Customer Satisfaction Is On The Rise Globally – Interview with Sam Boonin, VP Products at Zendesk

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Today’s interview is with Sam Boonin, Vice President of Products at Zendesk, about their recently published Q2 Benchmark report that shows that customer satisfaction is on the rise globally.

This interview follows on from my recent interview: Employee engagement is about human relationships not human resources – Interview with Luis Suarez of IBM – and is number seventy in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things and helping businesses innovate, become more social and deliver better service.

I know Zendesk quite well and interviewed their CEO last year in The customer service revolution is here and now – Interview with Mikkel Svane CEO of Zendesk. But, given that the nature of the interview was centred around the release of their recent report, the write up of our chat is slightly different this time.

Anyway, onto the headlines of the report which are:

  • Over the last quarter, customer satisfaction is on the rise globally
  • New Zealand leads the world, followed by Canada and then Australia in customer satisfaction
  • Education is the leading sector
  • Self service is growing in popularity; and
  • Depending on your industry, mobile is growing incredibly fast as an option for self-service customers

Now, you may be saying…..”Oh no, not another survey result! Big deal!”. However, what I find interesting and what I really like about Zendesk’s approach is that it’s not just another survey or expert opinion. The Benchmark is based on actual support and customer service interactions. Zendesk has approximately 30,000 customers, 25-30 million interactions per month and over 200 million end customers/users and 50% of their customers have ‘opted-in’ to their Benchmark process. That makes for a pretty huge, growing and interesting dataset.

When speaking to Sam there were a number of questions that we discussed concerning the results of the Benchmark.

1. What’s driving the upturn?

Looking at the data more closely it seems that customer satisfaction is correlated with overall consumer confidence. In discussion, we identified two possible explanations for this:

  1. Companies are starting to see returns from new or recent investment in improving their customer experience or customer service; and
  2. As confidence grows, overall consumer mood lightens and we, as consumers, become a little less stringent in our expectations.

2. What are the leading countries and companies doing differently?

This is a difficult question to answer but when Sam reflected on Zendesk’s customer base in those leading countries he came up with a few insights:

  1. Innovation plays a big role in explaining how Zendesk’s customers in those countries are differentiating themselves and making a difference to their customers. Moreover, successful companies in leading countries tend to be very innovative in the way that they interact and engage with their customers and the investment in this consistently pays off.
  2. Central to that is speed of response which has a big impact on levels of customer satisfaction.
  3. Finally, another crucial element is how customer service is viewed within the company and country….is it seen as a cost-centre or is it seen as an investment? Those that view it as an investment tend to get better results and generate higher levels of satisfaction.

3. What’s going on with self-service and what’s happening with mobile self-service?

Customer self-service, while not new, is growing in popularity. Zendesk’s research has highlighted a number of trends within self-service that are worth noting:

  1. Customers are increasingly starting to expect to help themselves before contacting companies and reaching out for help.
  2. Smart companies are realizing this and putting a lot of effort into their communities and self-service knowledge bases. Doing so and getting it right is having a direct and positive impact on customer satisfaction as well as lowering support costs.
  3. Companies that are “born in the cloud”, for example social media and software companies, are leading the way when it comes to self service.
  4. Across Zendesk’s customers the average ‘Self Service’ score is 4.1, meaning that for every four customers that choose self-service, one customer chose to get in touch with customer support directly.
  5. The percentage of customers accessing self-service content via a mobile device grew by a massive 50% compared to the same time last year. This is only an average number and the penetration of self-service via a mobile can top 80+% in some industries.

I hope you found that interesting. If you want to dig a bit deeper into the results, you can grab a copy of the report at:

Before I finish, let me leave you with a couple of questions based on these results:

  1. Do the results reflect your own experience? and
  2. If you were to give yourself a ‘Self Service’ score what would it be?

Til next time.

Note: A large part of this post originally appeared on my new Forbes column: Zendesk’s Quarterly Benchmark Report Shows That Customer Satisfaction Is On The Rise Globally.

Photo Credit: w4nd3rl0st (InspiredinDesMoines) via Compfight cc

7 comments On Customer Satisfaction Is On The Rise Globally – Interview with Sam Boonin, VP Products at Zendesk

  • Adrian,

    I’m always a little suspicious of benchmark reports. I once heard John Seddon refer to benchmarking as “the fastest way to mediocrity”. Either you find out that you are OK and sit back on your laurels, or you find out that you are not OK and have to improve something. Maybe it would be best to improve your customer service than compare your self against others.


    • Hi James,
      That’s a fair point and I would agree. The thing that I liked about this piece of research was not the ‘benchmarking’ bit but the fact that it is based on actual interactions and not an extraneous survey.


  • Hi Adrian,
    I particularly liked the idea of considering efficient customer service as an investment and not merely as another form of accounting cost. The science of numbers can only show what was effective yesterday, not what will lead development tomorrow.
    In this perspective, creativity and innovation will always provide fresh solutions and new ways for businesses to survive, develop and escape dead-end situations. When customers are placed right in the center of this approach, as they deserve it, they will definitely embrace it, as research shows, and will make business winners. Because it’s always customers that make them.
    In terms of the increasing level of self service, it seems to me that it is similar to medical treatment: Once patients have been shown how to handle and treat their ilnesses, it will be much easier and effective to do-it-themselves, by taking medication on a regular basis, applying preventive measures, etc. As in the customer service case of the study, perhaps one out of four persons will need extra care in urgent, complex and difficult situations, where professional advice and treatment come into the picture.

    • Hi. Thanks for your sharing your comment. I think you make a really useful point about the value and use of self treatment in medicine and how that could be used to help drive how we deliver customer self service.

      Thanks for that.

  • Adrian,

    Having the analytical mind that I have, I have a lot of questions about this. (Sam even admits they are not a research house. ) This is only among their customers, right? How representative is that of the world? What was their methodology? Cultural differences taken into account? Is a 3% points increase statistically significant? etc. Nothing against their report – those are just the first sort of basic questions I ask about any findings like this.

    Thanks for bringing us another great interview.

    Annette 🙂

    • Hi Annette,
      Phew! A lot of good questions.

      Here’s what the report says about their research, background and methodology:

      “The Zendesk Benchmark was introduced in March 2012 as a way for participating companies to compare their support performance
      against their industry peers. Rather than a survey or expert opinion, the Zendesk Benchmark is based on actual support and customer service interactions from more than 16,000 companies across 125 countries who have chosen to participate. They are drawn from the more than 30,000 companies that use Zendesk to provide customer service to more than 200 million people. It measures key metrics around customer support efficiency, customer self-service behavior, and levels of customer engagement.

      Now, starting with Q2 2013, global data from the Zendesk Benchmark is being analyzed and released every quarter to
      report on the health of customer service and identify trends in how companies provide support and consumers receive it. The
      quarterly reports will track overall customer satisfaction, based on the aggregated responses of real customers to the question of whether or not they were satisfied with a support interaction. It will be reported by industry, country, and other measures that reach a minimum threshold of responses. In order for a country to be included, there must have been a minimum of 10,000 customer satisfaction responses in that country for the quarter.”

      I think that may answer some, but not all, of your questions.

      Statistically speaking…..Is it representative? I don’t know. But, given that it covers such a large number of companies, customers and interactions I think it makes pretty interesting reading. Even more interesting given that it’s based on customer data collected at the point of interaction.

      What do you think?


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