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Zendesk: Cloud-based customer service

October 5, 2013

(Published in TTG 28.08.13)

Zendesk says technology can improve customer service, but travel companies must ensure that all of their staff engage with clients. Matthew Parsons reports

I’d like to speak to the manager” used to be a common way to start a complaint. Or a customer, unhappy with your service, would simply send an email. However, many people now turn to social media to display their disappointment, or worse, vent their anger at your brand.

As a result, one software company has developed what it claims is the solution to communicating across the myriad channels.

“Normally when we want to complain we email, or phone, first,” says Nick Peart, marketing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Then if the response is bad, we turn to social media.”

Zendesk acknowledges that the new generation of customers does not see a difference in channels. For future “Millenial” customers, the division looks set to blur even further with social media often the first outlet for a spontaneous rant following a bad experience.

The company has harnessed cloud technology and lets users respond to complaints, received across any channel, with a single log-on. It can be cumbersome, monitoring social media constantly, and deciding who replies to what, and when. Peart jokes that Zendesk’s biggest competitor is a “shared email inbox”, with its latest signing, Trivago, previously using this method for its customer service.

With a cloud-based system, response times can also be improved, and speed, Peart says, is directly related to customer satisfaction.

Zendesk also counts the likes of Expedia, Disney, Airbnb and Secret Escapes as customers (non-travel customers include Vodafone and the UK government), but it is also targeting smaller companies – and in particular travel companies, owing to the nature of the buying experience.

Travel purchases aren’t the same as buying, say, a microwave, Peart says. “The selling experience starts the moment you try to buy the holiday, there’s lots of anticipation. By the time you’re ready to go, you can’t wait. There’s a challenge to meet expectations.”

Cloud technology means lower costs – for an agency as small as three members of staff, user-licences start from $20 a year. And for travel agencies worried about having to change their existing customer services phone number, Peart says it’s simply a case of forwarding that number to a new Zendesk one – which allows recording, as well as profiles to be set up with purchase history included.

People power
But as well as harnessing new technologies, travel-sellers must ensure that all staff get involved.

“One year on, and I think the Games Makers are the legacy of the Olympics. More travel companies should follow this lead, and use their own staff as advocates,” says Peart.

This allows people’s personalities to come through. A customer wanting to know more about the weather, or facilities, in a resort could find themselves engaging with the entertainment manager directly, for example.

Another benefit, Peart believes, is that this mix of cloud technology and sharing customer service among staff has led to “insourcing”; following the wave of companies using call centres abroad, many are now bringing this function back to the UK.

Zendesk sound like just another Silicon Valley success story – it has grown its customer base from 15,000 to 30,000 in the past 12 months – but it was founded in Denmark in 2007. After two years of growth, it moved to America and in September last year secured funding worth $60 million.

Yet with what Peart describes as “chaos management solution”, the platform could be a valuable tool for smaller travel firms to cope with the growing army of social media users.

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