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Medline sees Zendesk as mission critical for global business

After rolling out Zendesk to its Distribution division, Medline Industries, L.P. expanded the implementation to a total of 27 instances across the company. Greater data visibility and streamlined workflows have empowered more than 1,000 Medline team members to work more efficiently and productively. Looking ahead, Medline sees even more opportunities to boost customer satisfaction and revenue by introducing Zendesk Advanced AI.

Medline Industries
“Medline has 27 independent instances of Zendesk running right now. We brought Zendesk on board and started using it pretty intensively. It’s no longer an optional platform for us, it’s mission critical.”

Billy Abrams

Executive Vice President, Distribution - Medline Industries

“Our team brings on new customers, so we’ve added over a billion dollars in revenue in each of the last five years.”

Billy Abrams

Executive Vice President, Distribution - Medline Industries

Company Headquarters

Northfield, Illinois

Global employees


Countries served


Company founded



Annual revenue increases


Increase in email productivity across 3 instances


Overall productivity increase


Average annual tickets

It takes a great deal of business acumen to get the right medical products into the hands of the right care providers at the right time. That’s what Medline Industries, L.P. is known for. The nation’s largest privately held manufacturer and distributor of healthcare supplies provides more than 300,000 products to hospitals, healthcare facilities, medical offices, and retail outlets in over 125 countries and territories.

Medline is now a $21.2 billion business with more than 36,000 global employees. The organization started using Zendesk in 2018 and continues to leverage the system to drive productivity, improve the customer experience, and scale with technology instead of additional headcount.

“Medline has 27 independent instances of Zendesk running right now. We brought Zendesk on board and started using it pretty intensively. It’s no longer an optional platform for us, it’s mission critical,” says Billy Abrams, Executive Vice President of Distribution at Medline Industries, L.P.

Abrams is in charge of Medline’s Distribution division, the largest instance of Zendesk at the company that also drives 43 percent of the company’s revenue. This group is responsible for shipping medical supplies to hospitals and medical facilities across the United States.

Zendesk’s quick time to value

The Distribution business alone has roughly 300 customer service agents handling more than 800,000 tickets a year, so rolling out Zendesk email, phone, SMS, and chat to this department was a key business decision. That launch was followed by a large-scale Zendesk implementation across the company, including instances in Finance, HR, Legal/Compliance, Sales Operations, and more.

“We started with our Distribution division because that business had the most scale,” Abrams explains. “In order to handle such a high volume of inquiries, we needed to evolve from a basic system into something with a lot more capabilities. After a detailed review of the market, we landed on Zendesk.”

Rapid deployments of new Zendesk instances are now possible because the platform is easy to set up and Medline has established a process with key rules and checklists, including a way to market “Zendesk in a Box” to other internal stakeholders.


Radical transparency and customer-first thinking

With customer expectations at an all-time high, the team is focused on going above and beyond to meet their needs. “Customer first means we’ll do anything for a customer on any day,” shares Abrams. “We build warehouses for customers because they want the products closer to where they are.” In fact, Medline operates more than 50 distribution centers and 20 manufacturing sites across North America, totaling 28 million square feet of warehouse space.

In addition to expanding brick-and-mortar operations, the Distribution division brings a customer-centric approach to support interactions. “We have empowered everybody in our organization to solve any problem that a customer raises, and we want to fix it in a way that it won’t come up again tomorrow,” Abrams says.

When the 2020 pandemic led to three years of supply chain issues, the group focused on shifting customer expectations. “We were incredibly transparent with customers. We knew exactly where every product was, when it was coming in, how much was available for our existing customers, and when we had to say no,” recalls Abrams. “We interact with the largest health systems in the country, and they don’t like to hear ‘no.’ But if you can set expectations, customers respect that and can plan around it. I think we cemented long-term relationships because we were so candid with customers.”

Customer satisfaction drives impressive revenue growth

Collecting data and insights is crucial to making strategic decisions and enhancing customer service, notes Abrams. “But in order to see continuous improvement, you have to set up the reporting the right way and use the right tags. If you don’t measure it, you can’t fix it.” Better access to data has empowered Medline employees to be more informed and effective. “We use Zendesk to make sure that our customer service reps, our sales reps, everybody in the organization has all the information they need about the status of products and shipments,” Abrams says.

The ability to track performance in Zendesk is also paramount. “We have standardized KPIs around how often we deliver on time, how often we deliver complete, and how often we satisfy the customer’ needs,” Abrams adds. “We want to continue raising the bar and to ensure that our services are absolutely best in class.”

Distribution team members put that data to good use making sure customers feel seen and understood. Higher customer satisfaction, in turn, supports revenue growth. “Our team brings on new customers, so we’ve added over a billion dollars in revenue in each of the last five years,” shares Abrams.


Zendesk’s flexibility and integrations deliver efficiencies

One of Medline’s biggest challenges was creating an efficient way to process a high volume of tickets. The solution? Connecting Zendesk to the company’s advanced logistics program, including deliveries.
“Zendesk easily adapts to our business. We can integrate it into our other systems and track activity with great precision. Now we measure all Distribution tickets, and I can see how many tickets within the last hour passed our service level expectations,” Abrams shares. “We are moving exactly where we want to go, because we were able to rally around Zendesk.”

Centralizing and streamlining workflows helps the team get more done. “As soon as we installed Zendesk, we saw a five to seven percent lift in productivity, just by routing tickets efficiently,” recalls Abrams. “We created a custom dashboard to give agents better visibility, so they’re spending less time doing redundant things and more time doing thoughtful things for customers. Their performance quality and speed has increased.”

Medline also saw a 52 percent increase in email productivity across three instances and the Distribution team currently delivers a one-touch resolution rate of 78 percent.

“The most compelling feature is Zendesk’s flexibility,” says Abrams. “The app environment, which allows us to adapt the deployment for a particular use case, is incredibly valuable. Zendesk is a wonderful tool that helps us customize information so the team can make great decisions every single day and become more efficient.”

Digital transformation to continue with AI

The Distribution division will continue its digital transformation by working to automate as much as possible, which means iterating new possibilities with Zendesk Advanced AI.

“We’re deploying AI agents so we can make our employees more effective. We’re deploying process management to make our employees more productive. And we’re going to deploy AI,” Abrams says. “It’s all part of a suite that we will use to get faster, stronger, and smarter every day.”

With each advancement, the team will make sure they’re giving customers and employees the right tools. “Our customers want to know when they call or text or email that they’re actually talking to a person they recognize,” reports Abrams. “I think AI will help existing agents be more thoughtful about problem solving. The insights coming in through AI give us the chance to be better customer service agents and provide a better customer experience.”

Medline shows no signs of slowing down when it comes to enhancing CX and EX. “We’ve been innovating around Zendesk and bringing more capabilities to the system to ensure that we deliver best-in-class customer service,” Abrams says. “The implementation of Zendesk has also helped us improve the employee experience.”