I spend a lot of time talking with technology startups about the way they engage with customers and prospects. Much of that time is spent explaining (in the nicest possible way) that, apart from a few select cases, most technology companies will eventually have to engage non technical users and to do so they need to understand that non-technology folks think and act.

I’m always intrigued by software vendors who sell their products directly to end users, but then pigeon-hold those same users into one or two types of customer support channel. Generally this takes the form of low cost email support or even lower cost self-service either via a knowledge base or a customer support group. While these methods are great and have their advantages (user groups for example are a great way to build a community of interest around a product) they tend to ignore a very salient fact – customer often want to be able to talk to a real live human bring.

I’ve often heard from vendors that voice is just too expensive or that voice is just too hard to integrate into their existing customer support structures. It’s for these reasons that I was really excited to see a presentation by Adrian McDermott from Zendesk at the recent Twilio conference. In his presentation McDermott talked about, and more importantly demonstrated, the simplicity and ease of use of Zendesk’s new voice offering.

It’s a great presentation, if for no other reason than that it shoes that modern business is about having a multi-channel approach towards customer engagement – it’s not just about self service or twitter, just as it’s no longer just about voice. And, contrary to McDermott’s somewhat dismissive tone about fax, even that channel has something to offer in terms of engagement.

So my free advice? Watch this video and think about if you’re really engaging your customers in all the ways they want to engage.

Twilio Conference 2011: Adrian McDermott, Zendesk Voice from Twilio on Vimeo.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

1 Comment
  • While you might not be ‘pigeon holed’ into channels, in this specific case Zendesk is pigeon-holing you into a relatively (compared to other VoIP/SIP providers) expensive voice service, Twilio.

    I’d see the value in the premium if the the integration of Twilio was smooth and seamless, but it just isn’t the case (unlike, for eg, SmarterTrack Kayako which let you plug in any service via SIP).

    I’m in full agreement with what he says about how businesses shouldn’t be afraid to enter into other CS channels, though.

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