M+E Connections

HITS Spring: CX Will Be Transformed by the Metaverse, Zendesk Says

The development of the metaverse means there is now a new realm for customer experience (CX) and, as experiences in media and entertainment change shape, customer relationships are expected to change also.

The metaverse will drive “more immersive, engaging and impactful customer experiences,” Ryan Lowe, senior manager of enterprise sales at Zendesk, said May 19 at the Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit (HITS), during the Metaverse breakout session “How the Metaverse is Setting the Stage to Transform CX.”

During the session, he also explored how the metaverse will change customer relationships and customer support.

At the start of the session, he asked everyone to reach under their seat and put on an Oculus virtual reality headset to look at avatars in the metaverse. But he was just joking and quickly added: “Maybe next year.”

As this new realm approaches us pretty quickly, he said Zendesk had the advantage of supporting “many of the big movers who are making … extreme progress into this space.”

He went on to share a few of Zendesk’s learnings in getting to work with these brands so far.

Noting that the company supports over 130,000 customers around the world today, he said: “Our only goal from day one has been to deliver amazing customer experiences.”

But he told attendees: “As of late, we have also moved into delivering amazing employee experiences and how you serve your employees and create engaging experiences within your organizations.”

Zendesk’s mission statement is now “to deliver the best possible customer and employee experience,” he said.

Companies including Netflix are among the brands that have “literally built their business model on every engagement they have with the customer, being able to deliver something that’s immersive, that’s impactful, that people will remember and associate with their brand for a long time to come,” he pointed out.

And there is “really no better opportunity approaching than this new world in the metaverse to do that and truly deliver crazy new imaginative worlds that will allow us to drive better experiences with our brands and hopefully grow our franchises together for many years to come,” he told attendees.

The Evolving Consumer

Turning to how the customer is evolving, he noted: “All of us are customers. We all probably know what we expect in the brands that we buy from where we go to shop – whether it’s physical locations or online or even in the metaverse.”

Consumers are buying non-fungible tokens (NFTs), virtual currencies and virtual goods already online, he noted. You can also build a virtual house where you can invite friends to come over, he said, adding: “It’s truly wild what the possibilities will be in this new dimension that we can all exist in.”

The percentage of goods that consumers buy in brick-and-mortar locations has “steadily declined year over year” for a while, he pointed out. But “that doesn’t mean we’re not shopping,” he said. “In fact, we’re buying more than ever. I can attest to that by the stack of Amazon boxes I find for my wife at the door it seems like every day of the week. But the way we shop and the way we explore and find and hear about products and services is wildly different” now, he added.

He told attendees to “imagine being able to literally go inside a store” in the metaverse and be able to “fully interact and engage with the products that you’re interested in.”

Today, from a customer service perspective, “most customer service is handled in contact centers,” he noted. “There’s folks around the world waiting for your call, your message, your chat, your self-service inquiry, to respond to that and imagine how cool it is for those folks.”

Just a Myth

Meanwhile, “one of the myths today is that there isn’t quite a metaverse yet,” he went on to say, noting that the metaverse, by definition, can only exist “when you can move freely between all of these different worlds and bring your digital goods or assets avatars and information seamlessly across all of these barriers.”

There are a few key players in this realm already, mainly in the world of online games including Minecraft and Fortnite, he said.

The problem, however, is that in each one of them, “you have to have a different avatar, you have to keep your goods and services in each world and, as you leave, you leave behind your stuff,” he pointed out.

The reason why there are so many big players investing in this world is that “no one owns the metaverse and [it’s] an open world where consumers and employees [can] engage with the immersive experiences delivered by the brands that are here today,” he said.

But “what’s truly exciting for us as a company [is] to get to partner with” other companies to “help brainstorm and create these experiences,” he noted.

The first metaverse was created way back in 1996 and something very much like the metaverse was launched in 2003, he said, referring to the multimedia online platform Second Life.

Experts expect “most of our engagement with the metaverse is going to be through an iPhone or an Android or an iPad or a desktop,” he noted.

Eventually, we will get to the point where you can be using a virtual headset and communicating with people also wearing one in the house or building next door, he predicted.

“That’s what truly will open up the growth and the adoption in this realm,” along with more technological advancements, he said.

On that latter front, “as early as next year,” a couple of companies are expected to release headsets that match the resolution of the human eye, he added.

He also predicted we will see technologies “catch up with and take away some of the challenges” to widespread adoption thus far.


Another prediction: Motion tracking will improve, Lowe said, pointing to a lot of feedback that it “looks great, it’s beautiful, it’s immersive [and] wow, this world is really cool but the controls kind of suck.” He pointed out they tend to be hard to use your hands with, it’s hard to send messages with and it’s hard to interact with other users. Therefore, “companies are spending a lot of time developing the technology” to overcome those challenges, he said.

“So there’s some wild stuff coming,” he said, asking attendees to imagine interacting with their favorite movie or TV characters. “Disney’s an innovator [and] they’re already creating a virtual theme park,” he said.

Another potential hurdle could be customer service. “If there is an issue, if you make a purchase and you buy a virtual good and it doesn’t get delivered, who do you call?” he asked. That is yet to be determined for sure but what Zendesk has “done for a long time” is help companies “drive those fast, efficient and delightful customer experiences,” so it is well-positioned to provide metaverse customer service.

Six Ways the Metaverse Will Impact CX

Lowe pointed to six ways in which the metaverse is going to impact CX:

  1. Brand experiences will become global.
  2. The metaverse will be critical to retention.
  3. There will be a blurring of the lines between self-service and contact centers.
  4. Competition will “upend slow movers.”
  5. The addition of a new channel to the omnichannel customer experience.
  6. We will see a “doubling down on digital.”

“I’ll tell you the number one factor that we see related to a positive customer experience is still speed,” he said, noting “people want their problem solved quickly.”

The biggest challenge right now, however, is that “there’s really like six or seven different major worlds that are all vying for your time today, and none of them are connected,” he said. “So you literally have to exit one, go to another and, in each one, you’ve got to have your own avatar, your own information and you can’t take it with you.”

Companies, however, are “working to break down those barriers so that you can transverse all these different worlds and realms and time periods seamlessly,” he told attendees.

There is still going to be competition for time and eyeballs, “the same as it is at night when you’re tuning into your favorite streaming provider, movie, game show, app or so on,” he added.

He concluded: “The future of customer experience in the metaverse is truly limitless. I hope everyone has a chance to try it out. I did it for a couple of hours. It’s truly incredible and immersive. And technology’s only going to continue to empower that.”

To view the entire presentation, click here.

The Hollywood Innovation and Transformation Summit event was produced by MESA in association with the Hollywood IT Society (HITS), Media & Entertainment Data Center Alliance (MEDCA), presented by ICVR and sponsored by Genpact, MicroStrategy, Whip Media, Convergent Risks, Perforce, Richey May Technology Solutions, Signiant, Softtek, Bluescape, Databricks, KeyCode Media, Metal Toad, Shift, Zendesk, EIDR, Fortinet, Arch Platform Technologies and Amazon Studios.