Last week I stopped by the Zendesk office in San Francisco for a quick chat with Eric Shen.
Zendesk builds software for better customer relationships. It empowers organizations to improve customer engagement and better understand their customers. More than 87,000 paid customer accounts in over 150 countries and territories use Zendesk products. Based in San Francisco, Zendesk has operations in the United States, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America. Learn more at www.zendesk.com.
Please introduce yourself.
Hi, I’m Eric Shen, Partner Integrations Manager at Zendesk and I run the Zendesk Apps Marketplace.
Eric, how long have you been running the Zendesk Apps Marketplace?
I’ve been running the Zendesk Apps Marketplace since we launched it, so for five years now. Over those years I’ve worked with partners to build, onboard, and grow the program to be the vibrant ecosystem that it is today.
Let’s throw in some figures to provide context.
Zendesk has over 87,000 customers and a large percentage of them have at least one app installed. There are currently over 500 apps and integrations in the Zendesk Apps Marketplace.
That’s quite impressive! But I guess, there’s always room for growth. For example, some companies that we talk with are not even aware they could extend Zendesk with “apps”. Is there any statistics of how and when Zendesk customers begin using apps?
It totally depends on the customer and what their needs are. We have customers that know exactly what apps they want to install to enhance their Zendesk experience, so they will do the installation during the sales & trial process. On the flip side, some customers will get up and running on Zendesk first, and then explore options in the Zendesk Apps Marketplace. I think we’ve made great progress towards building a vibrant partner ecosystem, but we are always looking to expand our partnerships. If you are interested in becoming a partner, visit our developer site!
Oh yeah, the Marketplace does have many gems! What does Zendesk do to help customers discover and use the apps that are “right” for them? Is it completely self-service or do you in any way interfere with that?
Zendesk builds software for better customer relationships. Our products are easy to use and implement, and the Zendesk Apps Marketplace is a great example of exactly that. The Zendesk Apps Marketplace was created specifically to help our customers discover tools that help them do their job better. We do a monthly blog post about what’s new in the Marketplace so our customers and prospects are up to date with the latest tools. When our sales team identifies a customer who has a question or problem with their business processes, we’ll point them to our Zendesk Apps Marketplace for a potential solution. The customer may be looking for something very specific to their workflow that one of our partner apps may be able to solve. We then work with the partners to get them involved into the sales process so we can sell a joint solution. We’ve found that customers who set up integrations when trialing are much more likely to sign up for both products, and are more likely to stay customers.
That’s a great observation and I agree it’s critical to provide complete, customized solutions. Does Zendesk heavily rely on 3rd party apps for that, or do you plan to keep building/acquiring for the now umbrella Zendesk brand?
Yes, we love our 3rd party app developers! We work very closely with them to build solutions that work for our customers, and they will often jump in and create frequently requested integrations. A good example of this is when we launched our Channel Framework last September. Our Channel Framework lets you bring customer communications from anywhere a conversation may be taking place into Zendesk Support. Our partners have built apps using the Channel Framework to automatically pull in reviews from Amazon or Ebay, TrustPilot, and even YouTube comments (all of which were highly requested channels from our customers) and converts these conversations into customer service tickets. Customer Service agents can respond to these tickets directly from Zendesk which helps keep your teams using one single tool to get their job done and eliminates the need of jumping between multiple products.
What are the most popular types of apps among Zendesk customers?
Not surprisingly, the everyday tools that customers use, things like project management software, CRM, and time tracking are the most popular. We’ve also seen a lot of very popular tools that augment the workflow inside Zendesk. For example, an app that helps with a change management process, one that simply shows the user profile while on a Zendesk ticket, or something that suggests popular articles from their own Help Center to help agents find information more quickly.
What’s the biggest challenge for customers to run 3rd party apps with Zendesk?
We try to make it as easy as possible for our customers across the board, but of course problems arise at times. We’ve found that complex setup instructions and lengthy install times tend to be more challenging, but we work closely with our partners to mitigate these risks and avoid these types of situations.
What’s the next big project for the Zendesk Marketplace?
At the beginning of the year we launched our new Marketplace Portal for our app partners, which I am personally very excited about. It will provide a centralized place for our partners to organize and manage their organization profile, members, and app listings in the Marketplace itself. We will be rolling out new features like streamlined app submissions, app performance metrics, etc. in the coming months. Our developer and partner community is a very important piece to Zendesk’s success and it is something we will be more focused on this year. The goal is to have a thriving partner ecosystem that provides best in class tools for our customers and is seen as a growth vehicle for our partners as well. If you are interested in becoming a partner, visit our developer site!
Thank you Eric, I wish you (and us, Zendesk partners) success in all our undertakings!
Me with Eric Shen and Michelle Torres of Zendesk at their San Francisco office during my visit.