Siemens + Zendesk: Partnership grounded in a shared vision
On the heels of going fully paperless, Siemens Financial Services’ customer service adapted to a 30% spike in ticket volume and a new world with an efficient, dynamic hub for customer data.
“One of the things that we like about Zendesk is that the interface is really clean. . .the agents are able to quickly get to the information they need.”
“The work that we were doing with Zendesk was one of the highlights of that project, particularly in terms of the work with your professional services team. That team was very proactive in terms of suggesting solutions.”
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One of the lessons that has shaped life and business in 2020 is how vital it is to adapt and pivot under exceptional, unforeseen circumstances. For global giant Siemens, rolling with the punches is a trait it has honed over its 170-year history—so when the pandemic hit and support tickets spiked, the company had the right mindset and the right tools to keep things running smoothly.
“The implementation was really quick. That got the attention of our leadership teams.”Steven Franklin, Global Head of Customer Service at Siemens As Europe’s largest manufacturing company for industry, energy, healthcare, and infrastructure, Siemens has a large and diverse client base. From small businesses to large corporations, each client gets the same highly personal customer service as the next. This is a value Steven Franklin, global head of customer service at Siemens Financial Services (SFS)–a division of Siemens that provides international B2B financing solutions–wanted to preserve when he began his search for a new customer support ticketing system in 2018.
The decision to search for a new support solution stemmed from Franklin’s realisation that the customer service team relied too heavily on email inboxes and spreadsheets to track customer data. While it was an approach that offered a personal touch for clients, it slowed down resolution times and created silos around customer information.
And without a centralised customer service hub, the team couldn’t track data that would help identify and analyse ticket spikes. With these challenges in mind, Franklin—who had used Zendesk at a previous employer—thought Zendesk could help the team reach its goal to streamline the company’s customer service pipeline and data management. SFS’s first cohort implemented Zendesk in just three days. The marked improvement in reporting, response times, and collaboration led SFS to roll out Zendesk to its operations, risk, credit, collections, legal, and asset management departments.
Finding a partner in Zendesk
Franklin and the SFS team worked closely with their Zendesk Customer Success Executive, Peter Eshkeri, to identify business goals, understand how to allocate resources, and obtain optimal value from Zendesk.This led to a custom-built a solution using Support, Guide, Sunshine, and Explore that worked for SFS’ unique needs. “The work that we did with Zendesk was one of the highlights of that project,” Franklin said. “[The customer success and professional services] teams were very proactive in suggesting solutions.”
The success of the partnership, Franklin noted, was grounded in shared values. “We didn’t get stuck in difficult conversations. Exchanges were much more natural, proactive and pragmatic. Like SFS, Zendesk is focused on operational delivery; it’s the same sort of approach that we use within SFS where we’re very focused on feasibility, how our team feels, and the customer impact. [Zendesk and SFS’s] shared view made conversations quite easy because we were both coming from the same place.”
Agility during turbulent times
When COVID-19 led to a 30 percent increase in ticket volume, SFS’s support team quickly created reports so its executive leadership could make data-driven decisions about how to respond. The whole business moved online within 48 hours. All the while, Franklin and his team had exactly what they needed to manage the influx of customer service requests and to maintain their core value of offering personal service for every client.
“Zendesk helped us quickly get control once the volumes spiked, both in terms of understanding what was happening, so we could take steps to proactively reduce the volumes and also in the handling of the queries, to reduce the backlog back down again,” said Franklin.
With easier and more efficient collaboration between agents, support staff could spend less time on inefficient spreadsheets and more on giving customers the personal service that they needed.
The result was astounding: throughout the pandemic, the average first reply time for new tickets has stayed stable at 6–7 hours, and resolution time dropped from 24 hours to a little more than 8 hours.
SFS adapts to the remote reality
Another benefit of implementing Zendesk was how easily it allowed the entire team to pivot to a work-from-home setup. Before launching Zendesk, the customer service team was running on processes that involved physical filing and paperwork, which meant everyday customer service was dependent on agents working onsite. Once Zendesk was up and running, those agents became less dependent on paper, and by January 2020, they were able to digitise everything—just in time for the organisation’s switch to remote work for the pandemic.
Meanwhile, SFS continued to find ways to streamline the agent, and therefore customer experience SFS offers. To further improve efficiency, in just over a month, SFS’s business process team built and implemented a Zendesk Sunshine-based app to show agents customers’ contract information.
Franklin and his agents also worked with Zendesk’s professional services team to build a custom OpenText app that streamlines SFS’s customer document management. Before the API integration, searching for customer documents was a cumbersome process that involved a separate digital management system that was difficult to navigate. With the custom-built app that integrates OpenText into Zendesk, every customer interaction lives in one convenient place. That makes surfacing and safeguarding customers’ personal identifiable information a snap– no more customer data living in multiple locations.
“It really helps the Onboarding team, who help our new customers get set up, as they can keep all of the customers’ information together on one ticket,” Franklin said. “It doesn’t matter how many different tickets, how many conversations we have with the customers, we can always see the list of documentation and pull it up. With a single click, the agents can open a document.”
Better data and visibility brings innovation and dignity
Zendesk proved to be a boon, not only for the pivot to remote work and for the overall customer service process, but also for data tracking and reporting. With all customer data living in one place, the team could easily analyse and create reports on ticketing spikes, which has allowed the executive team to make better data-informed decisions on how to respond in the future.
Franklin credits Zendesk with helping SFS transform from reactive, back-office operation to an innovative, dignified, and core part of SFS’s business. “Over the years, we’ve become a source of feedback for the rest of the business in terms of what our customers want, trends in the marketplace, and really key innovations whether that’s moving to paperless, responding to the [COVID-19] lockdown, or improving the service we provide.”
The customer service team also feels a new sense of pride, innovation, and agency in its work. “The team and the department are at the forefront of innovation,” Franklin said. “They’re excited to see what we can do. For me, that’s probably the proudest thing, that changing culture and mindset and actually seeing customer delivery or customer experience as a core skill and as a core discipline. I think you see that in the people in the department, and you see it in their pride in their work and in their accomplishments.”