A true unified view of the customer is a goal many organisations are striving for. But the challenge is complex and few have gotten it totally right, according to Zendesk chief customer officer, Elisabeth Zornes.

And, Zornes says, while organisations are improving their CX capabilities, customers’ expectations are continuing to rise, driven up by digital experience leaders, which are being rewarded for for their effort.

“They have tremendous success and tremendous growth,” Zornes said of digital leaders.

“Some of the attributes that differentiate them is that they are very conscious about how they create experience.”

Being able to deliver those services at scale requires a unified view of the customer, the customer chief said. But that is a challenging task for organisations juggling multiple data silos, systems and security, with compliance and governance as constant considerations.

Consumers, however, don’t much care, Zornes says. Once they have a great experience in one area “it’s hard to go back”.

Zendesk is a publicly listed company offering customer service and engagement software. It has grown rapidly since founding in 2007 and now claims over 145,000 paid customers. In May it revealed it is targeting $1 billion in revenue next year.

Zendesk chief customer officer, Elisabeth Zornes. LinkedIn.

Zornes, who has been with Zendesk since February following senior roles at Microsoft and Cisco, says organisations must now not only deliver great experiences but also continue to innovate and stay ahead of consumers and the competition.

Zendesk’s own research suggests many in Australia aren’t yet at that level.

The company analysed data from 45,000 of its customers, with local findings revealing half of Australian consumers have higher expectations of customer experience than they had a year ago. Adobe made a similar claim about raising expectations in Australia this week.

Zendesk’s research adds consumer satisfaction rates have trended steadily down over the last five years.

“The bar has gone up significantly,” Zornes told Which-50, while visiting from Zendesk’s San Francisco headquarters.

“And compared to the actual delivery, it hasn’t quite caught up with the increased [consumer] expectations.”

A unified view

Key to closing that gap, Zornes says, is developing a unified view of the customer. Doing so informs experience creation and improves productivity and future innovation, according the customer chief.

“The unified view of the customer has definitely been and is a goal and a target for everybody. And a number of things need to come together.”

From Zendesk’s perspective it wants to help organisations understand their customers, their questions and how to help them accordingly, and then link that “back to engagement”. The process requires several “ingredients”, according to Zornes.

A strong dataset and tools to engage with customers across several channels are foundational, Zornes told Which-50. But the key, she argues is linking the front and back end; a process where a platform approach is vital. In Zendesk’s case that is a CRM product called Sunshine that pulls together data from different sources.

One of Zendesk’s customers, not named by Zornes but described as a “new transportation company”, uses the platform to collate data on vehicles, their location and status; combining that with customer data allows the optimum vehicle to be selected at the right time, Zornes said.

“We were able to relatively quickly, over the course of a couple of months, to connect these datasets and create value for the company and the customer.”

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