Hasani Caraway – Zendesk
We’ve all been there, in that anxious state of online order limbo, waiting for the laptop charger or fancy pair of shoes we bought to arrive at our doorstep.
When we call to check on the order with customer service, another hurdle appears: repeating our tale of woe to one customer service agent after another in vain, hoping for a swift resolution—or at the least a sympathetic ear.
Zendesk General Counsel Hasani Caraway says it’s his company’s goal to make that scenario a thing of the past, thanks to the company’s products and open and flexible CRM platform.
As Caraway explains, Zendesk’s best-in-class tools make it easier for customer conversations to flow more freely across a variety of channels—with better accountability and documentation.
The goal? To create more productive agents and happier customers.
“The challenge was a major part of the opportunity here for me, knowing the company needed to be able to serve a global customer base with a single platform while reconciling country-specific rules,” Caraway says. “It involves all of us being focused in the same direction, understanding the goal—something we’ve achieved.”
The best things come in threes
Founded in 2007 in Denmark, Zendesk recently announced new products and capabilities that the company says will give its clients “the resources they need to create easy, cohesive and frictionless experiences along the entire customer journey.”
The first offering, Zendesk Support Suite, focuses on customer conversations. With it, an agent will see one comprehensive view of all the latest customer interactions, surrounded by internal workflow details across departments. Zendesk Support Suite allows agents to create customizable workspace tools to improve productivity, leverage data to personalize the customer experience, seamlessly engage with customers, and manage conversations on popular messaging apps powered by Sunshine Conversations, the company’s recently launched conversational business platform.
The second offering is Zendesk Sales Suite, which helps teams concentrate on growing pipeline, starting rewarding customer conversations and closing deals more quickly.
“Because of this, sales reps and other teams can use one fully integrated solution that automatically tracks all sales-related activities in order to provide reps with the context and insight they need to successfully close deals,” Caraway says.
The third announcement is new functionality for Zendesk Sunshine, an open and flexible platform built on Amazon Web Services. As Caraway explains, companies are now managing three times as much data as they were five years ago. That, in turn, can lead to a fragmented view of each customer, making it harder to respond to service inquiries.
“With our new Sunshine capabilities we can help companies boost agent productivity and customer satisfaction with a complete view of their customer data across all systems,” he says.
In the final analysis, Caraway says it’s all about leveraging solutions to better serve each client’s customer base, regardless of the industry.
Taking your own medicine
All told, Caraway says the legal department is one area of the company that’s critical to supporting new product releases. The legal team does this by engaging with the product teams on regulatory concerns and working closely with the go-to-market teams on launch plans.
“One of the key differentiators within our legal team is that we use our own product to deliver the same customer experience we would give to our own employees,” Caraway says.
“Using Zendesk internally helps us experience potential customer pain points—or experience the ease of use ourselves,” he says. “Our first-hand accounts help us empathize and deliver a better overall experience. We’ve been able to develop an internal feedback loop to be used to make continuous improvements.”
Still, with great tools comes great responsibility—particularly on the data privacy front. As such, Caraway has to keep pace with a complex legal and regulatory environment, such as ensuring that Zendesk’s platform allows its customers to meet their privacy obligations, from the EU General Data Protection Regulation to the California Consumer Privacy Act.
The goal, he says, is to make sure its business processes jive regionally across multiple jurisdictions.
“The legal team, while following and interpreting the rules and regulations from one country to the next, need to be equally creative in understanding how to reconcile privacy across the board,” Caraway says.
That is something that’s come intuitively to Caraway, who has shifted gears seamlessly from Texas to Belgium to New York and beyond in both his educational and vocational travels.
In building his bona fides, Caraway credits his computer science degree from Prairie View A&M University for giving him the foundation necessary to understand the nuances of product development.
“The ability to embrace more technical conversations allows me to ensure that our advice is practical and helps to achieve our company objectives,” he says.
Caraway bolstered his tech know-how by studying law at KU in Leuven, Belgium in 2007 and earned his J.D. from New York University School of Law in 2008.
He says it’s humbling to look back on the company’s progress—and the broader technological leaps made by the industry.
“I had a background of working with emerging companies, plus my computer science background made it a great match for both of us,” he says. “For me, I knew this was going to be great, that it was going to keep things not only challenging, but exciting as well.”
When Caraway first came to Zendesk, he primarily focused on a single customer support product. Today, Zendesk is a CRM company that builds support, sales and customer engagement software designed to foster better customer relationships.
“The legal team here is a company resource that works alongside sales, marketing and product development,” he says. “Together we’ve developed a really good outline about how legal supports all of those efforts, growing the business as a whole and helping the organization to thrive in world markets.”
It’s that spirit of camaraderie and collaboration that Caraway loves the most about his job.
“You can walk into any office down the hall, or around the globe and feel good about sharing your opinions and information. We all work well together to achieve the company’s goals,” he says. “It’s very empowering that you get a chance to help the business make a decision. When you grow your team in such a way it makes growing the company globally a natural extension of our operations.”
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