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How software and cloud services companies can scale CX with self-service and intelligent triage

See how industry leaders are using self-service to help millions of customers without a huge team of support agents.

By Sarah Olson, Staff Writer, @seolson5

Last updated September 19, 2023

The software and cloud services industry has seen market-defying growth in recent years, but growth comes with its own set of challenges.

As you add more customers and prospects, you’ll also find that you have more questions pouring into your support channels – everything from basic FAQs to the most complex technical questions – and your team is on the hook for every single one.

In a perfect world, you’d give each customer the VIP treatment, but that’s simply not realistic when you need to support thousands or maybe even millions of customers. Instead, you need to focus on creating efficiencies so you can help more customers without requiring more resources.

Read on to see how leading software and cloud services companies have used self-service and automation to continue meeting customer needs even as they rapidly scale their business.

CX challenges facing software and cloud services companies

Software and cloud services companies sometimes struggle with scaling CX because of the complexity of their product and offerings. Customers expect a level of service that’s not easy for these businesses to achieve at scale, which puts them in the tough spot of balancing customer expectations with operational constraints.

These are a few common challenges software and cloud services companies face on their CX journey.

  • Rapid growth. These companies are growing rapidly and technical support requests are piling up from end users, resellers and even other developers. As they scale, they may also need to support a global customer base using a 24/7 follow-the-sun model of support.
  • Service complexity. Customer support enquiries have become increasingly complicated, as the CX team seeks to provide technical product support (eg break/fix, troubleshooting, etc.), help new customers register and onboard and assist with account/password management issues.
  • Tiered product offerings. Tiered support for freemium/basic/premium users can be difficult to deliver and it’s sometimes too costly to provide dedicated staffing for each individual tier. Software trialists may need a different level of support, as do new customers who are in a 30/60/90-day onboarding window.
  • High competition. The ever-growing SaaS model makes it easier for competitors to enter the race and for customers to churn. Driving net retention is the name of the game and personalised service is an important differentiator in a crowded marketplace.

Even if you have the best customer experience software and the most knowledgeable support agents, it’ll be challenging to keep up with demand as your company grows and the number of requests goes up and up and up. Adding headcount will kill profitability and cutting corners will send the wrong message to your customers.

Self-service is the key to scaling your customer support. Here’s why.

Relying on a self-service strategy, technical support teams can keep their heads above water while still providing a high standard of service for their customers.

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Using a combination of self-service and intelligent triage, you can manage a larger volume of customers and you don’t need to hire more customer service reps to do it. At the core, you need an online help centre where you can provide product knowledge, FAQs and how-to videos and guides.

This knowledge can then be distributed using AI tools that automatically direct customers to relevant resources in your help centre based on their requests and associated keywords. Your knowledge base can then be complemented by technical community forums.

Reducing the total number of customer requests has a domino effect.

Fewer incoming tickets means your dedicated CX agents can respond to customers faster, and they can give priority accounts the time and attention they deserve instead of rushing to get to the next ticket in the queue.

Freeing up time for your internal teams is another huge advantage. Just ask Animoto, a web-based video creation platform that used Zendesk to scale its support after adding one million users within a year. With that kind of growth, you need to do everything you can to protect your time and resources.

“With Zendesk, we realised we could run our entire help desk and knowledge base without pulling development resources away from our product” says Chris Korhonen, UX Designer/Developer at Animoto.

61% of technology customers are willing to walk away after one bad service experience.

Our research shows that 61% of technology customers are willing to walk away after one bad service experience.

That means a gap in your customer service, for any reason, is a huge risk. Self-service can fill the gap between what your CX team can realistically cover and the growing number of customers who need assistance.

Read on for some specific strategies to get the most from your self-service and intelligent triage.

3 elements of a winning self service strategy

Image showing three icons that illustrate the 3 elements of a winning customer service strategy: AI and intelligent triage, customised help centres and technical community forums
  1. AI and intelligent triage
  2. Customised, multi-branded help centres
  3. Technical community forums

1. AI and intelligent triage

Scaling to support millions of users is possible with AI and intelligent triage.

Historically, training accurate AI models has been a challenge, but that’s quickly changing. Zendesk recently announced new AI capabilities that give companies a foundational data set based on consistent support needs that are easy to identify – like resetting a password, for example – and that can be used to automate customer service interactions.

“Answer Bot is perfect for our international users and night owls that need help when our agents are offline.”
Trishia Mercado, Senior Manager, Member Engagement Team at Photobucket

Chatbots like Zendesk’s Answer Bot and out-of-the-box chat integrations like Ada can perform conversational flows and serve up relevant information to customers.

This has been a game changer for Photobucket, a photo and image hosting app with more than 70 million members worldwide. With the self-service flow of Answer Bot, Photobucket is able to provide instant answers to approximately 94% of common questions and resolve nearly 10% of conversations – without the need for agent assistance.

“Answer Bot is perfect for our international users and night owls that need help when our agents are offline” says Trishia Mercado, Senior Manager of the Member Engagement team at Photobucket. “They can interact with the bot to get answers quickly. Instead of sending us an email and waiting until the next day to hear from us, they can easily get the answers to their questions right away.”

Image showing two business people standing holding a laptop with their arms in the air as if celebrating, with text that reads: With Answer Bot's self-service flow, Photobucket can provide instant answers to approximately 94% of common questions.

If a customer doesn’t find the answer they need, bots can collect additional customer info to ensure that enquiries are intelligently routed to the most appropriate agent and that the agent has the context needed to provide high-quality support.

Bots can also save your team time and increase service quality. For example, if a customer is signed in to your app or customer portal, bots can personalise the interaction using the customer’s product/licence/subscription information and engagement history.

The best software for software companies

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2. Customised, multi-branded help centres

Building and maintaining a library of knowledge is the key to a sustainable self-service approach.

Help centre software makes it simple to organise your library of FAQs and how-to guides. It also gives you the flexibility to write once and publish everywhere, so it is easy to maintain across multiple brands and products (if applicable). Product managers, developers and technical support managers can add content too: feature demos, tips and tricks, patch and release notes, etc.

Swiftkey, a popular predictive keyboard app, uses Zendesk to power in-app support for its 300M app-install user base. Using help centres, Swiftkey has drastically reduced the number of incoming support tickets, allowing the company to maintain a lean team of just six agents.

For every 70 views on Swiftkey’s help centre, only one ticket is created.

The company also uses the Zendesk Mobile SDK to embed its help centre directly within the app, allowing for a greater level of customisation and personalisation. For example, Swiftkey can detect the type of mobile device a customer is using, then show them help articles pertaining to their device (iOS, Android, etc.).

Swiftkey has an impressive self-service ratio of 70:1, meaning that for every 70 views on their help centre, only one ticket is created.

Efficiency at this scale can be transformative for high-growth tech companies, enabling you to provide a high degree of accountability to your customers without requiring personal interactions with each and every person.

Further, time-savings from self-service allow your CX team to be more hands-on with high-priority accounts that will be important for future growth.

3. Technical community forums

Chances are, most of your customer questions are about technical issues that have been solved already or can be solved by other software users, developers, etc.

When your customers help each other via community forums, it’s another way to take a little bit of pressure off your technical support team. These forums can become a crowd-sourced knowledge base where your customers can connect with each other, share resources and problem-solve together.

“Users often answer questions from other users before our support team has a chance to reply.”

Jiří Fait, Help Desk Administrator at JetBrains

Conversations in your community forum can also help inform your product strategy and development roadmap. Product managers can collect community sentiment to help prioritise new features, bug fixes, etc.

JetBrains, the global enterprise software company known for its suite of highly regarded developer tools, has made developer forums a cornerstone of its support strategy. The company has taken advantage of customers’ specialised knowledge and created a vibrant community of users helping other users.

“We get about 2,500 comments a month from our communities” says Jiří Fait, Help Desk Administrator at JetBrains. “Users often answer questions from other users before our support team has a chance to reply.”

If a question in the forum isn’t answered, then the JetBrains support team can step in and help or, as a last resort, escalate the question to the engineering team.

Forum messages are collected via a customised app that JetBrains developed using the Zendesk Platform. The team can then turn those developer-provided answers into help centre articles for the knowledge base, thereby benefiting all customers in the future.

Scaling CX without sacrificing profitability

Scaling your CX is possible with the right tools, and the results can be transformative. Customers can find the answers they need – when they need them – and your team can focus their efforts on the most complex requests and high-value customers.

See how Zendesk helps software and cloud services companies retain customers and achieve growth at scale.

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