Zendesk recently rolled out a new feature called Focus Mode, a new method of conditional routing that allows your agents to be online for both voice and chat conversations but only serves one channel at a time. I sat down with Volkan Akdugan, the Product Manager who led the development effort of Focus Mode, to find out more.
Before we dive into the story behind Focus Mode, can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got to where you are now?
I've been a product manager for about ten years, and I've been at Zendesk for almost two and a half years. I was hired to build a critical service that captures the agents' state and workload across all of our products as a source of truth. That way, each product will be aware of what an agent is doing across all other products, and in fact, this is a big deal because it's a fundamental component of our omnichannel vision.
What kind of customer feedback were you getting that demonstrated the need for this?
We were hearing from our customers that have Agents who work in Chat and Talk simultaneously – they kept getting incoming requests when serving on a particular channel and that led to distractions and lost focus on delivering the best possible experience for the customers.
For instance, when an agent was on a call, they would get chat requests, but they wouldn't be able to reply to the chat requests because they were on a call. The same was true on the other side as well – when the agent was already on a chat and a call came in, if the agent jumped to the call, the customer on chat would be suffering because they’d be waiting while the agent was taking the call. As a result, these impacted Customer Satisfaction as well as First Response Time KPIs.
What kinds of customers were most affected by this?
The first kind were small customers with multi-channel agents. They might not have enough traffic on chat or voice to justify a full-time agent, unless they allowed agents to work on both chats and calls together. With Focus Mode, they can have multi-channel agents who can focus on a single channel at a time.
In addition, larger enterprises told us that during peak hours, they would need to use some of their teams as multi-channel agents to help on the busier channels. Focus Mode would enable them to have agents available for both voice and chat conversations, but only serving one channel at a time.
In summary, Focus mode is a big deal to many of our customers that have multi-channel agents serving on both Talk and Chat or for customers that are planning to build up multi-channel teams to cover the peak traffic periods.
Were you getting feedback on this from the Community?
We got feedback from customers through the Customer Success team, and also from comments in the community. A lot of customers had left comments about this, and that was a big influence on our decision to build Focus Mode.
Some examples from Product Feedback posts in our Community:
- Azhar asked: “Could you please advise is there a way to automatically set Talk status as away when an agent picks up a Chat?”
- Andy said: “One small hiccup we're having is when an agent is on a call in Talk, their availability status does not automatically change to Invisible in Zendesk Chat.“
- Faith added: “Do you have any settings when the agent talks, chat will stop assigning to the same agent or when the agent has the conversation at chat, calls won't assign to the same agent.”
How long of a process was it to build Focus Mode?
We first built a critical service that captures and shares agent state across Zendesk Channels requiring many complex integrations, and built Focus Mode on top of that, all in less than two years.
Once you’d decided to build Focus Mode, what was the biggest challenge you faced?
The biggest challenge initially was that there was no centralized agent status, so we needed to implement the centralized platform to do that. So we went to Singapore and built a direct relationship with our Chat team there, and then did the same with our Talk team in Dublin. We built the centralized service and asked those teams to integrate with that, changing their routing flow workflows to take the agent state into account. In the end, I think this is a great showcase for omnichannel in Zendesk, because it’s one of the first features to really be working across channels and it’s a great example of cross-team collaboration.
Beyond that, because this involved adding a backend platform, we had to do a ton of testing of the flows as well as load testing before jumping to the EAP. That helped us eliminate a lot of issues before we opened it up to customers.
Can you tell me more about the Early Access Program (EAP)?
We have been running the EAP with about 30 customers, and their feedback helped us improve Focus Mode and fix some important edge cases. We communicated very actively through Slack and Zoom. We had an introduction session for each customer to let them know what to expect and how to onboard the new feature. Onboarding wasn’t difficult, because this is mostly a routing feature that affects how calls and chats are routed, so the intro session made it very smooth. Customers were very happy with it, and we could see that their agents were able to respond to more chats and calls after they’d enabled it.
Thanks, Volkan, and thanks to the whole team who worked on Focus Mode!
To find out more about Focus Mode, see Enabling focus mode for voice and chat in the Zendesk Agent Workspace.
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