Beyond Email: How Google Apps And Zendesk Make Perfect Match for Customer Support

May 20, 2011

A significant number of enterprises are moving their IT capabilities into the cloud, and no one seems to be benefiting more from this trend than Google, who according to a recent study by White Stratus has seen its Google Apps product deployed at nearly 1 in 5 enterprises in the US. However, many companies are finding that deploying Google Apps is just the first step in a transformation their business. Once messaging and collaboration have been moved into a low cost, reliable cloud-based environment there are many other parts of the business that can be given world class IT capabilities for next to nothing. White Stratus helps recommend complete solutions to its Google Apps customers. It’s what led the company to discover Zendesk, the help desk software company that eventually provided the customer service function for its customer Vision Financial Markets.

The Client
Vision Financial Markets, one of the largest providers of Introducing Broker services (IB) in America had successfully embarked on a cloud-based IT strategy, with the implementation of Google Apps across their business for email and collaboration. In fact Google Apps had been so successfully and widely adopted in the organization that it was even being used to support more sophisticated processes such as customer support.

The Challenge
Rapid growth of the Vision client base, and the creation of multiple customer support teams was placing a burden on Google Apps as a tool for email based customer support. Reps had limited visibility of which agents were working on which customer accounts and there were inevitable cases of duplicated effort and overlapped responses.

“Google Groups was a fast and easy way for us to get started with supporting customer email enquiries, but with the growth of our business it was time to implement a more comprehensive support solution for our customers,” said Rachel Rothman, associate at Vision Financial Markets.

Vision Financial sought the help of White Stratus, a New York-based cloud consulting and technology provider. “White Stratus has the necessary experience with cloud-based solutions, but also brings to the table a strong enterprise consulting pedigree that a company of our size needs for a help desk implementation,” Rothman said.

The Solution
After a comprehensive requirements analysis and assessment of three competing help desk vendors, White Stratus recommended Zendesk. “Zendesk was an easy choice for Vision on the basis of its scalability, low cost, extensive integration capabilities and ease of use”, said Tim Drury, CEO of White Stratus. “And the added benefit of Single Sign On with Google Apps makes the proposition even more compelling”.

Technical implementation of Zendesk was straightforward, and executed across a period of two weeks. Key areas of focus included:

  • Routing of all Google Group addresses to Zendesk
  • Creation of agent profiles across two customer support teams
  • Configuration of Zendesk groups and triggers for messaging handling

Process refinement and change management was more challenging. Initially the preference of the customer service teams was to utilize Zendesk only for ad-hoc tracking and reporting, and to retain the Gmail interface for receiving and replying to tickets. It was thought that this approach would minimize the impact to existing processes and remove the need for comprehensive training across the customer service groups.

Live testing, however, indicated that there would be problems resulting from legacy behaviors and processes in the customer service team not working harmoniously with the new Zendesk environment.

“It is extremely important not to under estimate the impact that change may have on a team that has become accustomed to doing something a given way for along period of time. Spending time talking to people and making sure they understand not just how to use a new system, but also see the benefits it brings to them, is critical,” said Rowan McCann, White Stratus Project Lead for the implementation.

The solution was to invest additional effort mapping the full customer service process into Zendesk and enhancing the solution by building macros, tags, and additional views to support agents. Customer service teams were also given additional training and live support over a two-week stabilization period.

The Outcome
Within days of the full go-live, customer service teams had embraced the Zendesk solution and were benefiting from increased visibility into the status of activities, improved mail reply processes, and enhanced SLA reporting.

“Zendesk has really changed our lives. Everything is so much easier now and the stress of trying to figure out status and next steps for the support team is gone,” said Meghan Spielman, Trading Applications Group Team Member at Vision Financial Markets.

In addition to high levels of satisfaction among the customer service team, the low cost of the implementation means that the payback period is extremely short.

“We got a solution from White Stratus that would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in a traditional on-premise environment, for a fraction of that price,” Spielman said. “We expect the efficiency gains we have seen will lead to a return on our investment within three months.”

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