Our first stops on the road to data liberation

By Stephanie Zou

Published September 12, 2016
Last modified September 12, 2016

Every day, we capture over 4.6 million interactions across Zendesk products. That’s a lot of customers reaching out to over 81,000 businesses for help.

Since the early days of Zendesk, some of that data was showcased in our product as reporting dashboards for Zendesk customers to track support ticket volume and satisfaction. Other data was used internally to track our own customer growth.

We knew we were sitting on top of a lot of valuable customer data—not just insights about our own customers but also insights about our customers’ customers. But it was locked up in databases and logs.

Our first steps towards “data liberation”
Things changed quickly when, in March 2012, we created our first global customer service benchmarks using data aggregated from 15,000 customers who opted in to anonymously share their data. The report was titled, “Customer Satisfaction by the Numbers: Zendesk Customer Satisfaction Index” and centered around three key metrics: customer satisfaction ratings, efficiency as measured by first reply time, and scale as measured by ticket volume. Then we shared the report with our customers.

“Customers went crazy for the benchmark data,” said Sam Boonin, VP of Product Strategy. “Before this report, they had no idea how well they compared to industry peers.”

Some customers, like Nitro, started publicly comparing themselves against the Zendesk Benchmark. For a press release, Nitro not only introduced their new product features but also their excellence in customer service.

“We knew we had to invest way more in freeing this data and providing data-driven recommendations to our customers on how they can improve their customer service operations,” said Boonin.

Empowering our customer success team
One of those subsequent investments was focused on getting this data into the hands of the employees who work with customers every day—our customer success organization.

“We want our customers to be data-driven in how they run their support operations,” said Mike Zinne, VP of Customer Success. “In order to help them achieve that, we also need to be data-driven in how we guide, support, and work with our customers.”

Yet at the time, with over 65,000 customers in Zendesk’s base, the customer success team needed to provide data-driven guidance at scale. So they built dashboards on top of Zendesk’s product data warehouse with pre-canned reports and analyses that any customer success manager could review and share with their customers.

At various points throughout the year, a customer success manager would sit down with their customers to review their goals, examine their Zendesk configuration, and discuss opportunities to improve efficiency. Mozhdeh (Mo) Rastegar-Panah manages the team of customer success executives who work with companies like Groupon, Uber, and Box.

“Oftentimes, customers want to know what we think are the best metrics for them to look at and what’s the best way to set up and optimize their Zendesk,” Mo explained. “So being able to quickly pull up and review the customer’s performance together has been an eye-opening experience for both parties. Together, we can better understand their account health and draw up a roadmap for opportunities to improve.”

performance summary
product usage analysis

Automating “account health” updates
Alongside these 1:1 conversations between the customer success managers and their customers, the Zendesk data team wanted to further scale these types of account reviews so that every customer can receive meaningful analyses and recommendations.

Today, an automated email is sent to customers containing a snapshot of their performance across their Zendesk products for the past month, including individual account metrics like first reply time, one-touch resolution, customer satisfaction, and Help Center search statistics. This email also lets each customer know where they are in relation to global benchmarks, compared to other companies with similar profiles.

Additionally, this email surfaces intelligent recommendations based on the customer’s performance. If a customer experiences a significant drop in a certain metric, the email links to a best practice article on how to improve that area. If a customer significantly improves in an area month-over-month, the email links customers to a community forum where they can share their strategies with others.

Zendesk monthly email usage gif

“It was important for us to highlight how a customer ranks against their peers—going beyond just a benchmark that tells them whether they are above or below the average,” said Jason Maynard, Director of Data & Analytics. “This way our customers can tell whether they are operationally great, awful, or just about average.”

Maynard adds that this is just the beginning for the types of analyses we want to empower our customers with. “We love getting to know our customers,” said Maynard. “We want to help our customers get to know theirs better.”

Curious where your support stands? Learn more about the Monthly Account Usage email. And, make sure to opt in to the Zendesk Benchmark so you can see how you’re doing.

As always, we are just an email away at if you want to learn more about how to take advantage of the resources highlighted in this post.