'Need to connect with customers on a human level is more important now than ever before'

Chad Pearce, Vice President Marketing, APAC, Zendesk, discusses the impact of the pandemic on customer behaviour, marketing initiatives in Indian & APAC market and more

e4m by Nafisa Shaheen
Updated: Dec 23, 2020 8:44 AM
chad Pearce

Consumer relationship management is getting redefined as the pandemic has changed the way businesses operate. There is a heightened need for empathy now to build lasting relationships with customers. In keeping with this thought, Zendesk has been building customer engagement software that is designed to support and foster better customer relationships. For insights on marketing initiatives in Indian and APAC market and changes that Covid has brought into the business, exchange4media spoke to the newly-appointed Vice President Marketing, APAC- Zendesk, Chad Pearce. 

Edited Excerpts:

How has COVID changed the way businesses operate? How has the need for empathy to build lasting relationships with customers become more important than ever?

The pandemic caused a massive shift in customer behaviour, across industries. It has put increased pressure on organizations to meet evolving customer demands for faster service, omnichannel engagement, seamless support experiences, and self-help solutions, making the pandemic a catalyst for organizations to transform in order to grow their business.   

As the pandemic unfolded in the earlier months, it brought about extreme levels of anxiety, insecurity, and isolation. Businesses were now interacting with people who had lost jobs, are juggling work and homeschooling, or dealing with a lot of emotional stress. Therefore, the need to connect with customers on a human level is more important now than ever before. The key to doing that is to put them first in everything. 

How has marketing evolved amidst the pandemic?

Prior to COVID-19, social media and technological advancements have been the key factors shaping the marketing function and its role within any organization. The pandemic has accelerated its evolution into a more strategic and critical role that puts marketers in a unique position to shape and inform the overall customer experience. 

When we look at a more tactical level, varying degrees of lockdown measures across the globe put an abrupt pause to offline marketing initiatives and marketers were faced with a reality without any face-to-face interactions. This gave rise to what I call “The Digital Deluge”, and soon customers were starting to feel the effects of being inundated with all this digital content. 

They say that crisis breeds innovation. Looking ahead, many marketers like myself now have the exciting challenge of reimagining how we engage our audiences. 

What have been the marketing initiatives by Zendesk in APAC and India?

Like many organisations, Zendesk was faced with the task of pivoting more of our offline marketing to digital delivery. While we always had a focus on enabling our customers and prospects through webinars, it became an imperative this year. We recently rolled out a region-wide program for our latest campaign in multiple languages while still maintaining a local flavour. The beauty of digital platforms is that it allows us to leverage its scale whilst still keeping an authentic, relevant connection with our community.

With brands betting big on digital, how has Zendesk leveraged digital? What were the various campaigns by the company during the past 6 months?

Being a Software-as-a-Service company, we’ve always focussed strongly on digital and have leveraged a diverse range of demand generation channels. Digital conferences are now  a key part of our program and we believe that this will extend beyond 2020. In fact, we’ve seen incredible benefits from connecting more broadly across the region and will continue to leverage digital for its ability to scale. We’ve also embarked on some unique experiences blending the physical and digital worlds. We recently partnered with the gin brand Four Pillars to hear about their approach to customer experience and we offered a Gin tasting experience to attendees so they could live the Four PIllars Experience during the event. We’re seeing incredibly positive feedback from our markets with these blended programs.

As digital fatigue becomes a growing concern, we are also complementing our digital conferences with shorter, snackable events. In our CX Moments series, we have a quick chat with industry leaders about how they’re embracing change, their learnings and their CX journey. 

The past six months have been a wild ride, but two major campaigns really stood out for me. The first is our global ‘Thank You Machine’ campaign, launched on the World Gratitude Day (September 21). It’s interactive and socially-driven, aimed at encouraging people around the world to write, illustrate, post and share creative messages of gratitude on a virtual mural to simply say thanks to those who may need to hear it.  

The other was around new research we embarked on with Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) to establish a clear link between investing in CX and business success. We launched it through a region-wide virtual event - our biggest yet in APAC - in multiple languages and the response was great. 

What will be the broad trends that the marketing space will witness post-COVID?

Truly integrated digital marketing will be critical for businesses going forward. A social presence or search marketing presence is not enough, especially if done in silos. Lining up a coordinated sequence of integrated digital tactics could give your audience greater access to your brand and can revolutionise the way we connect with distributed audiences. In the future, we believe a proportion of the workforce will continue to remain remote and marketers need to embrace this change as part of their strategies in 2021 and beyond. Face-to-face programs will always have a place in our marketing arsenal but must be blended with digital elements to ensure the connection with a more distributed audience.

What should be the way forward for brands now? Any new collaborations or product launches in the pipeline for Zendesk?

Messaging is the way forward. The growth of messaging platforms across the region has driven businesses to reconsider the channels they make available for customers. Our expectations as consumers have changed and we’re just as comfortable getting fast and reliable responses from brands via Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or other messaging platforms. The common fact is that consumers expect immediacy and messaging makes that possible. 

That’s why Zendesk expanded its capabilities to help companies provide real-time support across messaging channels on web, social, and mobile. Key to this is a strategic partnership with WhatsApp to provide enhanced customer conversations and support across its messaging channels. This means companies can easily engage and quickly respond to customers through all of Facebook’s messaging properties - Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.  

The future is all about continuing to innovate for our customers. We’re focused on ensuring businesses have the right tools to have conversations with their customers on their channel of choice - be it websites, mobile apps, and through social messaging. These are exciting times for Zendesk and all our customers - both existing and potential - and we can’t wait to share more in our upcoming announcement in December. 

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