For years, Zendesk has provided tools and services that helped companies engage customers, but largely from after something has gone wrong or when a problem has been identified. It was only in October when Zendesk expanded its offering to help brands be more predictive with potential trouble spots. On Thursday, the company is elevating its customer service platform with the acquisition of Outbound.io, which will help brands be more proactive in their outreach.
Founded in 2013 by former Nest senior software engineer Dhruvkaran Mehta, Outbound gives brands the tools they need to send messages to customers through SMS, responsive email, web, or push notifications. Not only has the Y Combinator alumnus’ entire team been retained, but the company will become a product of Zendesk. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.
“We first met Outbound while exploring partnership use cases with a joint customer,” explained Adrian McDermott, Zendesk’s president of products. “Through this process, we observed that Outbound’s philosophy of ‘fewer, better messages’ aligns well with our vision at Zendesk — helping businesses have authentic, sustainable relationships with their customers through beautiful, intuitive software experiences.”
Zendesk is moving past being reactionary and wants to help businesses be proactive. In a 2016 interview, CEO Mikkel Svane told VentureBeat that customer service was evolving from “how you can support your customers and answer them when you reach out to them, to how companies can maintain relationships and turn them into promoters of brands.” For years, Zendesk was limited to the first part of that statement.
Svane’s company hopes to now be able to provide tools that can manage the entire customer lifecycle, from discovery to purchase to support afterwards. “As a multi-product company, we want customers to have what they want, when they want it,” McDermott remarked. “As the lines between customer experience and customer support continue to blur, the Zendesk family of products are increasingly focused on proactively shaping the customer journeys at scale based on a customer’s ongoing relationship with a business while helping businesses authentically and efficiently react to their customers.”
Outbound will have a key role in Zendesk’s future, absorbing the company’s Connect product, which enabled customer segmentation and push notification engagement services. Existing customers will be retained.
McDermott revealed that new features coming from Outbound by Zendesk will include customer history tracking, segmenting capabilities, multi-channel messaging, campaign experimentation, analytics, and eventually “Bring Your Own Provider,” which lets brands incorporate third-party services into the mix, such as MailGun, SendGrid, Mandrill, Twilio, Nexmo, and Piivo.
“Zendesk has been expanding its portfolio of products to give customer engagement teams the tools they need to understand their customers and to engage with them across channels,” McDermott said. “Today’s customer expects businesses to know more about them, to engage with them in a more personal way, and to engage with them when and how they prefer. In turn, today’s businesses are looking to be more data-driven, more responsive, and more authentic as they market, sell to, and support their customers. Zendesk’s portfolio is expanding to meet that need.”
Outbound had previously raised $2.07 million in venture capital, with backing from Y Combinator, Subtraction Capital, Lunch Van Fund, and a few individual investors.