Introducing Zinc: Communication Designed for the Deskless Worker
Communication and collaboration for deskless teams
It’s safe to say that teams come in many different formats today, from the traditional contact centre employee sitting behind a desk from 9 to 5 to the remote worker who takes their projects with them wherever they go. While opportunities in collaboration are popping up all over the map for both the typical and flexible professional, one sphere has gone largely overlooked: the deskless worker.
Deskless workers are the individuals who spend their time serving customers in the field. The space includes construction crews, hotel staff, field service technicians and many more. While this group accounts for 80% of the global workforce, much of the technology available today, from Slack to email, isn’t designed to suit their working style.
Fortunately, Zinc – a company launched in the summer of 2016, has emerged to fill the communications void. I caught up with the CEO of Zinc, Stacey Epstein to learn more about the business, and what it can do in terms of enterprise communication for deskless workers.
What is Zinc All About?
Today, we’re all living in a world driven by communication and collaboration. As technology evolves, teams need to be able to work together seamlessly and connect both internally and externally to perform well in their roles. Zinc exists in the communication and collaboration space, but they cover a section of the market that many vendors have overlooked – the deskless worker.
“We deliver an enterprise-grade mobile platform that simplifies on-the-job communication for deskless workers – the people who are never sitting at a desk because they’re always out in the field with the customer.”
Stacey told me that she remembered being younger when her father was working at IBM, and no-one had a computer. By the end of the century, technology was everywhere, and a crucial part of getting jobs done. She noted that technology is still changing the world today, but the main difference is the proliferation of mobile devices. “Everyone has a device in their pocket, and that gives Zinc a great opportunity to extend the communication and collaboration world to people who aren’t constantly sitting in front of a Slack screen. We’re an all-mode communication platform for deskless workers.”
How Would You Differentiate Zinc from other Team-Based Apps?
Stacey noted that when Zinc was first being developed, it was with a strong focus on simplicity. “We follow the same paradigm of familiar consumer apps for workers so that they don’t have to worry about the complexity of getting used to something new. It’s incredibly easy to use, but fully-featured, with any mode of communication you can think of – from one-on-one to group text, to video, to calling, and even “hotline” groups that allow a user to get directly to a subject-matter expert.
Importantly, while Zinc is built to feature the user experience benefits of a consumer app, it’s still an enterprise solution. That means it comes with a full administrative console where managers can track everything, maintain security and compliance, and even check out a full analytics module.
“We’re really helping companies get the pulse on the elusive notion of what’s happening in the field.”
Essentially, Zinc gives people beyond the desk everything they need to connect, with simplicity and features that simply don’t exist in other applications. Stacey noted that the company started off as something like a “WhatsApp for work,” but over time it’s evolved into so much more, to the point where they don’t compete with other team-based apps, they co-exist.
What Makes Zinc Valuable to Deskless Workers?
Zinc is clearly a powerful solution for deskless workers, but I was interested to find out more about the kind of use cases the company can support. Stacey told me about one of the brand’s biggest customers “Dish Network” – a television broadcasting brand that currently has thousands of technicians using the Zinc platform.
“One of their biggest ROI goals is to cut down the time it takes to provide customer services. With Zinc, they can do that more easily. Imagine for instance a technician is on the roof and needs help. Slack would just give them a stream of conversation, and that’s not what the technician needs – he needs to connect with the right person who can help him straight away. He can do that through our official or ad hoc groups, or one-to-one communication. Faster connections means that technicians get the job done quickly, which makes the customer happy, the technician happy, and the company happy too.”
Zinc also offers one-to-many broadcasts and a broadcast hub, which can be a particularly useful feature for deskless workers. If a technician is in the middle of installing a cable dish, and a broadcast of a new training manual appears on his phone or tablet, he can continue doing his work and still access the manual in the hub at a later time.. From an admin side, the company can see who read the broadcast and who didn’t. There’s also the push-to-talk feature, which Stacey believes is essential for those in verticals like the hotel industry.
“It means you can get rid of those expensive, noisy radios and use the mode of communication that’s right for the situation.”
What Does the Future Look Like for Zinc?
While Zinc is similar in some ways to ServiceMax – a company that Stacey was actually the CMO for before she launched her own brand – it’s focused on a much broader market. While ServiceMax (now GE) focuses on a very defined field service market, Zinc can handle any deskless worker, which means that it already has a serious amount of potential.
I asked Stacey where she thinks the company is heading in the future, and she told me that they’re always putting their customer needs first.
“We pay a lot of attention to our customer use cases and what people need. We have something called Zinc Labs, and we’re constantly using that to churn out new and innovative features requested by our customers.”
“Our next focus is going to be on enhancing our broadcasting feature with features like rich media, but the possibilities are endless.”
From a long-term perspective, Stacey noted that there are plenty of places where Zinc can continue to evolve because there are so many functionalities that the deskless worker can benefit from. Currently, Zinc is sold directly from the company, but the business is looking at a few potential reseller relationships too. “There may be something coming up later this year.”