News / Artificial Intelligence

Zendesk Acquires – Who Will Win the CRM AI Wars?

By Ben McCarthy

Zendesk, the customer service platform, has acquired, a customer support automation platform powered by AI.

The race for AI dominance is truly heating up, as SaaS companies build and acquire the technology required to compete in 2024.

What Is Zendesk?

Zendesk is most well known for its customer service platform, which includes ticket management, live chat, voice integration, and knowledge base functionality. Whilst Salesforce dominates the customer support space with a 21.8% market share, Zendesk is a fierce competitor with 4.5% of the global market, and it is often favored by smaller businesses due to its cheaper pricing. 

Ultimate was founded in 2016, and the team has been working on chatbot automation for nearly a decade. They claim that they can automate over 60% of support requests across all digital channels, using GenAI and their low-code platform. 

As with most tech companies, Zendesk has been turning up the heat on AI efforts in recent months. They introduced AI for Voice late last year to transcribe calls as well as an AI-powered chatbot with monitoring tools. They also acquired Klaus last month, a quality assurance app that analyzes agents’ responses, as well as trends of support cases.

But just as Salesforce acquired back in September last year, Zendesk also felt they needed to acquire additional technology to ensure their offering remained competitive. This is most likely due to being a mature product, as well as having an existing customer base. It’s interesting to note that already integrates with many CRMs (including Salesforce), but Zendesk plans to incorporate the technology into their own platform, as well as continue to sell the product standalone.

Who Will Win the AI Wars?

In a world where AI has dominated the headlines since November 2022, and as we are seeing the first glimpse of an OpenAI/GPT-powered humanoid, it makes you wonder just how fast this space will develop.

Salesforce has just officially launched its Copilot and Einstein 1 Studio products, promising to completely revolutionize the way companies interact with AI. It’s clear that since ChatGPT was released, SaaS companies are feeling compelled to invest, lest they get left behind. 

But with artificial intelligence hype at fever pitch, it does make you wonder whether there will be a winner in each software category with this game-changing technology. Just as Salesforce dominated the Cloud CRM space by defining a new category, will the first vendor to nail down AI for customer relationship management dominate the market? Or will these offerings simply become commoditized?

Whilst Salesforce’s Einstein 1 platform has been hugely anticipated by the 15 million Salesforce professionals who work on the platform, initial use cases do feel a bit flat. Summarizing a customer account, asking for a relevant FAQ, or crafting a sales email doesn’t match my level of excitement that I’ve had for AI. But we are very much in the first innings, and it’s important to get the foundations right before progressing to bigger and better use cases.

A recent study by Slack indicates that 80% of employees are reporting productivity gains through the use of GenAI, and that 81% of executives feel some urgency to implement AI into their organization.

Throughout the rest of 2024, AI will capitalize on the urgency companies feel in needing to invest in the technology. However, there will also be pressure to ensure it delivers the game-changing functionality that has been promised. Although initial productivity studies have been very positive, AI does not come without its challenges. 

Gary Marcus, a leading AI author, has recently speculated about whether generative AI could turn out to be a dud, citing a quote from venture capitalist Benedict Evans, who argues that artificial intelligence “may be the new PC, but we don’t have the spreadsheet or word processor yet”.

Salesforce’s offering is much more holistic than many other companies (such as Zendesk) at this stage, as they are offering AI across their entire platform, with Data Cloud sitting at its heart to harmonize and make sense of unstructured data. 

If data truly is the new gold in this age of AI, Salesforce’s play over the past decade to have a foothold in every major B2B software category could continue to pay dividends. Companies may consolidate their tech stack to Salesforce to ensure they are maximizing native technology to make sense of their data. 

Or will we continue to see a best-of-breed mentality? Zendesk specializes in customer service and could become the absolute domain expert in training LLMs to solve customer queries, especially with their latest acquisition.


With the stock market at an all-time high thanks to the hype of artificial intelligence, and with executives feeling they need to invest heavily in the technology just to stay relevant, we may be reaching a tipping point. 

Artificial intelligence has to deliver on its promises soon, and the company that can crack the code first may just win the war

The Author

Ben McCarthy

Ben is the Founder of Salesforce Ben. He also works as a Non-Exec Director & Advisor for various companies within the Salesforce Ecosystem.


    Julia Solis
    March 18, 2024 2:33 pm

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