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Degreed sees $1M in cost savings by switching to Zendesk

Degreed became an education technology pioneer by launching the first Learning Experience Platform. After replacing Salesforce with Zendesk for its CX platform, the rapidly scaling company unlocked new ways to power growth through agility. A combination of AI-powered agents, automation, macros, and voice of the customer data helped the team find efficiency gains that led to $1M cost savings and 100% customer net retention rates.

“Insights on the kind of requests coming from customers can help you develop product features that truly meet customer needs and proactively identify issues before they worsen. That creates a positive impact on retention and customer satisfaction.”

Kevin Barry

VP of Global Technical Services & Support at Degreed

“Automation is improving team efficiency and enabling Degreed to run a lean team during a period of hyper-growth. We’ve come a long way in the last three years, and Zendesk has been a massive part of that success story.”

Kevin Barry

VP of Global Technical Services & Support at Degreed

Company Headquarters

Pleasanton, California



Corporate Clients


Company founded



Net retention rate


Cost savings


Reduction in SLA violations


Improvement in admin CSAT

Online courses and educational technology have radically transformed the learning process for individuals at home and in the workplace. From digital whiteboards to webinars, the advent of virtual learning has also prompted a larger societal shift away from traditional classrooms and towards a democratization of educational content.

Degreed launched the first-ever Learning Experience Platform (LXP) in 2012, establishing itself as a new business and a category creator. The platform makes it easy for companies to deliver daily learning and deep skill-building experiences to employees, while giving all users a record of achievement with real-time insights and feedback. Learners have access to millions of courses, videos, articles, books, and podcasts.

Degreed’s innovative LXP was a catalyst for changing the culture of learning within organizations. Instead of focusing on risk mitigation or compliance learning, the company empowers individuals to guide their own career journey. Creating a better feedback loop also helps leaders evaluate the skills needed today, so they can provide training to existing employees instead of hiring new talent. Backed by a strong mission and robust technology, Degreed has grown its customer base to 9 million learners and 400 global companies.

A pioneering learning experience led by experts

Early on, Degreed was able to develop credibility and trust by hiring customer service staff with a background in corporate HR or learning and development. While the previous team of onboarding consultants, technical success managers, and professional services was based on stages of the client journey, the new team was comprised of subject matter experts and advisors that more closely fit the profile of Degreed’s users.

“We reorganized the team around a shared expert services model according to their skill area,” says Kevin Barry, VP of Global Technical Services and Support at Degreed. “That enabled us to deliver the same quality of service with a much smaller group and to take advantage of everyone’s expertise.”

Barry oversees the largest group within the company’s CX function, with 75 global employees that handle everything from break/fix technical support to technical professional services. They provide multilingual support and work alongside the client success and CX strategy, and innovation and scale teams.


Swapping out a costly and cumbersome solution

Despite going all-in using Salesforce Service Cloud for two years, Degreed found the traditional enterprise solution too costly and difficult to implement. With only one Salesforce admin to prioritize sales requests, Degreed lacked the resources to introduce new capabilities or fully adopt the solution within the organization.

The clock was ticking as Degreed’s growth continued to skyrocket, intensifying the need for a more scalable system. In 2014, “Zendesk was selected because we had champions on the team who knew that it would be easier to administer, and it would give our clients and internal teams a better service experience faster than another solution could,” recalls Barry.

A proactive customer journey with a 360° view

Degreed set to work building a best-of-breed tech stack with seamless integrations. “Customers expect companies to understand their needs,” says Barry, “so it’s a no-brainer to integrate your customer service with product, sales, and customer success teams, making your customers core to your product development and sales strategies.”

The team can now proactively create work tickets to automate the service deliverables within the success journey as soon as a customer signs up. Sales are tracked in Salesforce, new client onboarding kicks off automation in Gainsight for all client-facing teams, then tickets are created in Zendesk for the technical services and support teams to guide deliverables for implementation and beyond.

Connecting all three systems creates an actionable 360° view and helps drive proactive account management. For example, an alert goes out to account managers when predictive indicators for frustration are identified such as upcoming SLAs, tickets open for certain lengths of time, and tickets containing more than a threshold of back-and-forth messages.

“Zendesk has really helped us solve a challenge, in terms of data visibility and having all the communication in one place,” Barry adds. “It makes sense that we’d partner with Zendesk to offer the most complete, integrated customer experience.”

Voice of the customer insights to share

The team is able to stay ahead of high ticket volume by analyzing voice of the customer data. According to Barry, “Zendesk and Gainsight provide the data that we feed into a series of business intelligence dashboards that are easy to use, with insights for everyone who needs them.” By rigorously focusing on team performance management with data enabled by Zendesk, Degreed has achieved a 75 percent reduction in SLA violations.

“Insights on the kind of requests coming from customers can help you develop product features that truly meet customer needs and proactively identify issues before they worsen,” adds Barry. “That creates a positive impact on retention and customer satisfaction.” In fact, sharing metrics with the product and engineering teams helped Degreed design product enhancements that reduced monthly support volume by at least 5,000 tickets.

$1M cost savings with automation & self-service

By introducing Zendesk self-service and automation at scale, Degreed has been able to transform its customer service strategy. “Automation is improving our team efficiency and enabling the company to run a lean team during a period of hyper-growth,” notes Barry. About 400 tickets per month are now handled using the Zendesk AI agent out of an average of 6,000 to 7,000 monthly tickets.

That’s a major shift from Degreed’s previous approach which involved heavy resourcing and manual processes, with three full-time employees coordinating, reviewing, and communicating defects resulting from product bugs. With Zendesk and Jira integrated, the team created a pipeline to engineering, which saved 3 FTE by automating client-facing communications on bugs and defects. The shining achievement? Degreed saw $1 million in cost savings with efficiency gains through automation, AI agents, creative use of macros, and a tight partnership with the product team informed by data in Zendesk.

Knowledge-centered support and shared workflows also drive consistency within the CX function. “We trained and created a framework where every individual on the support team can contribute to our knowledge center,” offers Barry. That improved their ability to operate as a smaller team and get quicker resolutions, while boosting their admin CSAT by 16 percent.


Support becomes a revenue generator

The company remains laser-focused on time to value–getting clients implemented and onboarded quickly, while maximizing automation and minimizing friction. By prioritizing the customer experience, support can become a revenue generator. “Our customers and their employees are front-and-center in all of our decisions,” Barry explains. “Our mission to ‘jailbreak the degree’ and build a future where learning is always accessible wouldn’t be possible without learners regularly logging into the Degreed learning platform.”

The more support agents can build customer confidence leading up to renewal time, the better. In Barry’s experience, “Few things matter more to a SaaS company than the strength of its product and the happiness of its customers. Without those two things, boosting growth and retention is nearly impossible.” Luckily for the team, using Zendesk helped send the customer net retention rate soaring to 100 percent or higher all through 2022.

From day one, Degreed set a fast pace for expansion, acquiring four of its industry competitors within the last five years. The pioneering education company is now an enterprise leader with $100 million in revenue, and deep penetration into the Fortune 500 sector. “We’re still growing and looking for ways to improve, but we’re definitely on the right path,” adds Barry. “We’ve come a long way in the last three years, and Zendesk has been a massive part of that success story.”