Today’s ‘Day in the Life’ features Prelini Udayan-Chiechi, VP Marketing at Zendesk EMEA. Here’s what Prelini had to say about life at the customer service software company.

Please describe your job: What do you do?

I am currently working as the Vice President of Marketing at Zendesk across EMEA. At Zendesk, we’re all about the customer-centric approach. We offer tools and technologies that help businesses – like Deliveroo, Transferwise and Bloom & Wild, to name a few –  to build better customer relationships, quickly and simply.

Leading our EMEA marketing team, I take an integrated approach to marketing activities in order to ensure that our campaigns and content – whatever medium we’re using for them – are always relevant for the audience that we are trying to reach.

How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?

I feel like I spend my life in virtual meeting rooms! I’ve gone from having a busy diary – which saw me travelling from meeting to meeting or to events across cities and continents – to someone who struggles to find time for comfort and tea breaks between meetings!

Like with anyone working in the marketing industry though, with the restrictions that have come about as a result of the pandemic, our team has been forced to think differently about how we as a company connect with our customers.

2020 started as a year of opportunity – one in which any marketer had the ability to create meaningful interactions, through various media, with a full marketing mix. Prior to the pandemic, we were able to advertise through online and offline, use personalised high end direct mailers whilst simultaneously meeting with customers at networking events and dinners. Of course, this has all completely changed now, and everything is focused around on the digital experience which has both its benefits and challenges.

The biggest shift in my day to day has been the need to rethink our approach to marketing activities, and to not be afraid of change or trying untested ideas. For example, ideas and big projects sometimes used to take two to four months – and sometimes longer – to be implemented. But now, we’ve had to experiment. It’s not always about perfection, it’s about being able to move quickly, stay relevant and remain relatable to customers. Sometimes that means being able to get a project out the door within two weeks – not fully fledged – but showing a willingness to try something new. The key is putting your customers needs before your own. 

What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?

I’m loving the Google Chrome extension Momentum. It’s great for not losing focus of my goals, keeping on top of tasks, and ticking off what’s been completed, giving me that important  sense of achievement at the end of a busy day.

Another thing I like to do is set countdowns to track towards major projects and/or holidays – giving me something to look forward to – all whilst monitoring the milestones I might be achieving.

Techniques I find incredibly valuable include ticking off a check or to do list, a ‘No Zoom meetings’ rule on Fridays and instead picking up the phone to connect with teams, also playing catch up for the week that passed – and delivering on the tasks I took on. The benefit here is it’s more of a relaxed day – takes us back to the good old work days where it was ok to sit in your tracksuit bottoms or PJ top! It helps to really feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day and week. I also try to block book a two hour lunch break daily, to allow time to go for a quick walk and clear my head if needed, sort and respond to emails, or deliver on the tasks needed of the day or simply allowing for meetings I need to take, that I might not have had the time otherwise to slot in.

It’s important to remember, outside of Zoom, we still need to be delivering and feeling a sense of accomplishment, so creating a space and rhythm that allows you to do that and be productive, whilst you are also meeting and helping others throughout the Zoom meetings, is super important.

Which companies have impressed you during the pandemic?

There are two that spring to mind. Firstly, Peloton. For anyone following them, you’ll know that they’ve remained relevant and authentic throughout the pandemic. By offering a free digital membership for between one to three months, with remote classes available, they’ve made their platform accessible to all.

Secondly, Lululemon. I love their leisure wear for ‘at-home’. It’s comfy, and in keeping with the times we’re living in.

What changes are you making to help your brand connect with how people are feeling and experiencing the pandemic?

There have been lots of changes at Zendesk over the past couple of months but what struck me was how quick Zendesk was to think about its employees and its customers. When the pandemic was starting to surface, we immediately put a restriction on travel to protect our teams and customer base. Our annual conference was cancelled the weekend before its opening and for me, this was the first sign that things were changing.

I love to travel as I enjoy working collaboratively with people, and meeting them face to face. I think it’s important in supporting relationship development. However our virtual tools have gone to the next level during the pandemic and supported our ability to tap into features that we never really used before. Whether its reactions and chat channels on zoom, to emoji’s and instant meetings on slack. I believe the lack of pressure to get back to normal – as we will never be returning to the way things were – opens up opportunities for a re-imagined workforce world, including work and travel.

We’ve made events virtual in order to connect with our customers and thought about the different ways we could deliver these virtual events to focus on what our audiences need most. A great example of this is our Zendesk Morning Show. We experimented with a short, interactive video format, delivering stories in short bursts of 2-3 minute segments within a 15-20 minute episode each time. What’s important with this, is that we weren’t just striving for perfection, or looking to replicate the traditional long-form webinars we might have once hosted. Instead, we were looking for ways to connect with our customers during a trying time, with timely, un-gated content that was most helpful to them.

Often, I tend to find that it’s the imperfections and the realness of something that makes content relatable. I’m actually thrilled to say that these bite-size pieces of content we’ve created have now been shortlisted for two awards in the industry. It just goes to show, experimenting, adapting and putting the customer first can really go a long way to making a big impact on the people that matter.

What trends have you seen in the last few weeks in your sector?

Firstly, webinars are starting to evolve. Gone are the days of sitting on a webinar in silence for hours on end. Now, they are much more about interactivity. Multiple shorter sessions are much more popular and engaging than the traditional format.

Secondly, we’re seeing more integration between employees and customers than ever before. Senior executives are more willing to respond. It’s all hands on deck.

And finally, digital is dominating every aspect of our lives. Be it in the form of podcasts growing in popularity, to the greater use of personalisation online. Brands are having to reconsider their approach to ensure they’re targeting their audience base, digitally.

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

Experiment! Split 60% on tried and tested, and be willing to spend 40% of your budget on new ideas, programmes or channels! If you want to push boundaries and find an approach that works best for your audience, you’re going to need to try something new. Some things will be a great success, and others may not be – but – it’s about learning from mistakes, and failure is a part of growing.

Secondly, information overload is a real thing. With everything moving to online, I’m sure many of you, like I do, feel completely overwhelmed with emails, communications and messages. I don’t think now is the time to put loads of new content out there each day. Instead, think about how you can group your communications into themes. That way, people can pick and choose what is relevant to them and will likely be more engaged as a result.

What does long term planning and strategy look like now at your brand?

If we have learnt anything this year, it’s that 2020 is the year of the unexpected. However, as we start to emerge from the pandemic, it is likely that some of the changes we’ve already started to make will become the norm – without a doubt.

Digital activity is here to stay and, as such, the way we approach digital online activities, direct mailers, large in-person events and meetings is going to be different. With fewer people coming into the office, they might want the option to choose how they receive their communications and with less face to face interaction – certainly for the foreseeable future – personalisation is going to be key. Brands still need to connect with their customers and replicate that in-person feeling, so at Zendesk, we will be tailoring our communications to meet our customers preferences. Making online activities richer in experiences, and investing in hearing what it is our customers want to hear will be a first step towards a new way of communicating.

It’s about staying relevant as you plan ahead, and being relevant means having a vision for where you want to be in two to three  years time, whilst having a short term six to twelve month detailed plan to ensure that you can remain agile and adaptable to the changing landscape as the market and pandemic evolves. Never lose sight of your vision. Right now, there may be different paths we have to our journey, but the biggest piece of advice I can give is to remain focused, and never lose sight of your end goal.