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KEEN puts its best foot forward with customers and partners

KEEN scales its support team by 200% and reduces first reply time by 39% with Zendesk

“Zendesk has been an incredible tool thus far to support our growth.”

- Evan Israel

Operations Specialist & Project Liaison at KEEN




Avg. B2C tickets/month


Reduction in avg. FRT


B2B one-touch call resolution

When it comes to top-tier outdoor shoes and gear, KEEN registers at the top of the list. From the mountains to the beach, the company’s products cover just about every kind of outdoor activity. Founded in 2003 by Martin Keen, who wanted a better shoe to wear on deck when sailing, the Portland, Oregon-based company quickly found its people and was making over $200 million annually by 2011.

While the majority of KEEN’s business comes from footwear, the company also operates the KEEN Partners Service, allowing outside partners to sell their products to KEEN’s customer base. Both sides of a retail company as successful as KEEN needed the best support tools around and found that the combination of Cisco and weren’t measuring up. The company wanted to uplevel it’s e-commerce support by unifying its phone and email channels. It also wanted more reporting capabilities. Zendesk offered a solution on all counts.

“Zendesk seems to be the gold standard for this type of industry, so it was a big project, but a pretty smooth one relative to the other implementations we’ve had over the last couple years,” Israel said.

The advantages of Zendesk were apparent right away. The ability to add private internal notes with Zendesk Support allows agents to confer on email conversations. It also provides more insight into how peers respond to customers. Macros make answering emails more efficient, although the team makes sure to tailor the response for each customer, said KEEN Fan Service Supervisor Lanisa Knighton.

“We were able to come up with a unified voice that all of our agents can agree is a good unified voice, and fits our policies while still being considerate and respectful and helpful,” Knighton said.

Switching to Zendesk Support, Guide, Chat, and Talk in May 2016 made a big difference to the company’s B2B support, too, said Kevin Puckett, an operations specialist for KEEN Partner Services. Upgrading to Zendesk Talk from a landline-based phone tool helped the team evolve alongside partners who were actively upgrading their own technology.

“We’re having more and more partners adopt more technology, and doing more online ordering and expecting more prompt service from a call-based structure,” Puckett said. “Zendesk opened up a lot more doors in terms of being much simpler to use.”

KEEN has 35 agents on their B2C support teams across Japan, Europe, and Portland (which also supports customers in Canada and houses their B2B team of about 20 agents). Calls and emails for B2C support are answered 11 hours a day every day in English, French and Spanish, and agents talk with customers via chat in between.

Implementing Zendesk has helped KEEN grow their B2C team by 200 percent without much effort, Israel said. It’s easy to train agents on Zendesk—Knighton said they’re fluent within a week. Omnichannel support is a big part of the solution, she added, because agents can see the full communication history with a customer whether via email or over the phone. They have also used the Zendesk API to add a customized integrations with Salesforce.

To power their self-service offering, Keen’s uses Zendesk’s multibrand feature in Support and Guide. It helps them manage support requests and help centers for each regional business unit and brand, including Chrome, KEEN U.S., KEEN Japan, KEEN E.U., and Fuerst Group. Keen’s agents also rely on an internal help center for more background information about customers, processes, and best practices.

“There’s so much constantly changing and people moving between departments that it’s great to have a central place to store information,” Israel said. “The public-facing part has been really helpful, too, for customers.”

The support team on both the customer and partner sides of the business monitor the number of calls and emails they receive in order to help agents improve. Since switching to Zendesk, KEEN has seen a significant improvement in overall satisfaction for B2B partners, Puckett said. Agents maintain a rate of 95 percent first touch resolution for calls. On the partner side, Zendesk helps the Keen team handle call volumes when they spike from 1,400 to 4,000 calls per month. Both sides of the business also use Zendesk to track the various reasons their agents are contacted, in order to identify problems and continue making improvements. In fact, the B2C team has created as many as 65 custom reports to pull exactly the data the team needs.

“We have reports we can analyze and say ‘Hey, why are there so many contacts around this specific point? Is there something that’s not communicated clearly through our website?’” said Israel. “‘That catalyzes a chain of improvements with our development team and our copywriters and our UX designers.’”

KEEN’s customer support philosophy is about making doing business as easy as possible, said Knighton, and that doesn’t always mean resolving every contact within a few seconds. Each contact is an opportunity to build loyalty and prove that the company is passionate about the wellbeing of its customers. Many customers in KEEN’s ecosystem value products made in the U.S., Knighton said, and so KEEN’s Oregon manufacturing plant is a talking point agents can use to show the company shares the same value as its customers.

“We let our agents go through product information if somebody really wants to get into the details about a product or when they have a story they want to share with us,” Knighton said. “It helps build a relationship to invest that time with the customer.”

The partnership with Zendesk is one KEEN can count on as its businesses grow, especially when the agents themselves need support.

“Any time I’ve had an issue, I get a fast response and Zendesk is very quick to look into the issue and resolve it,” said Puckett. “The ability to look at the status of the system within Zendesk is nice, too. Zendesk is super responsive, but I can always see where things stand.”