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Customer Profile: Relate by Zendesk

7th March 2017 by moocrew

Quality customer service isn’t just about quick wait times on the phone anymore. It now includes amazing content marketing—AKA an offering of helpful content for your consumers. Zendesk, a company dedicated to creating great customer experiences, has mastered this art.

According to their website, Zendesk “was started in a Copenhagen loft by three friends who used an old kitchen door as a desk.” Their mission was to bring some zen into the world of customer support. Years later, the company has expanded globally and has real desks in thirteen countries.

The folks at Zendesk have even created a thought leadership arm of the company—Relate by Zendesk. This branch includes an online magazine, event series, podcast, and print magazine. No small feat. “Where Zendesk focuses on bettering customer service interactions, Relate goes up a level and delves into customer experiences,” Chelsea Larsson, the Senior Manager of Content Strategy at Zendesk, told MOO. “We talk about the trends impacting how we interact with the important business relationships in our life— customers, colleagues, and our community.”

Zendesk also hosts an unconventional customer experience conference, called Relate Live. The event promises to teach attendees how to build better relationships with their customers. Throughout the day, there are thought-provoking keynotes, training sessions, and breakouts. By the time happy hour rolls around, everyone has gained insight into how they can improve their own customer experience challenges.

We had a virtual conversation with Chelsea Larsson about the definition of great content marketing, different tactics for facilitating conversations, and the innovative ways that Relate uses print products to connect with their customers.

Why is content marketing marketing valuable to Zendesk, and for connecting businesses with customers in general?

We think of content marketing as a way to continue the brand relationship with customers and community members, beyond the product experience. From the Zendesk Blog to Relate to our events, our primary goal is to be a trusted resource for people who are passionate about the customer experience. When planning for new content we often ask ourselves, “Who needs this?” If the only answer is Zendesk, then we won’t publish it because it’s too self-serving.

Monica Norton, Director of Content Marketing at Zendesk, always reminds us that no one is obligated to read our content, listen to our podcast, or attend our events. It is our job as content creators to publish pieces that are personal and relevant to the people in our community so that they actually want that content.

Relate, led by Sarah Reed, was our bold step into the online publication world. We created a content hub separate from the Zendesk site, and we kept it product agnostic. That creates a safe, sales-free environment for people to explore the relationships that they have with customers, coworkers, and their community. The bonds we’ve built via the site, the events, and the newsletter have been so rewarding.

Relate Live speakers have become writers for the site, event attendees have become Zendesk employees, and more. I think this is the true mark of great content marketing—when it creates a genuine relationships between people and a brand.

What role have print products played in reinforcing the foundations of business relationships at Zendesk?

Digital experiences can be very solitary. We escape into our phones or laptops for hours, and when your head is bent over your device, it’s a bit of a social cue that says “I’m occupied.” Print pieces, however, are visible to both the reader and people around them. When they are beautiful and charming they can be conversation starters in and of themselves. We use print media like broadsheets, conversation cards, greeting cards, postcards, and our magazine in that way.

Our Relate brand accent color is gold. Not only is the gold beautiful, but it’s eye-catching and elegant. It really captures the essence of Relate. When we saw that MOO offered gold foil, it seemed like a natural choice to use that for our business cards.

Judging from the highlight reel from last year’s Relate Live, it’s clear that everyone attending wants to share innovative ideas and, perhaps more importantly, have fun. Can you talk about the idea of having icebreaker cards scattered throughout the event to get conversations started?

Relate Live is all about getting out of your comfort zone and connecting with inspiring people in your community of customers and colleagues. The icebreaker cards provide amusing and relevant conversation topics to start those discussions.

How were the icebreakers cards used? Did they create some interesting interactions?

The cards were spread out on tables during social breaks. We didn’t want it to feel forced, so there was never a formal request from the conference organizers for attendees to use the cards. We designed them with bold type that was easy to read, and they caught attendees’ eyes at moments where their conversations needed a little help. At each event we witnessed attendees using the cards, laughing at the prompts, and easing into natural conversation after a shared experience.The icebreaker cards also play a big role in our social strategy. We’ve featured them on all social channels and they are frequently shared and across our community. They’re amazing conversation starters, both on and offline. Questions like, “Self-driving car: hell yes or hell no?” and “What was your most surprising customer service experience?” give our audience of customer experience leaders a wide range of topics to talk about. At the very least, we try and provide an opportunity to share a laugh.

That was the thinking behind a few of the humorous cards like, “Is it better to have loved and lost or to have loved the show Lost?” We also customize the cards for each local event. We find that attendees get really excited to find a card that is specific to their city. It’s like we’ve brought them in on an inside joke.

What are some of your favorite icebreaker questions that have led to great conversations? We’d love to hear them!

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