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Global retailer NEXT boosts efficiency and savings using Zendesk AI

After nearly 20 years using a homegrown solution, leading British retailer NEXT evaluated its options to modernise in house or buy from one of a number of market leaders. NEXT decided to implement Zendesk to power its global CX operations. Zendesk professional services helped the multinational enterprise optimise the platform to increase agility and efficiency, while reducing the cost of ownership. Better yet, using Zendesk AI empowers advisers to deliver higher service quality and faster email handle times.

“Our successful experience with Zendesk AI has given artificial intelligence credibility across all of our business. For many of us, it’s the first AI tool that lived up to the hype and actually delivered.”

Raz Razaq

Head of Customer Contact Experience Technology

“Zendesk AI certainly improved our understanding and appreciation of what a well-managed AI solution can give our organization. We see that AI is going to improve the quality of our contact resolution, the efficiency of the team, and the overall customer journey.”

Matthew Hallam

Head of Customer Service Operations

Company Headquarters

Leicester, UK

Company founded




Retail Stores (including franchise)



Overall decrease in Average Handle Time (AHT) across all contacts

+4 pp

Quality improvement (Zendesk AI)


One-touch resolution rate


Further decrease in email AHT (Zendesk AI)


Leveraging efficient technology to serve 10 million customers

NEXT is a British multinational clothing, footwear, accessories, and home products retailer.

Today, NEXT plc includes a retail chain with more than 450 stores in the United Kingdom and Eire, over 150 international franchised stores and an ecommerce sales platform. In addition, NEXT’s “Total Platform” leverages its infrastructure by offering a complete suite of online services to third party brands, such as websites, marketing, warehousing, distribution networks and customer service centres. As retail markets and customer shopping habits continue changing with technology, NEXT has been steadily evolving its tech stack to meet new demands.

“We have more than 10 million customers across 127 different countries, with different preferences for contacting us. With contact centers on multiple continents, employing agents offering 11 different languages, we can’t operate without efficient technology,” says Raz Razaq, Head of Customer Contact Experience Technology at NEXT.

Elevating global CX with AI

In 2022, NEXT took the pivotal step of switching to the Zendesk platform for global customer service and replacing its homegrown custom CRM solution. The company now leverages Zendesk Enterprise Suite Plus, including Agent Workspace, help center, email, chat, social, and Zendesk AI. The Sunshine Conversations platform allows the team to integrate non-voice contacts and create a real-time connection with their chatbot.

NEXT has seen major improvements in CX stability and efficiency with the core Zendesk Suite solution, including a 15% decrease in Average Handling Time across all channels. The team handles around 653,000 tickets each month, with a 92 percent one-touch resolution rate.

The introduction of Zendesk AI has also been transformational for the enterprise retailer. The journey started with a successful Proof of Concept for the email channel, staffed by 200 customer service advisers (agents). From there, NEXT approached the broader rollout through an educational lens, positioning AI as an assistance tool rather than a people replacement tool, and coaching advisers on best practices.

“Our successful experience with Zendesk AI has given artificial intelligence credibility across our business. For many of us, it’s the first AI tool that lived up to the hype and actually delivered and was really straightforward for us to enable and test” says Razaq.

“We chose Zendesk as a partner in AI because they see data from customers across the globe, so we can use their experience and learn from all those other retail businesses. That’s the power of Zendesk AI that we’re going to start seeing over the next six to 12 months.”

Investing in scalable tech

Before launching Zendesk, NEXT spent 15 years adding different applications and functionality onto its homegrown custom CRM solution.

“We were fighting an uphill battle to keep our existing technology going, based on performance, stability, availability,” Razaq recalls. “With AI on the horizon, we couldn’t easily and quickly adapt to the changing technology in the marketplace.”

“One advantage of partnering with Zendesk is that they have many recognised clients across multiple sectors, so they’ve already solved a lot of the problems we’re going to run into,” says Razaq. “Instead of investing in engineering, we decided to invest in a mature platform with great functionality and features.”

Bespoke tools with 360-degree views

NEXT’s Head of Customer Service Operations, Matthew Hallam, highlights key factors that made the company’s CX transformation successful. He was impressed by “Zendesk’s consistent level of professionalism, knowledgeable outlook and collaborative, innovative approach,” as well as the extensibility of the platform itself.

“One reason we selected Zendesk was the ability to effectively build on the Customer 360 app framework and design a best-in-class system for our advisers,” says Hallam. “We’ve been able to create bespoke applications, which allows us to present customized data and key business information to a team of 1,700 customer service professionals working in five centers.”

As NEXT rolled out Zendesk across different regions and departments, the Zendesk team provided tips to enhance operations and ticket management to significantly increase productivity. Things that were taking multiple clicks or five to six different conversations, can now all be handled in the same interface.

“We’re now looking at a 360-degree view of each customer’s social, email, and voice interactions to ensure the entire customer journey is spot-on,” shares Razaq. “From a training and workforce management point of view, it’s important to have all that customer data, visibility, and flexibility in one platform.”

Zendesk AI enhances quality & speed

NEXT is currently using Zendesk AI’s Tone Shift, Expand, and Summarize features, which has helped drive a 4 percentage point improvement in an already-high quality rating and an 11% reduction in email Average Handling Time (AHT).

“Zendesk AI is a helping hand for the team, like an on-the-job co-pilot” reports Hallam. “The Expand function provides advisers with a nicely formatted, well-written email response for each customer query and has made the team's role more fulfilling because of the quality of support from the CRM.

NEXT is currently considering Intelligent Triage for the future. The company’s modernization project will involve further integrating Zendesk into NEXT contact centers, leveraging AI to a larger degree.. Working with the Zendesk compliance team has also helped alleviate NEXT’s concerns about AI data privacy by establishing a solution where company data is securely used and stored.

“Zendesk AI certainly improved our understanding and appreciation of what a well-managed AI solution can give our organization,” Hallam says. “We see that AI is going to improve the quality of our contact resolution, the efficiency of the team, and the overall customer journey.”

Total ROI of Zendesk

From day one, partnering with Zendesk helped NEXT get value out of the box quickly and experience key savings early on. Razaq recalls how the company was able to move all of their contact center operations and a customer base of 10 million onto the new Zendesk platform in under 12 months. Using a robust platform also put NEXT on track to realize greater agility and cost savings.

“Support from Zendesk has enabled us to grow and expand at the pace we need to,” says Razaq. “The biggest win for me is that Zendesk shortens the time to value, from inception to implementation. Our development team can run tests, get feedback, train users, and roll out new features–sometimes within a few days.”

Seeing NEXT CX progress their relationship with Zendesk has Razaq feeling confident about the future. “Our partnership with Zendesk empowered us to take more agile risks in the CX arena,” he says. “For us, Zendesk goes beyond cost of ownership. It gives us the flexibility to do things we couldn’t do before.”

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