Siemens builds CX relationship with Zendesk to expand into AI integration
A few years on from implementing Zendesk and reaping the benefits of increased productivity - 23 per cent in the Nordics and nearly double in France - Siemens Financial Services’ customer service is getting closer to reaching its goal of offering a global digital customer journey through AI integration.
“One of the nicest things now is hearing how the operational teams in the different regions are using Zendesk. They are excited to see what further capabilities they can gain with the platform and the AI integration”
Head of Global Customer Services at Siemens
“Ultimately, we want to get to the point where we have a holistic global digital customer journey. With Zendesk as the foundation and the various apps and integrations such as AI sitting on top of that, we are getting closer and closer to achieving that”
Head of Global Customer Services at Siemens
Europe’s largest manufacturing company Siemens
Outstanding CX as a core value
Siemens is Europe’s largest manufacturing company and unique in that it not only serves customers in a wide range of industries but the size of these customers is also equally diverse. From large enterprise organisations to small sole traders, customers rely on Siemens’ vast solutions to bring their innovations to life.
Siemens Financial Services (Siemens) is a division within Siemens that helps customers finance these innovations. Siemens has sales, operational, and support functions interacting with customers, with a global footprint including France, Spain, Poland, US, Germany, Nordics and UK. Across all these regions, a core value of Siemens is providing customer experience that is a differentiator in the market.
“When you provide financial products, your customers recognise value and consistency, service and trust are paramount — so it’s really about how you differentiate your customer service,” says Steve Franklin, Head of Global Customer Services at Siemens.
Better overall visibility with Zendesk
Zendesk provides Siemens with that differentiator. Before engaging with Zendesk in 2019, agents were relying on email inboxes, spreadsheets, and other applications to track customer data. With Zendesk Enterprise Suite (which includes Custom Objects, and Sunshine Conversations) as well as Support, Talk, Guide, and social messaging, agents now have a single, streamlined platform. Here they can view all customer data and can communicate with customers across multiple channels.
“Bringing all customer data into one place means agents now have overall visibility. Instead of using different platforms and applications, they can stay within Zendesk. In this omnichannel environment, including phone, email, and, more recently, WhatsApp, they can efficiently communicate and answer customer queries,” says Steve.
Integrating AI into customer service
Following the successful implementation of the Zendesk platform, Siemens wanted to further improve the customer experience through the integration of AI. The company opted to use Zendesk’s partner Ultimate AI, a customer support automation platform because of a few key factors.
The first being that Ultimate could build an AI solution directly into Zendesk. The second reason addresses the challenge of having multiple languages. With Ultimate’s polyglot AI model, responses to customer questions are made directly in the native language, as opposed to translating into English first. The integration of Ultimate AI also enables the individual regions to implement AI at a pace that works for them.
“When we look across all our customer contacts, about 30 per cent of them are data requests or information requests. We felt that with a good AI solution, we could automate that. So within three years, we want 15 per cent of our responses to be automated. While this may seem conservative, we firstly want to ensure we are providing a really great customer experience, and then gradually push it out,” says Steve.
A strong partnership delivers AI solutions
To integrate AI into Zendesk, Steve and the Siemens team worked closely with their Zendesk Customer Success Executive, Peter Eshkeri, together with the team at Ultimate AI. “We have been on a journey with Zendesk, from the early days of deploying it in a small team. Today we have over 600 licences and it’s deployed across all our regions. Bringing Ultimate into this partnership, I think we have a really compelling solution for our customers,” says Steve. It’s a partnership grounded in shared values and goals. Together, solutions are developed to streamline the customer journey. “We don’t operate as three separate companies, we operate as one company working together to find the best means of solving a problem. It may be that sometimes we do development within Ultimate. At other times it may be the development of a custom-built app or an API integration within Zendesk that takes precedence. Often the most powerful solutions are a combination of the two,” says Steve. As an example, Zendesk, Siemens and Ultimate AI have jointly developed an integration in which the AI responds to high-volume requests automatically, such as proactively sending a copy of invoices to a customer. Previously, if an invoice was due, an agent would send the invoice. This can now be done through AI. “In the UK region, we had an example where a proactive messaging service (built with Zendesk) had sent out a message to the customer letting them know an invoice was due. However, the customer hadn’t noticed that the invoice was attached to the email. The customer requested it via email by responding to the automated proactive message, the AI Chatbot picked it up and immediately answered with another copy of the invoice. It was a fully automated process, no agent touched it. From the customer’s perspective, they went away happy as they received an immediate answer,” says Steve. The AI can also proactively identify what else the customer is asking (through intents in Ultimate) and automatically preempt some of those questions with appropriate responses. The AI can also ask for more information from the customer, instead of an agent having to request this information. “Negative customer experiences often happen when a company has given the customer an answer, but there’s an obvious follow-up that has been ignored or hasn’t been picked up. Automation with AI takes the stress out of customer engagement. It makes us more efficient in being able to fast forward that conversation,” says Steve.
Agents benefit as much as customers do
However, Steve is keen to point out that as much as the Zendesk platform with AI integration is about making the customer journey as seamless as possible, it’s also about making life easier for the operational teams.
“When we first implemented Zendesk it was a big change for everyone. The most common question was ‘How can we make it more like the email program we had?’ Following the first three months, once they saw how much Zendesk helped, they were then on board. One of the nicest things now is hearing how the operational teams in the different regions are using Zendesk. They are excited to see what further capabilities they can gain with the platform and the AI integration,” says Steve.
Freeing up agents’ time for value-added customer interactions
There are many benefits of integrating AI that have already been reaped alongside automating responses. Reducing agent handle time as the AI populates the tickets with data following a customer interaction, for example. This means that when the agent next opens the ticket, the data is all there in the relevant fields.
Another benefit is the integration into back-office systems such as document and contract management. Customer data can now easily be accessed and provided to a customer through the agent or AI.
These benefits are helping further streamline the customer journey as well as increasing efficiencies and reducing the workload of agents. It’s allowing them to concentrate on the value-add interactions with customers.
“Rather than having to do low-value transactions, such as sending invoices or standard information, agents can concentrate on those valued human-to-human interactions,” says Steve.
On track to achieving a holistic global digital customer journey
The productivity gains from using Zendesk, including timely resolution of tickets, the smooth exchange of tickets between departments, and expediting customer onboarding have been clear for those using it. In the Nordics, which has been using the technology for the longest, there has been a 23 per cent increase in productivity over the past two years. France has almost doubled its productivity in its first year using Zendesk. These benefits are now being further expanded through the integration of AI.
As AI has been introduced at different speeds across their various markets, some regions are further ahead and are already experiencing productivity gains. This is translating into increased customer satisfaction scores (CSAT). For instance, the Nordics region is hitting an 86 per cent CSAT rating versus an 83 per cent industry benchmark.
“The Nordics is probably the most mature in all of the markets in implementing the digital customer journey. The fact that we’re getting improved CSAT results here gives us confidence that we are heading in the right direction,” says Steve.
“Ultimately, we want to get to the point where we have a holistic global digital customer journey. With Zendesk as the foundation and the various apps and integrations such as AI sitting on top of that, we are getting closer and closer to achieving that.”
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