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Lincoln Investment replaces 18 separate help desks with Zendesk

Lincoln Investment takes a people-first approach, striving to empower its network of 1,100 advisors to support more than 320,000 clients in achieving their financial goals. The company replaced 18 individual help desks with Zendesk Support, cutting its first response and resolution times in half.

Lincoln Investment
“If we’re not able to effectively service the advisor, we stand in the way of business entering our door. Having a seamless help desk solution that works across the enterprise, and can quickly surface roadblocks and allow us to remove them, is a huge benefit.”

- Guru Rao

Vice President of Applications Development at Lincoln Investment





1.4 Hours

First Reply Time

1.2 Hours

Full Resolution Time

Lincoln Investment is one of the fastest-growing independent full-service broker/dealers in the industry. As such, its financial advisors spend a lot of time crunching numbers. But its real business is building relationships with and between clients, advisors, and team members.

The full-service financial services company, majority family-owned, is committed to taking a people-first approach and aims to empower its vast network of financial advisors to offer clients—ranging from individuals and families to institutions and corporations—to offer the highest quality investment and insurance products, as well as the service and support the client needs to achieve their financial goals.

For some, that’s financial planning, so that when it’s time for the kids to go to college, the money is there. Advisors also help public or not-for-profit entities like school districts with retirement planning and asset management. Given the complexity of its offerings, service at Lincoln Investment goes several levels deep. The firm’s 450 employees work to support the approximately 1,100 advisors that serve over 320,000 clients.

Of course, with growth comes growing pains, and in early 2016, the company reviewed its internal systems and its ability to successfully scale.

“The first thing that struck me about Lincoln Investment after I joined is that it’s a service-oriented organization,” explained Vice President of Applications Development Guru Rao. “Relationship management is our bread and butter, just as it is for most broker dealers and others in the Financial Services Institute.”

Lincoln Investment saw the need to move the company from its email-based advisor help desk to a more efficient, enterprise-level customer service solution. Guru had previous experience working with Zendesk Support at another firm and knew that Zendesk could help modernize Lincoln Investment’s systems and processes.

“As we started to grow, it was not possible to provide the same level of service to our advisors using email,” he said. “The first thing we needed was a solution that would provide better, more actionable insights, and the best platform to do that was Zendesk.”

Guru also knew that rolling out a new solution to a team of 150 agents was not a small task. Thus, Lincoln Investment started with a trial account and built a live proof-of-concept. “We configured Zendesk excessively and it stood the test of time,” Guru said.

Once leadership saw how much they could accomplish with Zendesk Support, the firm chose to rollout Zendesk Support company-wide—not just as its advisor help desk, but also to replace 17 other internal help desks, ranging from information technology to human resources to sales, all stemming from a single Zendesk instance.

“We had a very positive experience from our rollout of Zendesk,” Guru said. “Most importantly, we gained insights into how to manage help desk tickets better. We now have reports that pinpoint where we need to focus our efforts and put out fires.”

Lincoln Investment’s previous email-based system didn’t provide the kind of metrics needed to tackle problem areas in service. Tickets weren’t centralized, so it was difficult to measure and gauge performance, which also made it tough to collaborate internally.

“A big challenge was to switch over to a Zendesk-based mindset. We had to ask, were we ready for the transparency that Zendesk was able to provide?” Guru said.

The answer quickly proved to be in the affirmative. “Everyone was blown away by the simplicity of Support, and by not having to track so many streams of emails.” Employees found that Zendesk made their lives easier and that they felt the impact of the change immediately. People were used to the hurdles of complicated on-premise solutions, but found that Zendesk Support was easily able to accommodate the custom workflows each team had previously built. There was very little ramp time.

“Everything was immediately replaceable by Zendesk—and the reports and metrics resonated immensely,” Guru said.

The enthusiastic adoption of Support as Lincoln Investment’s advisor help desk quickly led to first-response and full-resolution times being cut in half to 1.4 and 1.2 hours, respectively, for the 6,000+ tickets submitted each month. Advisors can also call Lincoln Investment, and the team integrated Shoretel into Support so that a ticket is created for each call and the company can now accurately track all contacts.

“Something that took several hours on the email-based system dropped down to a few minutes in Zendesk,” Rao said. “The agent could get the overall context of where the advisor was, and they were able to use Zendesk to quickly address the issue, leading to happier clients. We’re able to capture that feedback, and it shows the remarkable transformation that Zendesk has helped us bring about.”

Lincoln Investment now measures its overall response time through Zendesk Support and has found that the improvement in response time for email tickets has resonated positively. It’s all a work in progress, Guru explained, as part of a larger effort to capture all customer contacts and to make the relationships with advisors a factor in attracting new advisors and maintaining relationships with existing clients.

Zendesk has helped Lincoln Investment create an intentional “digital footprint” for its advisor and internal communications. It’s a major shift in mindset and the success of the solution’s adoption underscores the company’s commitment to putting its advisors and client success first.

Naturally, however, with transparency comes questions of security. Before its global rollout, Zendesk Support had to meet critical security needs by providing encryption for advisor and investor data, as well as two-factor authentication. Lincoln Investment also maintains a deep technology stack across multiple departments and Support needed to integrate with other tools, legacy systems, and with Lincoln’s custom-built advisor portal.

Advisors use a single portal to view all open issues, from technology requests to issues concerning payments—a deliberate strategy designed to make life easier for advisors. Lincoln Investment used the Zendesk API to pull data from Zendesk and other internal systems into the portal. In this way, all forms and paperwork exchanged between Lincoln Investment and the advisor are accessible (and auditable) within the portal.

“We want to get to an advisor-centric model, not a help desk-centric model,” Guru explained. “Zendesk’s API allowed us to aggregate all of the information available for a specific advisor. That provided a tremendous amount of transparency to the advisors—they know exactly where each open issue stands.”

With Zendesk Support, Lincoln Investment has also set up SLAs for responses to advisors, a critical factor in advisor retention and for measuring agent performance over time.

“We’re not on the hook to solve everything within a stipulated amount of time, but we are on the hook to respond back to our advisors, saying, ‘Hey, we’re here, we heard you, we understand the issue, we’re working on it. We’ll get back to you,’” Guru explained. “That responsiveness element is why our advisors stay with us. We want to retain that level of responsiveness as we grow.”