AI’s role in reinventing the customer experience

Innovate to elevate: The journey to AI-powered customer experience

Zendesk uses AI to improve the customer experience and innovate the employee experience. As SVP of engineering, my role is to oversee critical aspects of our customer experience platform, including our highly performant and scalable infrastructure, reliability and resilience operations, engineer productivity, core services, and most recently, a significant part of the Zendesk platform team. Although our efforts are behind the scenes, my team is fundamental to powering our product development organizations, ultimately enhancing the experience for 100,000+ customers worldwide.

AI is the future of customer service

I believe that AI will fundamentally transform how services are delivered in the future. We are in the third revolution of customer experience, and as personalized customer service continues to grow, we anticipate an exponential growth in the volume of interactions between customers and companies. We envision an AI-first approach to become the norm for customer interactions. We anticipate that within the next few years, AI will be involved in 100% of customer interactions, and that 80% of the time, human intervention will not be required. And, personalization is how companies win: Surveys indicate a remarkable 40% increase in revenue for brands that offer personalized interactions.

Zendesk fully embraces AI and incorporates AI into our products. Our data strategy is centered on leveraging data to power AI and enhance customer service.

Zendesk is “The intelligent heart of customer experience.” Zendesk AI is the intelligent layer of the Zendesk platform that makes every customer interaction smarter, more efficient, and more helpful. With AI, we can automate repetitive tasks, improve agent productivity, and free up customers’ resources to focus on delivering more strategic, personalized customer experiences.

AI applications improve customer experiences

AI plays a pivotal role in helping Zendesk customers personalize their own customer interactions and empower agents to deliver exceptional services. For instance, Zendesk’s intelligent triage and routing capability leverages AI to optimize service workflow by eliminating the manual triage, routing the incoming requests to exactly the right agents for the job, and saving time on every ticket.

Zendesk also uses generative AI (GenAI) to help agents solve customer issues faster. An AI-powered agent workspace gives agents the insights, tools and recommendations, shows contextually similar tickets, auto-generates ticket summaries, and drafts replies with AI-powered writing tools, enabling agents to respond faster and more effectively.

GenAI can also help to automate the customer experience with bots, such as automating replies with customer’s knowledge base and enhancing and expanding knowledge content quickly.

Embracing AI inside the engineering team

Our team's enthusiastic adoption of AI internally reflects the diverse range of applications and the tangible benefits it brings to our team’s productivity and operational efficiency. As of early 2024, the majority of Zendesk employees regularly use internally hosted ChatGPT. I myself use AI every day to accelerate tasks such as content creation, strategy communications, project research and ideation, and performance feedback.

Our engineering team employs AI across various facets of productivity, learning, and code and content creation.

For instance, harnessing AI assists our engineering organization with:

  • Anomaly detection — allowing the team to identify deviations in data and promptly address issues

  • Streamlining the generation of root cause analysis reports following incidents

  • Significantly expediting knowledge sharing through AI-driven summaries of vast amounts of information in a company chat channel

  • Code generation for unit testing, improving test coverage and quality of our software

  • Documentation generation from code, promoting team collaboration and communication

  • Employee learning initiatives, such as utilizing ChatGPT to onboard and train new hires on our code base

Safeguarding data: Security by design

Safeguarding company data, intellectual property, and customer information is paramount for our engineering and security teams. We adhere to the principle of security-by-design to enable innovation while protecting our customer and company assets.

To mitigate risks with AI integration, we use a layered approach to data governance, compliance, and privacy. We have developed our own UI on top of the OpenAI API for employees to safely use GenAI tools internally. The UI essentially acts as a proxy to monitor and audit interactions with external GenAI providers, such as OpenAI, to ensure sensitive information is not inadvertently exposed and our data are excluded from the LLM model training (To learn more about our best practices and industry standards to achieve data compliance and privacy, visit Zendesk’s Trust Center.)

AI and the future of work

AI will undoubtedly shape the future of work for the better. For IT leaders, it's crucial to adopt a balanced perspective on AI technology. We need to recognize its rapidly evolving capabilities yet remain cautious and proactive in governing use. Embracing AI opens doors to efficiency and innovation, but it's essential to prioritize security and privacy considerations alongside the AI practices.

Every journey with AI adoption is unique, so staying curious and informed about potential pitfalls is crucial. Ongoing learning and adaptability are key. Maintaining an open mind and staying abreast of developments ensures that companies do not miss out on the future opportunities AI offers.

This article is part of a series on the latest trends and topics impacting today’s technology decision-makers.


Nan Guo — @nan-guo
Senior Vice President of Engineering, Zendesk

Key takeaways

After reading this article you will be able to understand:

  • How revenue is positively impacted by personalized experiences

  • Why embracing GenAI for customer experience and employee productivity can supercharge growth

  • Safeguards and risk mitigation when using AI

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