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Article 5 min read

We use customer self-service to decrease ticket volumes, and you can too

With data, teamwork and a little creativity, you can get ticket queues back down to normal levels.

By Sarah Olson, Senior Associate, Content Marketing

Last updated June 5, 2021

The customer advocacy team at Zendesk noticed a spike in ticket volume in the summer of 2019.

There’s no way we could have known that less than a year later, we’d be in the midst of a global pandemic that has resulted in a surge in ticket volumes across a wide range of industries.

As the situation continues to unfold, customer self-service is emerging as a practical solution for customers and businesses alike. We’ve seen a 65% increase in visits to self-service resources such as online help centres and FAQ pages since late February, according to COVID-19 benchmark data.

To help illustrate the impact of customer self-service, we want to share some of the lessons we learnt from that 2019 ticket spike, so we can inspire businesses to leverage the full potential of self-service to help their customers and stakeholders in this time of uncertainty and beyond.

Zendesk on Zendesk: How we use customer self-service to decrease ticket volumes

Watch the webinar on demand and hear from members of the customer advocacy team at Zendesk about how we intercept customers with helpful knowledge base content.

Ticket deflection v. ticket interception: What’s the difference?

During the time of unusual ticket volumes last year, it was all hands on deck, and one of the areas where we saw an opportunity was customer self-service. By improving our self-service offerings, we could enable more customers to help themselves instead of contacting our customer support team, a process commonly known as ticket deflection.

But at Zendesk, we like to refer to this process as ticket interception instead. Here’s why:

Melissa Burch, Director of Customer Advocacy at Zendesk, explains that although ticket deflection is the more commonly used term, it can come across as though we’re avoiding our customers or that we don’t want to help them. Customers shouldn’t feel deflected – they should feel empowered.

“We intentionally use the word ‘interception’ as a more positive way of thinking about it.”
Melissa Burch, Director of Customer Advocacy, Zendesk

‘We intentionally use the word "interception" as a more positive way of thinking about it,’ she explains. ‘We want to intercept them with the right information at the right time so that they can find answers to questions more easily and efficiently.’

Intercepting customers with resources such as Help Centre articles, videos and guided paths empowers customers to help themselves whenever and however they want to be helped, giving the customer greater flexibility and control over their experience.

Illustration of a person kneeling on the ground holding up another person with their arms.

Five steps to help decrease ticket volumes with customer self-service

However, to tackle a surge in ticket volume, you need to pinpoint what that right information is. You need to understand what your customers really need from you to be able to solve their issues without opening a ticket. Then, you need to deploy that information at the right place and at the right time.

Below we outlined our process for identifying self-service improvements.

  1. Look at the data

    Review your customer-support data to identify categories with higher-than-average ticket volumes. These category buckets can help you narrow down certain topics or product features that are troublesome for customers. Enterprise customers can also leverage Content Cues, a Guide feature that uses artificial intelligence to suggest content improvements. While this data is useful and gives you a starting point, it doesn’t reveal what customers are struggling with or how you can help, so you need to go one step further.
  2. Listen to your customers

    Once you’ve identified a topic or set of topics that need attention, you’ll want to take a closer look at tickets in these categories. Look at your Content Cues or review a sample of tickets manually, paying attention to things like how customers described their problem and where in the process they got stuck. Along with the data, this type of qualitative analysis can help you understand what your customers really need from you and give you the insight you need to build a truly data-driven Help Centre.
  3. Deploy relevant content

    Look at your existing content to see what, if anything, can be adapted to better serve the customer requirements that you’ve identified. Then, create new content to fill the gaps. You should distribute your content across multiple points in the customer’s journey so that they can find it however they prefer to engage. A few ideas:

    • Answer Bot – Surface relevant information to customers using an automated chat bot that pulls directly from your knowledge base.
      Proactive support – Send targeted help to users as they are navigating your app or website or when they reach certain milestones with your product.
      Community forum – Talk to your community. Be proactive and deliberately spark conversations with customers on topics that prove challenging.
  4. Measure your results

    As with any intervention that you make, you will need to measure success. Look at metrics such as your self-service ratio, which is a metric that compares the number of self-service views that you’ve received with the number of tickets opened during a certain period of time. Note that in addition to views, you should also consider engagement with proactive support and Answer Bot resolutions (if you have tools like these in place).
  5. Repeat

    This is an ongoing process. You should be refining and adding to your knowledge-base content regularly, not only when tickets are surging. By making regular improvements, you can get into the habit of continually enhancing your customer experience, while also preparing your team to handle future ticket spikes more easily.
Illustration of a person standing holding a coffee cup with steam coming out of it.

Empowering customers to use self-service options

Even before COVID-19, we knew that customers wanted self-service options. Now, in the face of so much uncertainty, self-service is not only practical, it can also be empowering.

Customers have enough to worry about at the moment without trying to carve out the time to talk to or chat with a support agent. Self-service can empower customers to help themselves in their own time, whether that’s in between virtual happy hours or after the children have gone to bed.

Ticket surges are bound to happen, now and in the future, but if you can deliver the right information at the right time – intercepting customers instead of deflecting them – you can make sure that your customers still get the help they need.

Watch the webinar on demand for more self-service tips.

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