proliferation in the tools available to today’s marketers, from a mere few hundred to thousands of solutions. Social media and technology advancements have also driven the marketing function into a more strategic role, where marketers have a unique role to play in shaping and informing the overall customer experience.
Take, for example, how customers interact with brands. Today, customers want to communicate with brands on the same channels they’re already using to speak with family and friends. They may start a support ticket via email, and then switch over to WhatsApp to continue the conversation. This requires brands to connect the conversations customers are having on all channels into a seamless experience both for the customer and agent. That’s where open and flexible platforms like Zendesk Sunshine come in to enable this seamless cross-channel communication and ensure customer support teams have all the information they need at hand to resolve an enquiry. It’s this type of holistic view of the customer that will transform marketing.
4. What do you think is the impact of friction in deal updates on Sales?
One of the biggest challenges in any sales team is silos – whether that be in tracking sales activities, accessing and analyzing data or utilizing tools that are able to integrate with each other. Friction coming out of siloed data and cumbersome processes can lead to lower productivity, time wasted and ultimately, missed opportunities.
It’s important to recognize that today’s sales processes and relationships have evolved beyond linear progressions and have grown more complex as customers are increasingly discerning and informed. That needs to be reflected in the solutions and tools used by the sales teams. It starts with building a sales experience that makes the customer feel like human beings and not a lead. This involves having an all-in-one solution that sales teams actually want to use to engage with customers – one that is simple, intuitive, and effective.
5. How can omnichannel change an organizations’ customer support?
I read a recent McKinsey study which noted that because of the pandemic, “digital technologies moved quickly from a strategic priority to an operational imperative—both to accommodate remote workers and serve consumers as they flocked to e-commerce channels”. This couldn’t be more true in the CX space.
Customer expectations have never been higher, and this has been further compounded by the dramatic shift to digital as a result of the global pandemic. By taking an omnichannel approach to support, companies can meet these expectations. Moving beyond simply providing conventional channels like email and webform to also offering live channels like chat and messaging allows companies to be where their customers are. That means having a support solution that’s fully integrated across channels and provides a personalized experience no matter where the customer is or which device they’re using. The keyword is ‘fully integrated’ because that gives companies a single view of the customer, allowing them to tend to the customer’s needs with the full context of past interactions.
6. What role does analytics play in improving the entire customer experience?
Any great customer engagement strategy starts with understanding the customer – for example, where they spend the most amount of time, which channels they prefer to use to connect with a business and whether they prefer to find answers themselves. Data analytics, especially when in real-time, can help businesses craft personalized customer interactions and pivot their business quickly to keep pace with changing customer needs. Having a view into real-time data, such as spikes in certain channels or backed up queues, allow businesses to redistribute their resources so that support agents can be where they’re needed the most. Being able to identify the most commonly asked queries enables businesses to pre-emptively address them even before they become support tickets, by developing help center articles.
Let’s take Etsy as an example. They’re a global online marketplace with over 2.8 million sellers and 50 million buyers. Several months ago, the company saw a deceleration in sales and then a sudden surge in demand for one product: masks. Sellers who were previously processing a couple hundred orders started to get an influx of orders in the thousands range. While products usually ship in 24 hours, there are currently multiple obstacles in getting that supply out in a timely manner. In order to help sellers meet buyers’ expectations, Etsy uses Zendesk solutions such as Explore to gain visibility into various operations in order to surface problem areas such as discrepancies between fulfillment and capacity.
7. Can you explain to us in detail about your Guide product?
Zendesk Guide is a smart knowledge base that delivers self-service for end users through help centers, websites, mobile apps, and more. It organizes frequently asked questions, product details, policies, and other key information for customers and agents, making it quick and convenient for end users to find the answers they’re looking for.
What’s great is that it makes it easy for agents to instantly access and share collective team knowledge, as well as build on it, to resolve customer requests quickly. It’s integrated seamlessly with Zendesk Support, which means that support agents can access Guide data to analyze and turn every customer interaction into new content, flag old content for improvements, and even search for articles to link in tickets. This creates a feedback loop which helps to continuously improve and refine self-service content for customers, as well as optimize the information that Guide offers to agents.
8. What advice would you like to give to technology Start Ups?
If you look at the past 10 years, the most successful startups are those that were designed with the customer at their core from day one. If you don’t have the customer at the heart of your business from the get go, you’re missing out on incredible opportunities to grow. Our recent Startup CX Benchmark data also found that startups that see faster growth are those that start adopting customer service earlier and embrace the tools and processes to become customer-centric much quicker.
9. What digital innovation in sales technology will mark 2020?
Today’s digital-first environment has blurred the lines between what traditionally has been seen as customer support channels, sales channels and marketing channels.
Every interaction is now an opportunity to win customers over and convert into sales. What sets companies apart will be how they use these channels to engage with customers in a way that is responsive, authentic and helpful.
If we look at the bigger picture with the pandemic forcing companies to go virtual in an incredibly short time frame, the digital transformation happening across industries and functions is probably what will mark 2020. Things like leveraging AI and having systems and tools to support a distributed workforce were once seen as optional, but became critical in a matter of weeks. Solution providers that have been able to deliver time to value with fast implementation and agility are the ones that are ahead of the pack, and these are values core to what we do at Zendesk.
10. How do you prepare for an AI-Centric world?
With the democratization of AI solutions, we’re already seeing a high level of AI adoption and sophisticated applications. Our CX Trends report earlier this year showed that the number of customers using AI is up 95% in the past two years among companies using Zendesk. To remain competitive, companies need to switch their focus from preparing for an AI-centric world to doing what they can to get on board with AI now.
11. What are the major developments you are planning?
With the COVID-19 pandemic completely upheaving the traditional view of the workplace, one of the things we’re thinking about is reimagining our workplace. As business leaders and people managers, we need to rethink any previously held expectations of where people are located, how they connect with each other, what it means to be an in-office or remote employee, and what enablement they need to work seamlessly in this new environment. That includes things as simple as having benefits in place to ensure our team has the right setup in their home office, to more complex needs like how we ensure our employees feel engaged in a virtual world.
For me, joining the company in the thick of COVID means I have yet to see the four walls of a Zendesk office. I can truly testify to how important it is to feel connected to the team, especially virtually, which is why it’s a focus for us.
12. Can you tell us about your team and how it supports you?
With over 30 marketers spread across the region, I’m incredibly lucky to have a team that truly knows their craft. I have so much faith in what they do, which gives me the freedom to focus on the high-level organizational planning that comes with leading marketing for a region.
Part of the reason I’m so fortunate to have the right mix of maturity and talent within the team is that Zendesk is focused on finding the ‘X-Factor’ and that’s where I see my value add is. In our marketing team, the X-Factor refers to having that integrated mindset – knowing who to connect with internally, how to embed ourselves in various business functions and what to do to keep our objectives aligned with the wider organization. This ensures that everything we do doesn’t operate in a vacuum and drives real impact on the bottom line.
13. We have heard that you have a very joyful work culture, so can you share with us some of the fun pictures of your workplace?
Yes, we do! You can check out our Instagram profile for some fun photos back when we were still working in offices. That said, working from home doesn’t mean we don’t keep our culture alive and thriving. We rolled out a series of initiatives to help keep the teams motivated and connected at all times, including employee-hosted Living Room Live sessions, more frequent virtual leadership Q&As along with regional and functional Town Hall meetings, health and wellness programs like “Flexi-Fridays” where teams are encouraged to end the day early to rest and recharge, and access to licensed therapists, professional coaches and wellness resources through companies like Modern Health and Calm.
14. Can you give us a glance of the applications you use on your phone?
It’s no surprise that my go-to apps at the moment all enable remote working – Gmail, WhatsApp and Calendar. Slack is my most used app – it’s how I connect with my team each day.