Real Values: RelateLive 2016 by Zendesk

My boss is overwhelmed with my live tweets, so here are a few more-complete thoughts.

Emma Sedlak
5 min readJul 14, 2016

(Part 1 of many. I’m representing Real World Technology Solutions today at RelateLive, Zendesk’s conference in Sydney on customer experience. All of the views expressed below are my own, independent of my relationships with Real World and Zendesk.)

I love conferences. It’s like the field trip-syndrome from high school. You get to take the day off work. You get the chance to be exposed to new ideas, new locations, new people. It’s even better if you can convince friends to come as well, or if the conference opens up new opportunities (confession: LinkFest2016 really won me over. It was a Sustainbility + Tech + Social Change conference, and it introduced me to my new best friend in Sydney. You won the year, LinkFest).

But today is about RelateLive 2016.

Sarah Stealey Reed (Editor) introduced us to Relate: Zendesk’s home for content and thought leadership (it encompasses an online magazine, events, and education and training. I’m sold). I was jotting down some notes on a post-it and in my Moleskine with some good takeaways:

Customer experience → how and why things are changing. What is driving?

Empathy, etiquette, storytelling.

Intuitive, personalised tech → what is pushing the quest?

I had just finished making a note about the transparency and humor in humility based on Sarah’s comment: “you can tweet us, and you could even SnapChat. I’m not entirely sure about it; I’m working on it, myself.”

Not 10 seconds later, we were talking about Pokemon Go. Background context: this has been the bane of my existence for the past week. I can’t get my husband and bro-in-law to walk anywhere without taking an extra 30 minutes chasing down these creatures on their phones. I walk into the office, and it’s dominating the water-cooler, cross-desk conversation. It’s everywhere.

But Sarah had a different take: “Things are changing fast. No one could have expected this. This change, this evolution. It’s already surpassed Twitter for active users. It’s already surpassed Tinder for active downloads. On Tuesday, you broke the internet.”

Yes, things are changing fast, but it’s still about relationships.

I’m impressed already at RelateLive’s immediate relevancy. This on-point cultural reference was followed swiftly by Mikkel Svane (Zendesk’s CEO) referring to Game of Thrones (a nice photo of Jamie and Cersei Lannister with his assertion of RelateLive’s mantra: “any GoT fans already know that relationships are complicated”), Johnny Depp, and a slew of other cultural contexts.

Mikkel provided a shopping list of companies who are dominating the current global trends of creating new business models that utilise conscious consumers and the promoter economy. There were many names I recognised, and a few I didn’t. (Cue joke live-tweet: “What?? You can get groceries from @Instacart?? Done. #RelateLive #learning #newstome)

(Image credit: Relate)

But, in all seriousness, I’m already rethinking the assumptions I was making this morning. Yes, LinkFest set the bar high for conferences this year. No, I’m not tapped into the entire customer experience sector, and so it feels a bit like showing up to a party alone. But: the themes of the conference became apparent in the middle of Mikkel’s discussion, when he highlighted examples of businesses that become a movement, that provide value and pay back something to the world at large through every transaction.

For example, Lush is invested in: human rights, environmental conservation, active campaigns, grassroots charities, fighting animal testing.

Bam. I know Lush. I’m sure I’ve subconsciously understood some of their values. But seeing it explicitly detailed and depicted is a wake-up about some passive assumptions I’ve made about good-smelling soaps.

This is more than a customer experience conference. This is about core values, purpose-driven directives, conversations around human-centric design. These are strategies for relationship-driven businesses (which, ideally, should cover all businesses, ever).

Mikkel introduced Andy Lark (Chief Marketing and Business Officer of Xero) to share the Xero origin story: challenging the way an industry operates. But the biggest takeaways Andy shared were around mindset and focus. He asked: “How many of you are in a subscription-based service?” Around 1/3 of the hands were raised in the room. Immediately, he said: “If you’re not, pretend you are. Make your employees incentivised to care about your customers. It’s not enough to emulate that. You actually have to care.”

(Image credit: Relate)

He talked about businesses that have arisen in order to address one or more of the family of concerns: “Doubt, desire, and dissatisfaction.” And some strategies for addressing those concerns: Integrating product/services. Measuring the right emotional response. Architect the customer as the priority.

Genius. All genius.

And he highlighted: “Hate is not the enemy to your brand. Apathy is.” He talked about the ease of marketing against the apathy in the sector. “All Uber had to do was say: better than a taxi.” Apathy is the danger zone, where a customer is having an experience they feel like they could just take or leave. Meh.

Instead, Andy says: “Focus on responsiveness, transparency, and empowerment.”

After the short origin story introduction, I feel like the gauntlet has been thrown down, and I’m really hopeful that RelateLive has curated deep conversations around each of these qualities over the next two days.

GoT and Pokemon jokes aside, these are really impactful concepts to be talking about.

More soon.

Emma Sedlak
Communications Manager
Real World Technology Solutions



Emma Sedlak

a nomadic poet with her hands in too many books. Lives at, works as a communications designer, moonlights as an opera singer/actress.