The Silicon-Valley based firm behind the customer service ethos adopted by major European hotels portal Trivago is on a mission to democratise firms’ reaction to client feedback.
Zendesk, a cloud-based technology provider originally founded in Copenhagen in 2007, is seeing impressive growth for its solution that provides a fully integrated process for managing and responding to customers’ feedback from multiple sources, whether it’s emails, phone calls or posts on social media.
The firm has clearly hit a sweet spot as the proliferation of communication channels mergers with the increasing need to retain existing customers as the cost of acquiring new ones spirals. In the last 12 months alone Zendesk has grown its client base from 15,000 to 30,000, a doubling which has been mirrored in Europe where it now has 2,000 customers.
As well as a number of travel firms, Zendesk has a diverse range of clients including a large Europe-based cereals firm, Glasgow NHS and Nottingham Trent University, all using the solution for different purposes from internal catering order taking to procurement to an IT helpdesk to running their entire organisation.
But in travel no one has embraced it more than Trivago, which is held up as a case study into how Zendesk is particularly well-suited to the demands of the travel sector due to the complex nature of its product and propensity for things to go wrong, as well as the intangible, experiential nature of what travel firms sell.
Nick Peart, Zendesk EMEA marketing director, said before deploying Zendesk Trivago, which operates in 37 countries and in 23 different languages, did not have the ability to effectively solve problems for its customers because it was simply relying on an email inbox.
“Ninety nine percent of all customer service interactions start from a negative standpoint – you have an already upset customer who is not being responded to in a timely manner and this just makes them more upset.
“Ultimately in our space we have got a bunch of legacy vendors that have big on-premises solutions, then you have open source build-your-own options, but our biggest competitor is the email inbox. By moving to Zendesk, Trivago was able to make the whole company customer service-centric.
“Customer service is usually a really hard, thankless task, but if you can see if your approach is doing a really good job it makes you more happy. We enable a customer to have a single view of the conversation they are having with an end customer.”
Peart said Zendesk brings in data from multiple sources including social media, email and API connections, the latter meaning it can effectively integrate any type of information allowing the customer to tailor the system to their own requirements.
He claimed one major travel company has gone from raising no ‘tickets’ to over 10,000 within the first six months of utilising Zendesk for its affiliate programme.
Trivago started using Zendesk for its German operation in August 2012 before rolling it out across the entire organisation.
Angie Pollacchi, global customer service and consumer research director, said it took some effort to set up the ‘rules’ known as ‘triggers’ and ‘macros’ which Trivago required but after that the system was easy to use and by April this year 50 agents were dealing with 3,000 customer service requests. It generates 200 per month from Facebook.
“Previously everything was less formal yet much more laborious. We now have brand consistency,” she said. “Initially customer service dialogue was more timid but Zendesk has empowered agents to feel confident and to decide on a course of action immediately; they take initiative and personal responsibility.
“Zendesk has changed the way we operate, we have an easy to use yet formal and transparent system, and people now take personal pride in their work. Customer service has always been a high priority within the company – however, since using Zendesk management attitudes have been revolutionised.”
Peart said the visibility Zendesk gives everyone in the organisation about how effectively problems are being address helps to spread good practice and could even be used to introduce a degree of gamification into customer service with employees vying to be the best at solving problems on Twitter, for instance, or simply excelling at dealing with the most issues in the shortest time.
“Travel is one of our fastest growing retail verticals. It’s 24/7 and requires a single consumer view across multiple channels. When I’m a customer I do not see different channels, different types of message. I’m talking to you, the brand. If I tweet you I expect you to join up the dots.”
The Zendesk system allows customers to create generic responses for often asked questions and can be integrated into and used to develop a firm’s FAQ service. It can also tie in ‘tickets’ related to the same incident meaning that a consistent response can be provided to multiple customers automatically.
Firms can also start to generate an intelligent view of their customers and their history of interaction identifying what sort of response is likely to satisfy their inquiry and which ones are worth spending most time and effort addressing.
Zendesk offers a 30-day free trial and a range of options from entry level costing $20 a year for three agents to an enterprise solution costing $99 per agent per month. However, most customers use the Plus product which costs $49 per agent per month and offers domain mapping and hourly data reporting.