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Interview: Zendesk and the State of the CCaaS Market

John Aniano, Senior Vice President of Product in CRM applications at Zendesk, sat down with Info-Tech analyst Thomas Randall to discuss the current state of the contact center as a service (CCaaS) market space and Zendesk’s position in that space. The conversation is transcribed below.


Thomas Randall (TR): Today I have the pleasure of being in conversation with John Aniano, Senior Vice President of Product in CRM applications at Zendesk, to talk about the current state of the contact center as a service (CCaaS) market space and Zendesk’s position in that space. Hi, John, thanks for your time. Could you give a quick overview of Zendesk and how you position Zendesk in the CCaaS market?

John Aniano (JA): Absolutely, thanks for the time – happy to join and give everybody an update on Zendesk. I’ve been in the industry for my entire adult life, always in customer service or CCaaS software, so I’m really excited to be at Zendesk. I think part of that reason is that Zendesk started around 13 years ago with a really simple concept: companies need to deliver great customer service and they need to do it easily.

Zendesk was founded at a time where there weren't any tools that you could get up and running super quickly with what was state of the art of the time – email and a customer help center on the web. Since then, Zendesk has grown from a start-up in Copenhagen to a global company with over 4,000 employees worldwide servicing over 100,000 customers. Part of Zendesk’s popularity comes from – what I believe is – their truly modern CCaaS or customer service omnichannel customer service suite. So, it’s a really exciting time to be at Zendesk and really, most importantly, being able to help some great companies and great brands. This includes not only being able to build out their private cloud but also moving to what we see today: large globally distributed multitenant cloud solutions that can serve businesses of any size worldwide.

I think what we're finding in this phase of CCaaS is making sure that we can connect with customers on any channel of preference with the same sophistication that we've delivered on channels like phone and email in the past; so, as customers move to other channels, Zendesk is asking: what are the opportunities we have to bring in messaging as a first-class channel in these types of experiences? How do we seamlessly switch from channel to channel both from a customer experience perspective and an agent experience perspective? These are, I think, the areas that the CCaaS world is focusing on right now – indeed, customers are coming to vendors and saying, “how do we do this?”, “what's the best way to do this?”, “how can you help us deliver the best customer experience across channels with the same sophistication that we've used in the past?”

TR: How is Zendesk answering those questions? Could you speak to Zendesk’s key capabilities and differentiators?

JA: When we think about CCaaS and Zendesk, we think about the contact center as being a component of the entire Zendesk suite. If you look at Zendesk over the past few years, we've brought in great products to deliver customer service; for instance, we were really early in providing messaging channels, as we acquired a company called Smooch a year and a half ago. This acquisition enabled Zendesk to provide general messaging platform capabilities across all the different social messaging channels, alongside native messaging. This acquisition and more were brought together to launch the new Agent Workspace platform, which actually brings full multichannel capabilities of Zendesk into a single interface for agents with a single set of tools, so that they can deliver a great consistent experience to customers on any channel from a single interface. This delivers efficient customer experiences quickly and easily, which includes phone, chat, email, help center web forms, mobile interactions, and all the messaging channels that we now have powered by our Sunshine conversation platform. That's a big step!

We launched a beta at the end of last year, which is going to be generally available this year, called Zendesk Messaging. This solution takes the approach of having individual channels for voice and talk from the customer side and rolls them all into a single asynchronous messaging-based experience. I can start messaging with the company through Zendesk on a social messaging channel; I can then see that full history in a native messaging experience, I can initiate a digital voice call from within that experience, and I've got a single communication conversation thread with the company all within Zendesk.

TR: What future trends do you see in the CCaaS marketspace moving forward? How does Zendesk fit into this evolving landscape?

JA: There are a number of trends happening that are affecting how we think about delivering the best CCaaS product and experiences to our customers, and I'll talk about three of them. I already mentioned one, so I don't I won't go too deep into it, but we've seen a shift in consumer behaviour to messaging. It's probably not hyperbole to say that everybody in the world has interacted with the messaging type experience, getting comfortable with using social messaging networks, or iMessage on their iPhones, or Google messaging on their Android phones, to connect with family and friends. I often uses Facebook Messenger with my grandmother – that's something I never thought I would say, but basically everybody is familiar with messaging experiences in their personal life and that is bleeding into consumers expectations for how they interact with businesses. It's up to CCaaS vendors to help businesses make the shift to messaging in the same way they help businesses make the shift to phone and email. We're making tons of investments in messaging; I think we're on the forefront of that and that'll continue over the coming years.

The second trend I'd like to mention is that we're seeing a lot of advancements in technologies around machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), which has really strong applications in the CCaaS world. Machine learning (ML) can help eliminate a lot of the manual effort that customer service agents or even customers themselves spend in a contact center interaction. Things like automated conversation triage, automated routing, the use of bots, and automated conversation flows all come from advances in ML and AI. Vendors like us are taking advantage of that and, in particular for Zendesk, we're seeing the combination of the move to messaging and the advancements in ML.

The third trend I will talk about is remote agents and contact centers. We as a world have experienced quite a shock in 2020, with everybody working remotely and working from home. I think the CCaaS space has had a lot of experience here because we've often had to deal with work-from-home agents and remote contact centers; we kind of already had a leg up on how to deal with remote work and remote workforces. But this also means that monitoring shift management and workforce management, and just being able to have real-time insight into what's going on across the world – from within your living room or guest room or dining room or wherever you set up your home office – is something that CCaaS vendors will all have to work on. Zendesk has introduced a number of advancements to our real-time monitoring and dashboards to all agent presence capabilities and routing capabilities that it takes to run globally distributed contact centers. This helps deliver the best customer experience in a world where we can't rely on the office being there anymore, or where we can't rely on the contact centre being a single co-located space.

These are the trends that I think will be talking about for the next three to five years and certainly we've got our eyes on them at Zendesk.

TR: Fantastic, John. Very insightful, and we’re greatly appreciative your time.

JA: Thanks a lot, Tom, it’s been great.

Source: SoftwareReviews, CCaaS Data Quadrant. Accessed August 31, 2021.

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