To succeed in the metaverse, brands need to re-evaluate their CX strategies

We asked the CTO of Zendesk how brands should be re-thinking customer journeys in virtual worlds.
article cover

Adrian McDermott

· 4 min read

Adrian McDermott has a 30,000-foot view of the retail world’s interactions with its consumers. As chief technology officer at Zendesk and one of the customer service software company’s early employees, he’s spent a lot of time talking to clients and considering strategy. And as brands begin to think about what shopping in the metaverse could look like, they’re also starting to think about how to approach customer service in a virtual world.

“From a Web3 point of view, there’s a general interest in applying the technology for a few reasons,” McDermott told Retail Brew, pointing to supply chain transparency, authentication, and building trust with consumers as potential uses for Web3 technology in the retail world.

McDermott, who, in addition to his executive role at Zendesk is an advisor to a crypto company called ChainLink, said the main mistake brands should avoid when creating their metaverse presence is attempting to copy and paste from their existing strategies. “The lesson for today is you can’t just re-create your brick-and-mortar or website experience.”

Social trends in the metaverse

McDermott said brands are experiencing a shift in consumer expectations and preferences, which could dictate their evolving customer service strategies as they expand to new corners of the internet.

  • In many parts of the world, traditional channels like email are dying out more quickly and are being replaced with more direct forms of communication (like instant chats) with brands, McDermott said.
  • Many of the key trends are coming from Asia, where “shoppertainment”—entertaining, online shopping experiences—is big and a large portion of consumers make purchases through livestreams and communicate with brands via WeChat, he added.
  • “[Consumers] want the conversation to go between synchronous and asynchronous.” McDermott explained. “They want to be in control of that conversation. They think it should be okay if they wander away to fold laundry and then come back and continue the conversation.”
Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.

And brands shouldn’t necessarily be thinking about the consumer shift as generational, McDermott said. “Thirty years ago, most people on planet Earth, when confronted with an empty text box and a blinking cursor, wouldn’t have known what to do with it,” he explained. “And now…my parents can search Google. This is an extraordinary adaptation of human behavior in the digital sphere.”

Game plan: The retail industry doesn’t need to start from scratch with its metaverse customer service strategy, McDermott said. Instead, it should take its cue from the gaming world.

“The key thoughts that came up in gaming and entertainment customer service, five to 10 years ago are [now] influencing the metaverse,” he explained. “The fundamental principle is, if you are providing support to gamers, every moment not in the game…is lost revenue, is lost time, is friction for the user.”

  • That’s the same concept brands are going to see in the metaverse, McDermott said.
  • Customer service in a brand’s virtual spaces therefore need to be immersive and should follow a shopper around whichever world they’re connecting in.
  • Access to customer support, including completing transactions like returns and exchanges, should live somewhere that’s natural for the virtual environment, whether it’s on outside platforms like Discord or within a virtual world itself, McDermott added.

But McDermott acknowledged that, despite lessons from gaming, building out an effective retail CX strategy for the metaverse is likely to be a heavy lift for customer service departments.

“That’s a massive amount of transformation. We know how to run a session-based chat, we know how to answer the phone. But this is not that.”

Editor's note 12/5/22: This article has been updated to reflect that Adrian McDermott is Zendesk's chief technology officer.

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.