March 26, 2021

Innovation and customer-centricity: Zendesk's approach for 2021

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2020 left just as many CX takeaways as challenges for 2021. And if there's a company that knows about customer experience, it's Zendesk, our featured partner at Aivo Awards.

So to hear his insights on last year and his vision for the future, Martín Frascaroli, CEO of Aivo, spoke with Alex Barrera, Vice President of Zendesk Latin America, about CX trends. Here are highlights from their conversation.

A growing trend in Latin America

I love hearing that Latin America is one of the most advanced regions for an international company like Zendesk. Do you think there's a strong movement here to improve the customer experience?

Of course. There's been a trend lately to differentiate yourself as a company, as a product. Rules about how to treat the customer are changing every day, especially now with what we're living through. It flipped customer expectations and forced companies to do a reset.

In the six and a half years I've been at Zendesk, I've seen that evolution. Particularly in Latin America I've seen a lot of interest in knowing and understanding new trends to offer something different and provide a unique experience. And placing the customer at the center is seen as a great differentiator, not just in the US, Europe or Asia, but Latin America, too. 

Do you think there's still a lot to do?

Absolutely, but I see it differently by country and industry. There's interest, but it's another thing to turn on the switch. It's tricky because it's a brutal change management, especially for large companies.

At telecoms or banks, what works is having new divisions that are 100% focused on completely rethinking how to interact with the customer. For the retail industry, on the other hand, no matter what country you're in, you have to change or you're not going to survive.

A customer-centered strategy

I always say that the best customer service change strategy is to put the customer at the center, ask what they want and build from there. Do you think it's good to start from scratch?

No matter what technology you have, what's important are the processes and mapping the customer journey. Starting from scratch gives you agility. It's not easy, and not everyone can do it.

But if you think about unicorn companies in the past few years, they started from scratch and are changing all the time, constantly rethinking and testing things out. They have an impressive level of agility.

The first step in this change management is to rethink the entire experience by putting the customer at the center. You have to constantly hit refresh, listen to the customer and see how they react. If you don't take in that feedback, you're not evolving. And someone else is going to do it. Someone is going to listen to those customers.

For this, companies can and should rely on technology providers like us because they have the expertise and knowledge about best practices.

How important is it that customer service is human-friendly and personalized?

This goes along with the idea of putting the customer at the center. Being able to really connect with the customer. Historically, customer service was reactionary, there was no empathy. This hasn't worked in years.

And it's not about exceeding customer expectations, either. It's going back to basics: being human, being able to provide service how and where the customer wants, and consistently delivering. If you always go for the impossible, the instant you can't deliver you're already burned.

Related whitepaper: Hyper-Personalization and Empathy: How do you better connect with your customers using technology and AI?

WhatsApp was the star of this pandemic. What's your take on this channel?

I think it has to do with the human component, transparency, and instant interaction. WhatsApp It's something we use every day, so it's very natural.

That said, it doesn't make sense to be on every channel if you don't have a flow that really fits with a positive customer journey, because then it becomes a bad experience. Again, it's putting the customer at the center and seeing how to incorporate your channels for a unique, seamless experience.

So businesses have to figure out how WhatsApp is going to be a customer service component. See what the experience is, how they take insights from conversations to improve customer service across all channels, and how they're leveraging it to generate more business.

Looking ahead

What do you think was the biggest takeaway in Customer Service for 2020?

Again, the human component. There came a point when we were all really focused on helping the customer survive. I think the most important takeaway was going back to basics, and that helped a lot for companies to redefine how they were going to navigate the following years. It's been really interesting to see the evolution of certain industries and how they've been able to survive and reinvent themselves.

How does Zendesk see 2021?

We're optimistic. This year was about survival, but we've already come out of the fire and now there's a goal, and that goal is agility and innovation. The first leap was new and uncomfortable for everyone, but that leap was made. It'll be interesting to see how companies take that know-how and continue innovating. 2021 is going to be about innovation but more focused and steady.

Do you know about our standout customers of 2020?

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