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Zendesk Adds Voice To Online Help Desk Service

Customer service and support specialist says it will make it easy for SMBs to add phone support without big call center investments.
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Online service and support specialist Zendesk is adding phone service to its help desk product, which until now has focused on online channels like email, chat, and social media.

Zendesk Voice, introduced Monday at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco, will allow many small to midsize businesses (SMBs) that have never offered phone support to do so, without making big call center investments, chief operating officer Zack Urlocker said in an interview. "You can literally get this set up in 10 minutes without any traditional telephony expertise," he said.

The service allows Zendesk customers on any subscription plan to set up a customer service number and have calls routed to agents working with its Web-based agent desktop. Calls and voicemail messages are automatically recorded, transcribed by voice-to-text software, and attached to customer records so they can be tracked much like online interactions, according to Zendesk.

"Having the ability to record these calls and log them means I can always go back and double check, what did the customer say, and what I said to the customer," Urlocker said. By handling phone and online contacts through the same system, agents will be able to offer a more integrated experience to customers. The software attempts to match customer records by phone number, in much the same way that it would match them by email address. That should allow agents to deliver more integrated support across phone and online channels, Urlocker said.

The initial service for the United States and Canada is based on a partnership with Twilio, a provider of hosted phone services. Urlocker said it has created an open interface for integration with other voice service providers and will have other partners internationally. International service should be available later this year.

The service costs 5 cents per minute, with no setup fee, and bulk discounts are available.

Urlocker does not expect to steal customers away from the major call center technology providers that serve large installations. "This is not intended to be a 10,000-person call center system. We expect it to appeal to medium sized enterprises that have never had the time or budget to set up a super-sophisticated call center system. They've been reluctant to offer voice services and support because they can't manage it effectively," he said.

Zendesk is particularly known for its work with SMBs and startups but also introduced an enterprise edition in August.

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