For more than nine years, the “laughing monk” has been a symbol of all that Zendesk represents, peacefully resolving problems to create happy customers. But the image emphasized a reactive nature, something that Zendesk is looking to move past, especially as it’s now a public company. That’s why it is rebranding itself as a service that helps customers think proactively.
To get things started, the company has created two new products aimed at getting brands to take initiative. Zendesk Connect enables customer segmentation and push notification engagement services, while Zendesk Explore is a business intelligence tool that curates and analyzes customer-centric data from a variety of sources so brands can derive insights about how to reach out to their users.
These tools are being introduced today and are available through an early-access program, but the general public won’t be able to use them until next year.
“For too long, business software has been built for businesses at the expense of customers. It’s been built for department silos and separate ‘clouds,’ not the seamless experience customers expect today,” said Mikkel Svane, Zendesk’s chief executive. He added “We’re changing that with products built for relationships first.”
This echoes what he told VentureBeat in a May interview, when he said he believes the concept of customer service is changing from “how you can support your customers and answer them when you reach out to them to how companies can maintain relationships and turn them into promoters of brands.” Today’s announcement shifts Zendesk’s focus from support to service, perhaps giving it a way to compete against the capabilities of Salesforce and other customer relationship management (CRM) tools.
“We’ve been focusing more and more on customer relationship, understanding and having full context of the customer,” said Adrian McDermott, the company’s senior vice president of product development.
Both Zendesk Connect and Explore utilize data to help companies develop personalized experiences. The former comes in the form of a websnippet, or SDK, that is inserted directly into apps and will collect data on user activity and behavior before tying it in with other Zendesk properties. Companies can then create segments on their users based on factors like geography, activity, specific events, plan type, email, or name. The tool will then provide a list of users that can be reached using push notifications. These notifications could be used for such things as helping onboard new customers, carrying out A/B testing, asking users to upgrade, and more.
McDermott claimed Zendesk Connect is just the start as the company continues building rich nurture flows and enables businesses to create highly engaging campaigns.
Zendesk Explore provides companies with global view of the customer landscape. This business intelligence tool integrates with a variety of external services, such as Box, MailChimp, Facebook, Salesforce, Vimeo, and Twitter, taking the data and exporting a holistic look at trends and behaviors. This is a product of Zendesk’s acquisition of BIME Analytics in 2015 for $45 million.
“BIME Analytics will become the core technology powering Zendesk’s customer data platform, enabling Zendesk to further integrate data analytics capabilities across its products,” Zendesk said in a release at the time.
McDermott explained that businesses expressed frustration with inefficiencies in the way customer data is typically organized. “‘Can I add this flat file? Could I connect to this database? What about bringing data from operational systems and reporting on these tools?’ No, they didn’t have this capability,” McDermott said. “Zendesk Explore is the first time we can open up customer perception and allow companies to know who’s in their base.”
The expectation is that Zendesk’s original set of products — such as its support tool, help center, chat, talk, and messaging software — are apps for when the customer or user has issues. Connect and Explore, on the other hand, allow brands to get out in front of potential problems.
As part of this evolution, Zendesk has refreshed its brand, eliminating the laughing monk and instead moved toward what it calls “relationshapes,” which are blocks symbolizing the relationship between businesses and customers. “While each product has a unique identity, they fit together into a greater whole that is represented by the new Zendesk company logo. The logo is a large Z comprised of the individual shapes connecting together,” the company said.
McDermott shared that access to Zendesk Connect and Explore will first be offered to Zendesk’s customer base. While there is already interest, Zendesk is working to determine which customers are the best candidates.