MarTech Interview with Sandie Overtveld, VP APAC at Zendesk

MarTech Interview with Sandie Overtveld, VP APAC at Zendesk
MarTech Interview with Sandie Overtveld, VP APAC at Zendesk

“The expansion of our regional hub in Singapore is the next step in this continuing growth trajectory, Our Singapore product and engineering teams lead the end-to-end development responsibilities for Zendesk Chat.”

Why did you decide to expand your vision in developing tech talent in APAC? Do you have similar plans for other regions?

Zendesk has seen consistently high growth in APAC – north of 30 percent year-on-year – since we opened our first regional office in Melbourne in 2011. Fast-forward to today, and we now have more than 650 people in five locations (Singapore, Melbourne, Bangalore, Manila, and Tokyo), which accounts for 20 percent of our global workforce and contributes more than 11 percent of our global revenue.

This growth has been the result of brands in Asia that are disrupting and transforming the customer experience across a multitude of industries – from fintech to retail, and government to travel.

The expansion of our regional hub in Singapore is the next step in this continuing growth trajectory. Our Singapore Product and Engineering teams lead the end-to-end development responsibilities for Zendesk Chat. The team is also a key component to our globally-distributed development model, working closely with our product and engineering teams in San Francisco and Dublin, as well as supporting the teams in Copenhagen, Melbourne, and Montpellier.

We recently announced a partnership with the Economic Development Board (EDB) that will help expand the team’s scope into new initiatives. This includes some of our latest Product announcements, such as our open and flexible CRM platform, Zendesk Sunshine – which includes the recent announcement of Sunshine Conversations – and WhatsApp for Zendesk, a new WhatsApp Business API connector. All this firmly positions our Singapore hub to play a larger role in driving global innovation and growth.

In fact, our global business is doubling in size every two years – we currently have more than 3,200 employees in 16 offices around the world. The move into our new APAC hub office in Singapore is the culmination of a number of global office launches and expansions during the past year to support our growth. This includes a new sales and marketing office in Tokyo; a new development hub in Dublin, Ireland, which is also our EMEA hub; and expanded offices in Madison (Wisconsin), San Francisco (California), and Melbourne (Australia).

What kind of training and learning are you providing to your Partners, Customers and Marketing professionals in the APAC?

We provide a range of training and development resources and opportunities for our partners, customers, and industry stakeholders. We offer training days and agent shadowing to help them learn how to use Zendesk software; Professional Development workshops and webinars for CX leaders; and high-level roundtable briefings and networking opportunities for C-Suite.

Events are a significant component of our efforts to provide customers, prospects, and partners with information on the latest trends and industry best practices, starting with our flagship global event series, Showcase, which we held recently for our APAC customers in Singapore and Melbourne. Showcase provides the opportunity to hear about global CX and technology trends shaping the region through fireside chats and panel discussions conducted by a mix of well-known brands, industry spokespeople, research analysts, and Zendesk executives.

Our own Zendesk Help Centre is often the first place customers go to learn about our products and solutions, followed by our library of blogs, customer stories and Relate by Zendesk. All of these resources allow our customers the flexibility to find the information they need as and when they need it – just like their own customers.

Which departments are best suited to benefit from Zendesk Chat?

Any department can benefit from using a Product like Zendesk Chat. As consumers, apps like WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, and LINE are part of our daily lives. Businesses are becoming savvier to this, and are switching on channels that help them to be where their customers are, communicating with them in a more seamless and conversational way.

Ultimately, customer support teams benefit most from a solution like Zendesk Chat as it allows agents to reach out and talk to customers over websites, mobile apps, and popular messaging apps before they even ask a question. Live chat and messaging create a personal connection with customers who are looking for support, and it’s a fast and effective way to offer help without interrupting their experience.

Interestingly, our CX trends research found chat to be one of the fastest-growing channels, which helped lead to the launch of WhatsApp for Zendesk in Asia. Grab, Circles.Life, NTUC FairPrice, and StashAway are great examples of how companies rely on these kinds of tools to meet their customers on the channels they prefer and personalize their experience by enabling agents to seamlessly switch between multiple support channels.

Live chat analytics also play an important role beyond customer support teams that benefit even Sales and Marketing departments. Real-time reports help shed light on customer satisfaction and agent performance, identifying issues before they become problems. This means Sales and Marketing teams are equipped with reliable data to both respond to and anticipate customers’ needs.

Tell us about the various unique challenges that you face in the APAC market for CRM and Automation platforms?

The old ways of looking at CRM – which puts the Sales team at the center of your business and simply sees the customer as a dollar amount instead of a human being – are disappearing. Brands are beginning to break free from legacy infrastructure that takes an inside-out view of their customer support strategies, and are instead putting the customer back at the center of their business and designing their solutions from the outside-in.

Some of the unique operational challenges we face with our customers in APAC involves the need for multiple language support to help facilitate cross-border commerce, and the ability to scale with rapid growth, both within their own markets and as they expand into new ones. By designing a support strategy and solution that brings all their data into a single, centralized platform, businesses can better understand their customers and use those insights to boost Sales and Operational performance.

When it comes to Automation, many companies are still hesitant to adopt technologies and solutions that might negate the need for human interaction – but we find it is the opposite. Automation helps companies speed up some of the smaller, more mundane tasks and frees up human agents to work on more complex customer needs. The impact is two-fold: agents become more highly skilled, and customers receive simple answers faster, which means increased satisfaction for both the agent and customer.

How is the APAC market different compared to North America and Europe? What is your prediction on the future of AI ML-based applications for Marketing, Sales and Customer Service in APAC?

Businesses in APAC have been quick to embrace the integration of digital CX tools with their CRM and adopt more agile and open solutions. Consumers across APAC are incredibly digitally-savvy, which means businesses need to keep up with their customers’ rapidly changing expectations. As a result, they look for solutions and technologies that are agile, scalable and personalized.

Moving forward, CRM platforms will continue to play a critical role in helping businesses nurture their prospects along the sales funnel. I believe we are also going to see a lot more capabilities in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning that will help us detect and predict customer behavior, continue to accelerate the sales cycle and provide real-time intelligence that can be channeled into more compelling and personalized Marketing campaigns. This will lead to more seamless and highly personalized customer experience.

Thank you, Sandie! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Sandie has over 25 years of international management experience in the software industry, with leadership positions in both entrepreneurial start-ups and complex global matrix environments. The key to building highly effective and productive teams in these varied contexts comes from my willingness to adapt. Adaptation can only be implemented with practical management goals. Great development strategy can only work if you support it with attention to detail.

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The best customer experiences are built with Zendesk. Zendesk’s powerful and flexible customer service and engagement platform scale to meet the needs of any business, from startups and small businesses to growth companies and enterprises.

Zendesk serves businesses across a multitude of industries, with more than 100,000 paid customer accounts offering service and support in more than 30 languages. Headquartered in San Francisco, Zendesk operates worldwide with 15 offices in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and South America.

The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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