Zendesk is a powerful customer service platform, and one of the most widely used. But getting started with Zendesk isn’t always straightforward, and for many businesses — whether they’re long established or just starting out — bringing a Zendesk implementation partner on board to assist with installing, configuring and customising the platform is a must.
At Adelante, we work with companies of all sizes, and across sectors, to implement Zendesk in a way that meets their specific needs and aligns with their existing workflows. We don’t believe you should have to adapt the way you work to suit Zendesk — instead, we customize Zendesk to work for you.
We’ve got plenty of experience working with clients who’ve come to us after a previous Zendesk implementation partner failed to deliver what they promised or couldn’t get the platform to do what they needed. What we can offer you is an honest guide to what you should be looking for, the questions you should ask potential partners, and the red flags that should make you run a mile before engaging.
In our experience, there are four main reasons that businesses come to us for help with Zendesk — and most of the time more than one of these is relevant.
For many businesses, investing the time and effort to learn a new system — i.e. Zendesk — and then work through the process of installing, configuring, testing and training just isn’t an option. It’s a considerable commitment — and one that can easily take up the majority of your attention for weeks if not months. So outsourcing as much of the work as possible to a partner is just good business sense.
Alternatively, you might have all the time in the world, but no idea how to go about implementing a customer service platform. That’s quite common — even tech startups we’ve worked with don’t necessarily have the deep domain expertise you need to run a successful implementation. Working with a Zendesk implementation partner means you can be confident that everything will be set up correctly, and configured to your needs.
Maybe you’re perfectly capable of doing a vanilla install of Zendesk on your own, but you run into difficulty when it comes to the customisation, integrations or add-ons you need to get the platform working the way you need it to, rather than making do with the out-of-the-box features and functionality. That’s a frequent request that we get from clients – they’re comfortable with the basic Zendesk platform but need to bring in outside expertise to adapt it to their requirements.
Sadly, this scenario isn’t as rare as you might hope. We’ve worked with a number of businesses who engaged an implementation partner or consultant, for one of the reasons above, but unfortunately, the project hit a roadblock when the partner was unable to deliver exactly what was needed. If that’s the case, you need to be very careful when choosing your next partner — lest they make the problem work. This guide should help with that.
As with any business relationship, before contracting with a Zendesk implementation partner, there are a few areas of due diligence you need to explore.
It should go without saying, but you need to ensure your prospective Zendesk implementation partner has substantial experience — not just with the Zendesk platform in general, but with the specific challenges you need help with. Ask for case studies of successful projects which demonstrate the key skills you’re looking for – automation, integration, training, optimisation, etc.
Effective communication is crucial to the success of a Zendesk implementation project, so even from the first call or email, you should pay attention to how quickly they respond, how flexible they are about meeting times, and how well they’re able to present complex information in a way you can understand. Once working together, you’ll want to ensure your partner is prepared to hold regular, detailed update meetings, allowing you to track what’s happening during each phase of work.
Look for Zendesk implementation partners who are honest about their capabilities, and prepared to share a detailed game plan of the steps they’ll take in order to deliver the functionality you require. Ask them about problems or failures they’ve experienced in previous projects, to understand how open they’re prepared to be about their limitations, and how willing they are to share what they’ve learned to improve the outcome of your project.
Curiosity is an often overlooked trait when it comes to sourcing a new partner, but it’s an important indicator of how invested they are in your success. The best implementation partners will ask as many questions as you do, in order to develop a deep understanding of your business, your workflows and your goals. Engaging an external party with a real interest in how your business works is invaluable in identifying new efficiencies or ways of working that you may never have considered yourself.
As well as the general traits we mentioned above, there are a few practical boxes you need to check before getting started with a Zendesk implementation partner. Here are three of the most important things you should ask about.
Zendesk has a Certified Partner program which recognises companies with specific knowledge and skills — there are Training Partners, Migration Partners, Theme Developers, and more. The key one to look for is Zendesk Implementation Partners — organisations with this certification have demonstrated their ability to run successful implementation projects. You can browse and filter the official list here (you’ll find Adelante listed as an Implementation Premier Partner, among our other accreditations.)
If you’re looking to engage a partner to create new custom functionality in Zendesk, it’s good to know that they’ve completed similar projects successfully before. Ask to see live demos of integrations, automations or other custom features that they’ve developed for previous clients, as a proof of concept before entering into a working relationship.
The best way to get a sense of a potential partner’s customer service levels, communication skills, technical capabilities and ability to deliver on time is to review case studies or feedback from customers they’ve worked with in the past. An even better sign is if they’re happy to give you the contact details of current or previous clients, so you can get their opinions independently.
Sometimes it’s obvious from the start that whoever’s pitching for your business isn’t going to be able to deliver what you want. Here are a few warning signs that we recommend you bear in mind when interviewing potential Zendesk implementation partners.
Everyone has to start somewhere, but if you’ve got a tricky Zendesk problem that needs solving within a tight deadline, you might be best off steering clear of potential Zendesk implementation partners with no evidence of past success in the field. That advice holds true whether it’s a freelancer looking for their first gig, or an established consultancy with a decade of experience — but no specific Zendesk projects to their name.
If you can’t get a straight answer on how long your project will take, that’s not a great sign up front. It usually means that your potential implementation partner doesn’t know how they’re going to solve your problem, or isn’t confident they have the available resource to do so. Of course, it’s not always possible to give an exact timeline in the early stages of a consultation, but they should have an informed idea and be able to give an accurate estimate.
Positivity is a great attribute in a partner, but if every time you raise a potential issue all you hear is “yeah, don’t worry about that, we can fix it” with no explanation as to the specifics of the problem and the game plan to solve it, you might be dealing with an eternal optimist and letting yourself in for a long and frustrating project.
Equally, too much negativity isn’t an encouraging sign either. You want a partner who’ll give you realistic guidance, but if every idea or suggestion you present is met with a blank stare and a “that won’t work — it’s not doable”, then you might have reason to doubt your potential partner’s enthusiasm for the project — or indeed their skillset.
We’re all in business for a reason — to make a profit. But in our experience, potential partners who want to nail down the billing schedule before they’ve even taken the time to understand your problem don’t deliver the best outcomes. “Here’s what we can do, and this is what it will cost” is always better to hear than “Here’s my day rate — what’s your problem again?”.
If you’re looking for some support with a Zendesk implementation, get in touch to book a quick intro call — no strings attached. Or check out our case studies to see how previous clients have found the experience of working with us.