How to Scale Customer Service When You Can’t Hire More People


Is your company growing? Are you adding new customers on a regular basis? Do you worry that your customer service team is already redlining, and now they’re asked to do even more? Is it thrilling and frightening at the same time?

We often hear from customer service directors that they’re continually asked to serve more customers but not given additional headcount or resources to do so. The business is growing and everybody’s happy while customer service is quietly terrified their ticket time-to-resolution will balloon as they try to keep up.

So what can be done? Can you scale your customer service efforts without more headcount?

Yes, with website self-service you can. But let’s first step back and question what customer service means on the web today.

Website self-service is the best customer service… most of the time

In the old days, “customer service” implied having to personally serve every customer needing help. That’s expensive, time-consuming, and not most customers’ idea of a great experience. Today, when customers are on a website or using a web application and need help, the best place for them to get it is on the website itself, right where they already are. Website customer self-service allows visitors to get help under their own power, at their own pace, feeling totally in control. After they’ve used it, they can immediately resume their original goals,which—remember—was never to use your help system to begin with.


The questions customers have when using a website or web app follow a power law, or 80/20 rule. That means a small number of questions comprise a large percentage of the questions people ask. When self-service is implemented well, customers can usually find answers to these common questions for themselves, as chances are these questions have been asked before.

Another benefit is that customer self-service is also cheap. Very cheap. Forrester estimates on average, a customer service phone call costs a company $12 and up, a live chat costs $5, an email costs $2.50, but customer self-service on a website costs a mere $0.10 per incident. (A dime!) That’s because website self-service never takes any time from your customer service team.


Unfortunately, today’s customer self-service technologies are grossly underutilized and often not particularly representative of the questions your users actually have. Most website customer self-service technologies are “help islands” like knowledgebases, FAQs, and forums that are divorced from the main website where users have their questions in the first place. Working with many companies attempting to use a self-service strategy, we see that less than 1% of their users will go to a “help island.” On-page search boxes like Zendesk Embeddables that bring forth knowledgebase content are a step in the right direction, but they require users to still repetitively type-and-search-and-read as they dig through articles trying to find answers to their questions. And ultimately users are taken to a “help island” anyway once they click a search result.

We also commonly hear that FAQs are out-of-date, knowledgebases lag behind, and forums stray off-topic. Even for the 1% of users who bother with such “help islands,” 61% of them fail to find the answer they’re looking for according to research by the Technology Services Industry Association.

Fortunately, there’s a better way. Now that we’re in 2015, let’s commit to giving our customers help right where and when they need it.

Point-and-click contextual self-service gets used and is relevant

If website self-service gets used and is relevant to your customers’ questions, it can resolve a large percentage of the common questions your customers have, deflect tickets, and give your customer service team a fighting chance as your business grows.

But the self-service solution has to be used. And its content has to be relevant. No more “help islands,” please.

We quickly learned in our research into website self-service that point-and-click contextual self-service—a tool like AnswerDash that allows users to simply click on whatever page element they have a question about to get an answer—will be used 5-to-15 times more than a help island. That’s because when a customer has a question on a website, 99% of the time it has to do with something they can see on the page. Allowing customers to simply click (or tap) that thing to get the most common Q&A about it is a fast, easy way for people to get self-service help without typing and searching.


We also learned that by allowing customers to initially ask new questions through this tool, sending those new questions to popular helpdesk solutions like Zendesk, and publishing the answers to those new questions as contextual Q&A for all future customers to see, a site can grow (not build) a highly relevant contextual answer system where the most common questions are covered. That means with every new question asked, a new answer is published for all future customers to see without having to ask again. Assisted-service quickly morphs into self-service and pays for itself a thousand times over.

Scale your support efforts without scaling your team

Through years of research and development dedicated to rethinking how self-service is done, we have learned that point-and-click contextual self-service solutions deflect over 60% of customers’ support tickets once the set of answers has been grown over the site, a process that takes about 10-30 days.

As an on-page self-service solution, AnswerDash’s self-service solution is utilized by 5-15% of website or web app users, making it much more effective at giving your customers answers than even the best help island knowledgebases. Recognizing that self-service won’t solve every problem (the “20” portion of the “80/20”), AnswerDash integrates with live chat and email to enable smooth handoffs to assisted-service when customers need it.

The result is a highly-utilized relevant contextual answer service that frees customer service teams to serve high-touch customers needing more of their time. Putting in place a “self-service shield,” like AnswerDash, helps your customer service team to stay productive (and sane) while your company grows.

And that makes everybody happy!