TechBytes with Gari Johnson, Senior Vice President of Sales, APAC at Zendesk

TechBytes with Gari Johnson, SVP of Sales, APAC at Zendesk

Hi Gari, please tell us about your role and the team you handle at Zendesk.

As the Senior Vice President of Sales for Zendesk APAC, I lead the commercial growth of our business and the expansion of our customer base across the region. My team and I aim to engage with our customers and support them in whatever stage of growth they are at, better equipping them to build powerful and innovative customer experiences that are streamlined to their business needs. Whether it’s working with startups or large enterprises, I’m focused on collaborating with businesses to help them identify, evaluate, and meet their customer relationship needs – while of course integrating a customer-centric approach in the core of their strategy and operations.

2020 has been a turning point for CX management teams. What key challenge did you find in the customer service industry related to poor CX benchmarks?

In 2020, businesses found themselves facing a forced acceleration of digital growth and remote operations practically overnight. The spike of online customers has resulted in huge shifts in business models and customer interactions. As physical stores reopen in some markets, the customer journey has become even more complex, catapulting the critical role customer experience (CX) to the forefront. The new paradigm has organisations racing to provide crucial and quality omnichannel experiences. Our research with Ecosystm in Singapore found that while more than half of local businesses (57%) recognised this need and placed a stronger emphasis on digital and omnichannel experiences in 2020, only 14% were able to offer fully-fledged omnichannel experiences. As businesses continue adapting to the digital age, sustained investment in strategic capabilities is crucial in ensuring they can reach and relate to their target market.

How is the CX standard in the APAC region different from that in the Americas and EMEA markets? Any specific study you have done to corroborate these differences?

Our annual Zendesk Customer Experience (CX) Trends Report looks at the top trends in customer experience across 15 countries across the globe. In 2021, we combined analysis from our Zendesk Benchmark with surveys of more than 8,000 consumers, customer service agents and managers, and technology buyers. From our report, we know that APAC had the second highest percentage of consumers (74%) willing to spend more with companies that offer good customer experiences, bested only by LATAM (79%) and followed closely by AMER (71%) and EMEA (57%). The high level of CX maturity in APAC markets mirrors this consumer demand – among the four regions, APAC is also where the second highest percentage of agents (31%) use three or more communication channels to engage with customers in a typical day. Still, global benchmarks reveal that average weekly support requests have been up 20% worldwide since the start of the pandemic. The message is clear – regardless of market maturity, businesses must take CX seriously to deliver the experiences that their customers demand.

How do you see the customer service industry evolving in 2021? Which tools and platforms would make the most prolific impact on the industry in APAC?

In 2021, businesses need to be quick on their feet to meet customer demands, be where customers are, and deliver what they want – and omnichannel and self-service capabilities will pave the way forward to fulfill these needs. Undoubtedly, the growing popularity in new tools, platforms and channels has given rise to an increase in utility of artificial intelligence, social commerce, and messaging, but the impact on the industry is specific to each region. For example, our CX Trends Report 2021 reveals that while social media saw a 125% growth in average weekly ticket volume in APAC, this number dipped to only 46% growth in Singapore. Instead, we saw an overwhelming 255% growth in ticket volume for self-service solutions, highlighting the need for businesses to keep an ear to the ground and be truly listening to what their customers want and need.

Tell us more about CX goals and challenges for 2021 – how do you plan to achieve and overcome these for Zendesk, partners and customers?

The appetite for CX is growing, and it’s all about investing in the right suite of solutions that best meet customer needs. The goal within a great customer-centric strategy should always remain the same: to meet and exceed customer expectations by delivering personalized and superior brand experiences. The challenge arises in how companies can most effectively galvanize people, processes, and tools to achieve this goal.

For Zendesk, our priority remains helping organisations leverage Zendesk’s flexibility and fast time-to-value as a competitive advantage to reimagine their CX strategies. This means continuing to deliver top product innovations, integrations and partnership collaborations that give businesses more ways to connect with their customers. Whether through websites, mobile apps, or social messaging, our focus is on helping our customers build the best relationships, while ensuring their teams have the tools to deliver support efficiently.

What initiatives have you taken specifically for Singapore businesses – any particular case studies you want to share with us?

We continue to push the envelope on new product launches, collaborations, partnerships and updates because we want the best for our customers. In Singapore, omnichannel growth and self-service are key areas of support, so our team at Zendesk is investing in equipping our customers with the right technology, processes and training to get these capabilities up and running. A great example of how suitable CX investments can reap enormous benefits is in how Carousell utilizes self-service solutions as part of their robust omnichannel strategy. Carousell taps on Zendesk Guide and Answer Bot, which together power their customer-facing knowledge base. By guiding customers to relevant help center articles, Answer Bot deflects 24% of inbound general enquiries, equipping customers with the tools to help themselves – just the way they want it.

Thank you for answering all our questions!

Gari Johnson is the Senior Vice President of Sales for Zendesk APAC. With over 30 years’ experience in sales, operations, and marketing, Gari is responsible for driving Zendesk’s commercial growth and expanding its customer base in the Asia Pacific region.

Throughout his career, Gari has held senior marketing and sales roles at both startups and large organisations, helping to grow some of the most recognised brands in the industry such as IBM and Oracle.

As a leader, Gari is driven by building a supportive, customer-centric culture and is passionate about talent development as well as diversity and inclusion.

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Zendesk is a service-first CRM company that builds support, sales, and customer engagement software designed to foster better customer relationships. From large enterprises to startups, we believe that powerful, innovative customer experiences should be within reach for every company, no matter the size, industry or ambition. Zendesk serves more than 160,000 customers across a multitude of industries in over 30 languages. Zendesk is headquartered in San Francisco, and operates offices worldwide.