The man who turned a 'boring' idea into a $1.7 billion company explains secrets

Story highlights

  • According to Mikkel Svane, CEO of customer service software Zendesk, a boring business idea can become sexy
  • Sexy stuff happens when mundane processes are streamlined and simplified, he says
  • Tricks to excel in the customer support field include sparking real conversations and being unafraid of mistakes

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(Business Insider)When Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane first came up with the idea of Zendesk, a customer service software that's now worth $1.7 billion, everyone thought it was boring.

But when he shared the vision for his product — a web-based, on-demand platform where companies can build relationships with customers — his boring idea suddenly became sexy.
    He shares his thinking behind his idea in his recent book, "Startupland." He writes, "Sexy stuff sometimes happens when you make mundane things easy and accessible. Any aspect of democratization is a good thing."
    Zendesk CEO Mikkel Svane
    For example, he says the old FTP file sharing platform doesn't sound all that fun, but Dropbox and Box made file-sharing sexy with better features and design. Retail credit card payment isn't all that exciting, but Square made it cool, too. Because of Amazon's Jeff Bezos, the boring idea of taking bookstores online turned into a massive overhaul of the world of commerce, he says.
    Svane also shares some of his trade secrets from working in the customer support field. Here are three of the "most unlikely tricks" he learned:

    Make it personal, and mistakes are OK:
    Emails that were perfectly crafted didn't generate much response, he says. Instead, when spelling errors or simple sentences were used, people would respond more often. "People realized it wasn't an automated email but a message from a real person — and they responded to that."
    Women get more responses: When early employee Michael Hansen used his male name, he didn't get a lot of responses. But once he changed his name to Josephine, the response rate shot up. It might be because most IT people are male, but for some reason, female names work better.
    It's all about the conversation: It doesn't really matter what you talk about, but just having a real conversation helps in terms of response rates. "We could quickly see a direct correlation between response rates to our emails and conversions to customers," he writes.