Service. Yes, we all talk about it, especially in the customer success and support world.
But how many people actually mold their lives around a dedication to service?
How many light up when they talk about the people who have taken the time to support them and get genuinely moved at the thought of being able to give just a bit of that back?
Without a doubt, Zac fits this description. Zac is humbled by those that have helped him, and he’s excited about the prospect of helping others. He does this all without taking credit, instead preferring to shine a light on those that guided him along the way.
A lifelong dedication
Beyond his work in customer success, Zac values acts of service in every part of his life. Growing up in Texas, he was surrounded by strong role models. His happy memories of taking walks with his grandfather and having backyard catfish fries set the foundation for a love of staying close to family.
His childhood also helped him grow closer to his faith. His father was a pastor, and Zac worked in a Christian bookstore throughout high school and college. His dedication to service and deep faith inspired Zac to attend seminary school:
“I enjoyed learning scripture and how it was taught and learning to teach it. My faith is the undercurrent of who I am. It’s what inspires me to try to serve others and be gracious. The reason I work hard to this day is to have even more latent reserves to call upon to be generous to other people. That all flows out of my faith.”
After earning his bachelor’s in Biblical Studies and continuing to an advanced degree, Zac had to face the harsh reality that student loans would pile up. His chosen career path wouldn’t allow him to repay those loans easily. That’s when he decided to try a different track and revisit seminary school at a later time.
“I felt a lot of uncertainty about what my future was going to look like. I knew that this was work that I felt compelled to do. It was important to me. To not be able to finish that work, there was a sense of disappointment but also a desire to come back to it at a later time.”
Don’t think that means he abandoned his dedication to the church. In fact, volunteering at a youth ministry led Zac to his future wife. You would probably be forgiven if you assumed they were newlyweds, as his admiration for his wife still shows right off the bat. As she tried to sneak into the room to grab something for their 11-month-old, he beamed.
“I was attracted to her vision and her drive to succeed no matter the obstacle. She’s very gracious.”
Just like Zac, his wife is always ready to give back.
Even while raising three children, they still find time to participate in a youth ministry called Young Life (it’s currently running on Zoom due to the pandemic). She’s also looking toward her future and looking forward to finding more ways to empower teens and help them define their lives on their own terms.
Growing in his career
After deciding to start on a different career path, Zac found a Customer Care Representative position at Fossil Inc.
“It was awesome; I loved it. The culture at Fossil was vibrant, engaging, a little bit quirky. It was very focused on customer satisfaction and this radical customer experience. We had fantastic leadership focused on empowering, motivating, and coaching us.”
He especially enjoyed trying to find ways to improve processes through technology.
“Our leadership did a great job of creating a welcoming culture and one that was very collaborative. They painted a vision of what the customer experience should be. Bernie Gessner, the VP of Global Customer Experience, was just a fantastic leader and very people-oriented. He always found a way to make the situation a good one for the customer and ensure loyalty.”
Zac also mentioned that management allowed agents to think creatively. Instead of telling them how to solve issues or make improvements, they were asked:
“What do you want to do?”
Shortly after meeting his wife, Zac knew he wanted to create the life she and her seven-year-old son deserved. That meant advancing in his career a bit more rapidly than he might have otherwise. This internal pressure gave him the drive he needed to start looking for new work to tackle. Zac wanted to have more input, and the work he was capable of doing increased well beyond his job description. Around that time, he was promoted from Customer Care Representative to a position in UserOps.
Reaching new heights
Taking this new role and running with it, Zac was able to help steer internal changes that typically result in net losses into gains. He optimized workflows and improved agent experiences, and the end result was more positive customer interactions.
“You have to make it easy and intuitive for the agents, and sometimes you’ve gotta talk to the agent about what’s going on right now. What they might like, what they might not like, and what motivates them. You have to find ways to appeal to those needs. We all want to do the right thing. If we’re at an organization, we’re there for a reason. We want to do a good job. So we have to help agents get there faster by getting technology out of the way.”
Zac was always on the lookout for ways to help.
“I knew that if nobody did it, things would break. It was an opportunity for me to learn some stuff and maybe grow.”
Leadership moved him from hourly to a more flexible contract to allow him time to complete his daily tasks and start chipping away at those special projects that piqued his interest.
Eventually, he shifted into a role similar to a business analyst. Not long after, Fossil entered the smartwatch market. Part of his role was to help implement the vision leadership had for support and leverage a CRM to move away from more one-off transactional communications and toward an ongoing customer relationship. During this, he coordinated with the product team and helped enable the right people across the organization to make the experience positive.
It was a crash course in so many things, and Zac helped build a strong foundation for the business to continue excelling in support. Eventually, he was involved as Fossil acquired another wearable tech company. That enabled him to grow another set of skills, as he was careful and patient while the new team adjusted to their acquisition status.
“We needed to figure out how to now support their technology along with ours, how these teams fit together, and how we could build a process that honors the unique ability of each team to contribute along with creating the best customer journey.”
He even went to Vietnam to meet with them onsite, at the encouragement of his wife despite it being a short two-weeks from her due date. They knew this was important to the project’s success, so they made it work (and luckily, he didn’t miss the birth).
When I asked him how he found balance during this crazy time, he shared:
“To an extent, I feel like I’m indebted to the people around me who have so much to give in this world and on these teams that I owe them my best.”
From customer service to customer success
This is when Zendesk came into the picture: Fossil needed a new CRM for the smartwatch component of the business.
“Zendesk is straightforward to adopt. We put together the best training materials we could and explained why we were making the change. Through engaging with this organization, I saw how amazing they were at building a community. I owe so much to Lisa Painter, my Customer Success Executive on the project. She really invested in our team and spent time with us, getting to know us, helping us to learn best practices and understand the larger playing field.”
He also got to engage with the CRM’s product owners and become immersed in the product, even going to events they hosted.
“That was the beginning of my exposure to the larger customer service space. That’s when my thinking started to shift and become more strategic and higher-level. It was a process for me. That larger and wider exposure resulted in huge shifts in my thinking and a better grasp of planning and strategizing. I owe Lisa so much; she invested in me and gave me opportunities to speak in front of groups. I’m so grateful for that time.”
After Bernie moved on from Fossil Inc., Zac began talking to Zendesk about potentially joining one of their teams. He didn’t rush into a decision, instead, he spent time learning from his connections and paying attention to where he might fit best. Eventually, he landed as a Customer Success Consultant at Zendesk.
“I didn’t think I’d fit success because Lisa sets such a high bar in how you do customer success. In my imagination, I thought, ‘I can do a lot of things, but I can’t be Lisa Painter. She is just one of a kind.’ Somehow she still believed in me and referred me to the Director of Customer Success, and I love the heck out of it.”
Zac’s third child was born in December, he joined Zendesk in April, and he was onboarded remotely during COVID. Talk about a change-filled time, but one Zac clearly treasures.
“The uniqueness of Zendesk is not only the product but the people who are building it and the vision that they have. It goes all the way from the sales and support teams and success teams through product and executive leadership. I mean, you look at our CEO and why he built what he built — and the fact that he’s still doing it. I just love that. I think it’s amazing that we’re doing what we do, and I fell in love with how we’re doing it.”
Reflecting on his career, Zac sums things up well, “I know that I worked hard, but I look back, and I could have worked just as hard and not gone anywhere. But because people believed in me and the cards just fell down right…I can’t really believe that I am where I am. I have so much to be grateful for; it’s all about the kindness of the people around me who provided these opportunities. I was just this kid from Dallas who had no idea what I was doing with my life, and now I’m doing this, and I’m loving it.”
The true gratitude that Zac expressed as he reflected on his career is exceptional. It’s rare and inspiring, and I’m sure his new co-workers at Zendesk feel just as lucky to be working with him as he does with them. I’m excited to see so many enthusiastic support and success professionals getting to work in the field they enjoy and passing that positivity on to the customers. It’s a rich space filled with opportunities, and careers like Zac’s show how supportive support can be!
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