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CXBuzz Interview With Abhishek Deshmukh, VP of Engineering & MD Singapore at Zendesk

Hi Abhishek, tell us about yourself, your background? 

I have spent more than 20 years in the software industry. During this time, it’s been amazing to witness the disruptive innovation that technology has brought to our world, and I also have had the opportunity to learn and grow every single day. 

Building teams that strive for engineering excellence and are obsessed about their customers is my passion, particularly when we focus on building great products, solving big problems, truly delighting our customers, and also having a lot of fun while doing that. 

Currently, I’m the Vice President of Engineering and Managing Director at Zendesk Singapore. In my role, I wear two hats leading product development for the support, messaging, and chat products within the Zendesk Suite as well as overseeing operations for Zendesk Singapore. I’ve been with the company for slightly over three years now and have the privilege of leading the teams that power the best customer experiences. Before Zendesk, I spent more than a decade with Autodesk heading their 300-person R&D organization in Singapore. 

Online commerce was booming in 2020, and so did consumer reviews. – How can brands better utilize this data to improve their customers’ experience? 

Consumer reviews and customer feedback are a gold mine of insights – especially when they are well-utilized – and this is important because it informs a business about what people are thinking, feeling, or experiencing when dealing with their products or offerings. By leveraging this information, businesses are able to make better decisions based on what their customers truly desire, rather than assumptions or industry trends.

A strong customer feedback loop can help businesses improve their products and services, as well as the internal processes that impact customer experience (CX), enhancing the overall connection with a customer. When customer feedback is used wisely, it can deepen existing customer relationships, and this is why collecting customer feedback should be central to any CX operation. 

What is one element that must always be considered when working on a CXM (customer experience management) strategy? 

Customer experience management (CXM) is a company’s system for tracking, overseeing, and influencing every physical and digital touchpoint for customer engagements. Brands leverage CXM to create the sort of consistent, personalized experiences that deepens brand loyalty and drives engagement. When it comes to CXM, businesses need to evaluate their brand experience from the customer’s perspective, not their own, so being customer-centric is an important element for any CXM strategy.

Customer-centricity is not just about making customers happy but also about doing what’s right for them. By putting the customer at the center of everything they do, businesses will be able to identify gaps in addressing customer demands. Only then will they be able to create a

strong CXM strategy and build long-lasting customer relationships based on trust and loyalty. 

Do you think personalization and customer-centricity are going to become increasingly more relevant in the coming year? How so? 

The past year has dramatically transformed the way we live, collaborate, and connect. In terms of CX, the pandemic has forced customers to reexamine their priorities and values, particularly because they are now more aware of what they expect from the companies they deal with. Moving forward, customers will continue to explore new ways to reach out to businesses and expect to be able to do so through different platforms, from emails to messaging apps. With personalization to bolster the omnichannel experience, businesses will be set to provide excellent service no matter where their customers are. 

What are some of the ways companies can strive to eliminate the CX Gap?

With evolving customer behaviors and demands, it is essential for businesses to relook their CX strategy and ensure they are able to adapt to these changes. The first step is for companies to identify what these new consumer behaviors are, as well as how to respond by tapping on the latest CX trends.

Our Zendesk CX Trends Report 2021 shows that the popularity of messaging has risen faster than any other channel and is rapidly transforming how customers interact with brands. In fact, more than half (53%) of customers globally turned to messaging, including apps like WhatsApp, SMS/texting, and messaging embedded in a company’s own website. The growing popularity of messaging apps opens the door for more streamlined, conversational experiences. Businesses should take note and adapt their tools and processes to ensure that they pair a readiness to engage in new spaces with the provision of a unified, conversational experience across all channels. 

What’s the most insightful book you read in 2020? 

That has to be “RANGE: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World” by David Epstein. I decided to read this during my year-end break after I saw it listed as one of Bill Gates’s must-read books (which has inspired him!). The topic immediately captured my attention, and the book definitely did not disappoint. 

The book challenges the notion of specialization being a prerequisite for reaching the pinnacle of success in any field. It was fascinating to see how generalization and diversity of interest have, in fact, helped many to be the very best at what they do. While reading it, I managed to draw multiple parallels to both the professional world as well as to my personal one.

Abhishek’s predictions for the future of CX

What are your predictions for trends in customer experience in the coming year?

CX has always been integral to a company’s success, but its significance has grown considerably in the past year. According to our global Zendesk CX Trends Report 2021, half of the customers globally say CX is more important to them now than a year ago. Additionally, our report also shows that the pandemic has inspired several additional notable CX trends.

Firstly, customers are embracing messaging like never before, and many of them will remain loyal to messaging even after things are “back to normal.” Of the 64% of customers who used a new support channel for the first time in 2020, 73% say they plan to continue using it. 

We also identified global trends in how high-performing companies use support channels and found top CX performers were more likely to provide omnichannel support than their lower-performing peers. In fact, 50% of high-performing companies had adopted omnichannel support, compared to 18% of low-performing businesses. This indicates that an omnichannel approach will be a key differentiator for businesses to drive a successful CX strategy. 

Last but not least, what is your favorite CX metric? 

Given that we are in the business of powering the best possible customer experience, Customer Satisfaction, or in short, CSAT, is my number one pick. CSAT surveys are a simple, commonly-used surveys sent to customers shortly after an interaction with a company is complete, such as after a customer has contacted customer support. The CSAT survey is a great and effective way to close the loop on customer interaction and make sure that expectations are met.

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