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March 21, 2013

Q&A with Mikkel Svane, CEO of Zendesk

Tineka Smith sits down with Zendesk’s CEO to talk about social media, cloud technology and customer service.

By Tineka Smith

Zendesk is a provider of cloud-based helpdesk software for growing organizations to help them provide better customer service. More than 25,000 Zendesk customers, including Gilt Groupe, Box and Disney use the cloud based helpdesk software. Zendesk is funded by Charles River Ventures, Benchmark Capital, Goldman Sachs, GGV Capital, Index Ventures, Matrix Partners, Redpoint Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank.

Zendesk CEO
Mikkel at the launch of Zendesk’s datacentre in Dublin.


How do you think social media is changing the face of customer service?

I remember in the old days people used to say ‘e-customer service’ which was making sure that you could have conversations with your customers are the ‘e-channels’ which was primarily email. Before then it was all phone based and then suddenly there was email and companies had to adapt to that. Now we’re talking about social customer service. I look at it as just a new channel for communicating. My nephew and niece don’t give me a call or send me an email. They just write to me on Twitter and Facebook. It’s simply a new channel for customer conversations. Companies today need to embrace these channels because if they don’t’ all these conversations will exist without them being a part of it.

Would you say social media is giving power back to the consumer?

Social media and the internet have changed the power relationship between consumers and companies. Consumers have never had a bigger voice than they have today. The internet and the social channels are amplifying their voice and make them much more influential. Businesses need to embrace these channels but at the same time take them very seriously because it changing between the dynamic between companies and its customers. If you’ve had a bad experience with a company it’s very easy to influence a lot of people because they are following you on twitter or will read about it on Facebook. It’s now very easy for ordinary consumers to influence a lot of people and that has changed a lot in the past few years.

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How do you think UK companies compare to the rest of the world in terms of customer service?

The UK is definitely one of the countries that we see the most traction and people take customer service seriously because they have to. The UK is fourth when we compared countries in terms of customer satisfaction. I don’t believe the UK is far behind but at the same time I don’t believe it’s a prime example of great customer service. There are definitely places in the world where you see better customer service than you see in the UK.

What are some upcoming trends you foresee happening in cloud technology?

In five to ten years I don’t believe that any company will think about software in their own infrastructure anymore. It will all be cloud based going forward. A person won’t start a business and think about having their own data centre. People will put all their data in the cloud and will expect to work on mobile devices. Mobile is definitely driving a lot of cloud technologies.

Do you think then that cloud adoption will continue to grow quite rapidly?

I have no doubt about it. It’s a game changer and traditional legacy players will have to redefine their portfolio of products within the next five years completely.

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