Foundant: Growth powered by great client relationships
Foundant Technologies is an application software provider for philanthropic organizations. As a confluence of events threatened to disrupt the high level of customer support offered to clients, Foundant began a search to find an integrated CX provider. With the selection of Zendesk, the Foundant team is now handling a double-digit increase in monthly support tickets with the same staffing levels and has seen its CSAT score jump 10 percentage points.
“Zendesk enables the support team to provide exceptional service to clients. Those positive client relationships help boost renewals, which directly impacts the wider business. Today we have an industry-leading renewal rate.”
“One demo was all it took to convince me that Zendesk tools out of the box were a perfect fit for our client services team. We have the power to iterate and create complex macros and automations on our own, without tech consultants.”
Number of Zendesk Users
Starting using Zendesk
Monthly ticket increase
Increase in CSAT %
Foundant is changing the world one conversation at a time. Since 2007, this company with a purpose has provided cloud-based software solutions to make philanthropy easier and more impactful for grantmakers, community foundations, scholarship providers, and nonprofits around the world. Streamlining day-to-day tasks like accounting, donations, and grant management gives clients more time and energy to focus on their mission.
Philanthropy is not one size fits all, so Foundant is growing its business by cultivating personal relationships and delivering bespoke service to large and small organizations alike. Every conversation is an opportunity for support agents to listen, ask questions, solve problems, and build partnerships, demonstrating that Foundant is more than just a software vendor.
When Foundant launched 15 years ago, the team set a high expectation to answer every phone call by the third ring and provide white glove service to its core group of 50 to 100 clients. By 2017, Foundant had made the Inc. 5,000 List of fastest growing companies and launched several new products. Even after a period of significant growth, the team continued to deliver on its promise of exceptional service through 2019.
However, operations became more complex as Foundant’s client volume and average client size increased. By 2020, the company had grown from its original staff of 25 to a team of 200+ employees, with a client base numbering in the thousands. Sustaining a premium client experience at scale, while working remotely, was no longer possible without a major upgrade to its CX system.
A custom system that easily scales
Foundant approached Zendesk in late 2020, hoping to find a responsive support platform that enabled personalized conversations and relationships as the organization grew. Jake Sharp, senior manager of support and delivery, had his eye on a clear winner. He was impressed by Zendesk’s ease of use, flexibility, and integrations for Salesforce and Jira.
Foundant went live with Zendesk Enterprise Suite in August 2021 and rolled over chat, email, and phone support channels onto the new platform. Sharp felt confident about the implementation, thanks to support from Zendesk Premier partner Envoy. “Zendesk software was so intuitive and the documentation was so good that we didn’t need much assistance. When it came to setting up the integrations and customizing the knowledge base, Envoy was there to provide expert help.”
Scaling without staffing up
Seven years after starting as a Foundant intern, Sharp now leads a team of 40 front line support agents who use Zendesk to handle the most urgent client issues. “Since switching to Zendesk, Foundant has handled a 12 percent increase in cases per month without adding support staff. Even though our ticket complexity and volume went up, we’re actually doing more work with the same amount of people,” says Sharp.
Altogether, Foundant has more than 60 agents handling client services and knowledge management. The success team at Foundant will be next in line to use Zendesk, with a new channel to help clients with best practices and implementing new workflows.
One unified system, a night-and-day difference
Transitioning to a new CX platform helped Foundant streamline client services. Previously, support agents were using several different systems of communication: Zoom calls and LiveChat, plus Salesforce for email. While Sharp appreciated Salesforce as a highly robust and effective tool, it still required users to switch between channels and tools. Centralizing communication channels and integrating tools like Salesforce was key.
“I love how all our channels and tools are integrated with Zendesk. I don’t think of chat and talk as different products, because the support queues and active chat views are all part of Agent Workspace,” says Sharp.
Today, agents have an easier, faster way of tracking conversations with clients and onboarding employees. Sharp adds, “With Zendesk, our team is very independent and empowered to make decisions and take the lead on cases. The experience in Agent Workspace is night and day better in terms of supporting complexity, visibility, and training.”
Foundant’s legacy grants management system was easy to use but could no longer support more complex accounting as the company grew. “Zendesk is a holistic solution,” says Sharp. “Before using Zendesk, we had to piece information together or send Excel spreadsheets to share data. Now my entire department can work and train in one system, which ultimately creates a better experience for agents and clients.”
That ability to share information goes a long way at Foundant. Sharp adds, “I no longer have to convince the product development or engineering or executive teams what’s going on with support. I show them the data in Zendesk Explore.”
The secret to maintaining an industry-leading renewal rate
Numbers are important, and so are client relationships. “Zendesk has played a major role in relationship building at Foundant, because it’s a tool that makes conversations go smoothly,” says Sharp. By implementing Zendesk, Foundant has invested in two key revenue drivers that tie back to support: referrals and renewals. Referrals help generate sales, because satisfied clients are more likely to recommend new businesses. Renewals are important because Foundant is subscription based.
“Zendesk enabled the support team to provide exceptional service to clients. Those positive client relationships help boost renewals, which directly impacts the wider business. Today we have an industry-leading renewal rate,” says Sharp.
“The Salesforce integration in Zendesk has made it easier for the renewals team to access the client case history and see all the details in one place,” he adds. If a distressed client contacts support, agents can quickly flag the ticket as high priority and escalate it in Zendesk. That information will be collected and shared with other teams, so they can work even harder to retain that client. The system upgrade has been a success so far with Foundant recording almost zero churn each year, unless a foundation is sunsetting and no longer operating.
95% CSAT: Happy agents lead to happy clients
Software is a fast changing industry that drives Foundant to pivot and adapt often. “We’re moving quickly, building new features, identifying issues, and fixing bugs,” says Sharp. “Integrating Jira with Zendesk has been a game changer, because we no longer need to manually resolve tickets or send one-off emails.”
That flexibility was essential when Foundant experienced a rare, hour-long server outage. With the previous homegrown CX system, the team faced incoming chats, phone calls, and emails on different channels and platforms, creating a deluge of cases that had to be categorized one at a time. “The new, streamlined way of escalating tickets sold me on Zendesk. With batch tagging and routing in Jira, we can email clients as soon as the issue is fixed, which saves us hours of time,” says Sharp.
By enabling smoother workflows, the Zendesk integration for Jira has also helped improve the relationship between the client services, product, and engineering teams. It’s a win that Sharp finds especially encouraging.
Since switching to Zendesk, Foundant has seen its CSAT jump 10 percentage points. And, the team has maintained a 95 percent CSAT score despite increased volume and case complexity, which bodes well for future success.