Presented by Zendesk

“One of the biggest shifts we saw in 2020 was that our customers are no longer thinking about transformation in multi-year time frames — instead it has shortened to months, days, and even hours,” says Colleen Berube, CIO and SVP, Operations, Zendesk. “That rapid acceleration means we can no longer be okay with hard and complicated; our new fight song is agility.”

This applies across all businesses, from how customers are served to the tools and solutions that employees are equipped with. It’s critical for companies to have technology that is agile, scalable, and easy to use. And it goes beyond tools — agility is a mindset that leaders must have to identify the need for change and respond adeptly.

When customer engagement patterns change, companies must respond to new customer needs quickly. The global shutdowns generated by COVID-19 caused widespread travel and event cancellations, market volatility, and dramatic changes in how customers communicated with businesses. This all resulted in increased uncertainty and significant fluctuations in customer service ticket volumes, making time-to-value more important than ever.

“There is no time to waste when it comes to being there for your customers,” Berube adds. “Businesses that use agile, efficient, and seamless systems to manage all their customer interactions will be better prepared as they are presented with change and to meet the future.”

Gaining value from agility during times of change

“Digital transformation isn’t a destination, it’s an ongoing evolution,” Berube says. “Companies need to constantly innovate, with modern technology as a key enabler.”

The role of today’s CIO is to move from “command and control” to “guide and govern,” in order to ensure agility and speed, she explains. Technology no longer requires fully dedicated in-house teams to implement and manage it. Additionally, the workforce overall is more technology savvy. This means CIOs can move away from running everything, to taking the larger, more strategic role of ensuring that the entire ecosystem supports or advances the company’s aspirations.

Companies must continue to invest in the right tools and technology, and put policies in place for their digitally-driven remote workforce. Leveraging real-time analytics and advanced self-service capabilities, as well as breaking down silos for easy access to information are the only ways they’ll be able to orient for the future. Pairing powerful technology with an employee-first mindset will be the secret sauce in providing the best experiences for customers.

“CIOs are the link between a business’s goals and the technology needed to drive business growth,” Berube says, “Today, this requires technology that can deliver a customer experience and employee experience that constantly improves and evolves.”

Beyond technology: Maintaining agility as a team mindset

While the tools may or may not change in supporting a fully distributed or hybrid workforce, combining powerful technologies with best practices makes all the difference in perfecting how employees work together — but apart.

“In a virtual world, you are required to listen more and be more purposeful with checking in on others. Otherwise you can miss cues on what might be really going on,” Berube says.

Choosing tools requires thinking about what teams need to achieve, and thinking about it holistically, rather than solely from a technology lens. For example, when employees ask: “Can we get a new whiteboard tool?” The best response would be: “What are you trying to achieve in your meeting?” It is important to provide tangible techniques for running a collaborative ideation session, whereas focusing on the tool alone might not produce the intended results.

Companies can learn from teams that are doing things well. Employees are innovative, industrious and often teams will come up with great new ways of doing things. Resist the temptation to ‘define at the center’, and bring forward new concepts, processes, and practices to the entire organization.

This way of working is even more important for non-traditional issues that don’t have a quick fix. Companies that can coach their teams to step back from their digital toolbox and spend time honing soft skills are better poised to do their best work in a fully distributed workforce.

Giving employees a stake in the company’s goals demonstrates their importance as part of the team, strengthens bonds, and establishes a sense of connectivity and camaraderie among workers across the world. It improves the employee experience, too – and that is a direct arrow back to customer service excellence, Berube notes.

“The experience you create for your employees is equally important to the customer experience,” she says. “If your employees don’t know what a good experience looks like, it’s hard for them to be evangelists.”

Agile solutions to easily understand and respond to customer preferences

Customers want to experience a complete journey: instant connection, seamless interaction, and exceptional service. It’s often difficult for companies to deliver.

Whether it’s a lack of clearly aligned objectives or a static model to evaluate and act on customer behavior, many companies fall into the trap of acting on assumptions based upon results from a moment in time. These can be more harmful than helpful by creating blind spots. By assuming that data is true both in the moment and forever, many companies miss the opportunity to recognize what customers need now and will need next.

Fragmented data, insights, and decisions make for fragmented customer experiences. If a business is too slow to respond to change, or can’t agree on what to prioritize, it risks being disrupted by competitors and worse, left behind by customers.

Companies can keep a pulse on evolving trends by creating reliable ways to listen to what customers want, creating ways for them to share feedback, and analyzing the choices they make at every stage of the journey – whether that’s channel choice, self-service needs, or content utilization. Having the right data and sharing it with the right teams across the business means better customer outcomes.

Dig deeper: Get an in-depth look at why CX leaders cited the ability to quickly adapt to the evolving needs of customers as the highest priority going forward in Zendesk’s third annual Customer Experience Trends Report.

Sponsored articles are content produced by a company that is either paying for the post or has a business relationship with VentureBeat, and they’re always clearly marked. Content produced by our editorial team is never influenced by advertisers or sponsors in any way. For more information, contact