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Article 6 min read

Zendesk messaging: Customer service in a digital-first world

Deliver rich conversational experiences that are connected everywhere - from WhatsApp and Instagram to your own websites and mobile apps.

By Dan J. Levy, @danjl

Last updated November 3, 2021

Even before the virus forced us all inside and online, messaging was taking over the world. It’s how many of us shared news, collaborated with colleagues, and – most importantly – kept in touch with friends and family. As with all things digital, the pandemic simply accelerated the inevitable. 

It also showed us that messaging was made for customer service. 

Customers are reaching out for help more than ever before and messaging is their channel of choice. Over the past year, support conversations over messaging have skyrocketed, with WhatsApp alone experiencing a 101 per cent surge. 

It’s clear why customers are turning to messaging in their time of need: it’s convenient, it’s fast and it’s personal. 

But messaging has also been a saviour for businesses. As support tickets spiked and wait times exploded, messaging was easy for newly-remote employees to set up and adopt – and even automate – alleviating pressure on traditional channels like email and voice. 

And because messaging is asynchronous by nature, customers don’t necessarily expect an immediate response, giving overwhelmed agents some breathing room without it seeming like the business is offline. 

Through trial by fire, agile companies discovered that messaging is more efficient, more scalable and more customer-centric than any just about any other means of communication. 

Which is why we’ve put messaging at the very heart of the new Zendesk Suite


Zendesk messaging: all the channels, connected

We know that customers have long been eager to message with brands. The problem is that companies haven’t always had the tools to do it at scale and with ease. 

At Zendesk, we’ve been on a journey to change this. From introducing live chat back in 2015, to integrating with popular social messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram as soon as they opened their doors, to bringing messaging to your own websites and mobile apps. We’ve been building tools to help companies have conversations with their customers for a long time. 

Today we’re bringing together all our messaging capabilities and making them available to all Zendesk Suite customers, right out of the box.  

Much like we did with email back in the day, we’re here to make messaging customers as simple as messaging your peeps.  

This includes all the social messaging channels, messaging for your website and mobile apps, and powerful tools to build chatbots, automation and case management workflows – all built on an open and flexible platform you can customise to your heart’s content. We call it Zendesk messaging.  

Most importantly, conversations are ongoing and connected across all these channels (and more!) so customers never have to repeat themselves (Goodbye: “How can I help you?”) and agents always have the context they need to provide faster and more personalised service (Hello: “Let me help you with that, Lisa”).

Support your customers where they already are 

Customer expectations have changed drastically over the past year. As physical interactions shift to digital, convenience and simplicity are becoming more important than ever. 

Our latest Customer Experience Trends Report revealed that 64 per cent of customers tried a new way of getting in touch with businesses last year, with social messaging seeing a 110 per cent jump in popularity.As the planet’s most popular messaging channel, WhatsApp has become a lifeline for customers, particularly in Europe, India and Latin America, where the app has become the de facto place to do business. 

At the same time, 45 per cent of customers still prefer to message businesses on their own websites and apps.That’s why we’ve brought all the hallmarks of modern messaging to the channel formerly known as live chat.  

Traditional live chat was great for helping customers get the information they needed, right in the moment. But what happens if your customer needs to step away or move the conversation from one channel to the next? That’s where messaging comes in. 

With Zendesk, customers can now reach out to you wherever and whenever is most convenient – and you can be there for them when they do.

Increase team productivity and efficiency 

There are many solutions that allow customers to message companies, but they lack the tools to actually manage those conversations at scale. Zendesk is the first customer service solution that’s truly built for both sides of the conversation: your customer and your business. 

As Forrester pointed out last year, one of the keys to companies rolling out messaging successfully is a unified desktop that gives agents the context they need to respond to customers quickly and personally. 

With Zendesk’s Agent Workspace, teams can manage all customer conversations – including those on traditional channels –  in one place, armed with easy-to-use case management tools and a real-time conversational interface. 

All messaging conversations flow into Zendesk's unified agent workspace to make support teams more efficient.
All messaging conversations flow into Zendesk’s unified agent workspace to make support teams more efficient.

Automate with a human touch 

Chatbots are another long-hyped technology that finally found their purpose in customer service during the pandemic. 

Bots and automation enable teams to scale their efforts and provide 24/7 support, while freeing up agents to focus on conversations that truly need a human touch.  

We’ve learned that customers trust bots for simple interactions but want the ability to speak to a human agent to resolve urgent or complicated issues. 

That’s where Flow Builder, our drag-and-drop tool for designing automated conversations, comes in. You can train Answer Bot – Zendesk’s trusty AI chatbot – to guide customers to a resolution via self-service, or hand off the conversation to an agent along with all the context and information the customer has already shared. 

These built-in automation tools allow you to design rich, interactive and personal conversations with absolutely no coding skills required.

Flow Builder offers out-of-the-box automation with easy setup for admins and 24/7 support for customers.
Flow Builder offers out-of-the-box automation with easy setup for admins and 24/7 support for customers.


Take the conversation to the next level 

Messaging, like customer service itself, is an entry point to a long, meaningful relationship with your customer. 

Because messages persist across devices, the next time a customer wants to reach out they simply have to go back to the conversation and pick up where they left off (just like texting with grandma).  

Beyond reaching out for additional support, a customer may want to make a purchase, book a reservation, reserve a seat or check on an order, directly in the conversation thread – whether that’s on your website or in your Twitter DMs.  

These next-level use cases turn messaging into a linchpin of your entire customer experience strategy. Sunshine Conversations, our customisable messaging platform, allows you to connect all your business systems to the conversation, from payment processors to third-party bots and AI. 

You can also unlock advanced capabilities like outbound notifications for proactive customer engagement and group messaging to connect the right people together. Whether that’s buyers and sellers in a marketplace or restaurants, customers and drivers in a food delivery app. 

Create unique experiences for your customer tailored to the needs of your business – all within the chat. 

From tickets to conversations 

Messaging is more than the channel of the moment. It’s a revolution in the way customers and businesses interact. 

It’s also a key part of Zendesk’s evolution from a game-changing ticketing system to a complete customer service solution centred around conversations. 

While they remain a valuable aspect of case management, tickets are meant to be resolved; to build a meaningful relationship with your customer you need an ongoing conversation. 

Tried-and-true channels like voice, email and help centres aren’t going anywhere; they’re still important customer touchpoints. 

But messaging is the gateway to providing real conversational experiences – the kind your customers expect and deserve.

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