How Shopify is using Zendesk Support as a one-stop-shop to seamlessly connect with customers


In 2012, Canada-based software company Shopify, was poised for the kind of 'hold-onto-your-seat' hypergrowth that most startups dream of. At the time, the company had been named as one of the ten most innovative retail companies by Fast Company, and was onboarding new merchants onto their cloud-based e-commerce platform at a rapid pace. Over the next four years, Shopify grew fast—from 20,000 merchants to more than 300,000.

Shopify has remained at the industry’s forefront by offering timely integrations with payment providers like Apple Pay and emerging messaging platforms like FacebookMessenger, and by partnering with Amazon. Yet, during that first flood of new business, Shopify quickly realised its teams were struggling to onboard and support new merchants, mostly because the tools in place weren’t equipped for the deluge of new requests.

One-stop shop for excellent customer support

Shopify's customer support team was already using another platform, but it was slowing them down and impeding their ability to interact with merchants. Thus began the hunt for a new solution and the team decided to take a closer look at Zendesk. They loved the Zendesk Support Suite from the get-go and could now focus on a single workspace to connect with customers.

Headquartered outside of Silicon Valley in Ottawa, ON, support leaders at Shopify were sometimes at a loss for knowing how other like-minded companies handled periods of extreme growth, or how they might optimise their processes and tools. Zendesk was very helpful about giving ideas, and also connecting them with other companies that had gone through similar challenges.

“The product was great, but the support that came with it was tremendous as well. Everyone we interacted with was invested in our success," says Chris Wilson, Director of Technical Support at Shopify.

Roy Sunstrum, VP of Customer Support adds, “We definitely see Zendesk as more than a piece of software. I’ve never seen, in my course of business, the amount of focus on relationships—and not just on relationships that have a selling tone, but really on customers as a community.”

Expecting to spend a month rolling out Zendesk, support leaders flipped the ‘on’ switch and were pleasantly surprised. Within a single day, agents were up to speed and the team found Zendesk Support to be flexible and easy to use and, more importantly, fast. Load times were no longer an issue and support leadership was now equipped with near real-time data.

Continued support innovation

Over the longer term, this was one of—or perhaps the first of—many transformations at Shopify. Shortly after the team implemented Zendesk Support, leadership realised how frequently merchants asked sales and support questions during the same interaction. As a result, the inside sales team moved into more of a sales coaching role, helping to identify optimum opportunities for cross-selling and upselling, and the support team handle both sales and support inquiries. The end result benefited everyone, as merchants no longer had to be transferred to another person or moved to another channel of support, depending on their question. It also shed a new light on the role the support team could play for the business.

At Shopify, there used to be a time when leaders thought support was only required if a product failed, and having a perfect product meant there was no need for support. But they’ve gotten past that stage now. "It’s really the human experience, coupled with a wonderful product experience that’s going to drive our merchant count up, and what’s going to have them stay and spend more with us," says Roy.

Zendesk’s extensive apps marketplace and flexible API were also key in helping Shopify to scale its support. For example, Shopify uses the Twilio API to extend Zendesk Support into a custom-built call center, providing full visibility across voice and email tickets, that has enabled the team to focus on providing an ever-more effortless merchant experience.

Helping scale with ease

Integrations with Salesforce and Gainsight also help the team gain efficiencies by helping to prevent churn and surface more CRM data to agents as they upsell and cross-sell. Shopify also uses SurveyMonkey Create to collect Voice of the Customer data, as well as several other Zendesk-built apps including Time Tracking, Ticket Redaction, and Five Most Recent.

“We can really wrap Zendesk Support around our business instead of changing our business to wrap around Support. And as we grow and scale, there’s a push to continue to centralise and to ensure that when agents log into Support, everything is there. We’ve never run into a scenario where Support hasn’t been able to scale with us," says Chris.

Shopify determines its success by the success of its merchants, and a quick visit to the Shopify homepage proves that — the dollar amount of product that merchants have sold using Shopify ticks up. But there’s more to success than sales. The support team at Shopify is driven by customer satisfaction—and on avoiding what they call “the trap of efficiency". Today, Shopify has an average CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score) of 92 percent, monthly conversations of 170k and total sales of more than $20 billion. “We’re preoccupied with CSAT, which we call ‘smileys’, and we want to make sure we’re doing the right thing with customers and with agents,” says Chris.

Back in 2013, Shopify had only 30-40 people working in Zendesk Support, but by mid-2016, over 600 support agents and Shopify employees were using the tool to support merchants, and as the central point of truth for customer information. In fact, the tool has been adopted by other internal departments as well, including Shopify’s HR and IT teams.

“We want to make sure the merchants feel helped and supported, and that we aren’t chasing costs at the detriment of the merchant experience. Zendesk’s products are great, the company is fantastic, but it’s really the relationship between Shopify and Zendesk, and between Shopify and other Zendesk users, that has been tremendously valuable," adds Wilson.


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