Zendesk, Ready To Launch A Channel, Turns To AppDirect To Empower New Partners

Zendesk, an early developer of cloud-based customer service software, has ballooned over the past eight years from a small Danish startup to a company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Since inception a direct sales company, Zendesk recently decided "we are interested in going through and developing a channel strategy," Mindy Lieberman, the company's vice president of IT, told CRN.

That means Zendesk, now based in San Francisco, needs to start recruiting partners. To achieve that goal, it's partnering with AppDirect to give its new VARs an online portal through which they can manage customers and sell the customer service platform.

[Related: AppDirect Enables Solution Providers To Sell Office 365 From Self-Branded Online Marketplaces]

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AppDirect's platform for distributing SaaS products will be "a tool for Zendesk partners to distribute their software, understand what their pipeline looks like, get collateral to assist them in more-effectively selling and managing Zendesk," Lieberman said.

Zendesk offers both ticketing services that businesses can use to serve their customers, and a self-service platform called Help Center. Until recently, the company sold those only directly through its website or through sales reps.

As one of the first Reseller Management Service Partners using AppDirect's new Monetization Suite, Zendesk will enable its partners to choose services for their customers with a "shopping-cart experience," and have data flow into the vendor's back-end systems for internal billing, visibility and CRM integration, according to Lieberman.

The channel structure, she said, needs to support two primary types of partners: channel resellers who sell managed subscriptions on behalf of end customers, and partners who simply refer the product to customers.

"It's an emerging strategy for us and we're launching technology to enable that," Lieberman said.

AppDirect is working with Zendesk closely as part of an early pilot phase of the program.

"It's one of the ways we are going to introduce a channel. We're still experimenting with the model. We continue to add features and functions to support the channel. For example, we are going to have an intake process. But all of that is enabled by the AppDirect technology," Lieberman said.

Partners can log into their portal, enter new customers who will be vetted internally by Zendesk, then load up a shopping cart with products for those customers.

"For Zendesk, it was all about enabling partners and quickly onboarding referral and reseller partners with sales capabilities," said Daniel Saks, AppDirect's founder and co-CEO.

"The Reseller Management Service gives Zendesk the ability to manage partners in one place and allows them to register leads, process orders and manage customers. We handle all the reporting, reconciliation and invoicing on the AppDirect platform, and integrate all that data into Zendesk’s CRM," Saks told CRN, via email.