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Our on-going quest to help your customers

Pierre Grenier
posted this on September 23, 2012 22:06

At Zendesk, we understand that most of your customers would rather quickly find answers to their questions in your knowledge base and forums without having to create a formal request.

However, to accomplish the above requires you to publish knowledge and Zendesk to deliver a great search experience for your customers.  The latter is something we work really hard to improve.

How has Zendesk improved search?

Before we discuss how we improve search, we must define what is a 'good' search.  There are many interpretations but for Zendesk, a good search experience is one which understands and anticipates your customer's intent and find the most relevant articles for that intent.

With this release, we are introducing five new features which significantly improve your forum search and self-service:

  1. Search query auto-complete
  2. Implicit phrase query
  3. Curated content boosting
  4. Advanced stemming
  5. Topic boosting (Enterprise-only feature)

Search query auto-complete

Zendesk's auto-complete offers query suggestions based on the query typed in the search box.  The source of such suggestions are based the previous queries used by your end-users.  Please note that suggestions in the auto-complete list comes from previous searches by your end-users.


Implicit phrase query

Our search engine will boost results which contains the entire query string, even when such query contains multiple words.  For instance when someone searches for "product XYZ", we will boost documents which contains “product XYZ” vs. those documents which contains “product” OR “XYZ”.

Curated content boosting

You will be able to emphasize, or de-emphasize, the search relevance of your curated content vs. user-generated content (UGC).  The curated content is defined as any topics (articles, questions, or ideas) created by an agent.  UGC is simply the opposite; topics created by end-users.


Advanced stemming (patent application pending)

Before we introducing advanced stemming, we need to discuss the pitfalls of basic stemming.  The problem with basic stemming is that it may return too many results because stemming effectively casts a wider net on your search.  For instance, when you search for "work", the search engine will also matches on "works", "worked", "working", and "workflow". 

With Zendesk's advanced stemming, we also expand the search but the results are weighted based on the distance of your original query term from the matched term in the document.  In our example above, the search engine will place greater weight on the term "works" than on "worked" (because there is only a one-character difference in the first pair while the second pair has a two-character difference).

Note that this is a patent application pending feature which is only available at Zendesk.

Topic boosting (Enterprise-only feature)

Topic boosting is the ability boost a topic’s relevance for a given set of queries.  An admin or moderator will be able to set phrases (i.e. a collection of words) per topic to boost that topic’s ranking when a user’s search query is one of phrases.


Note: topic boosting is an Enterprise-only feature.

Benefits for you and your customers

In the end, caring about your customers' search happiness will bring several benefits.  After all, according to a recent study by Nuance Enterprise, 67% of respondents prefers self-service over interacting with an agent.  With this new Zendesk release your customers will...

  1. Get to their answer faster through the query auto-complete.
  2. Receive relevant results to their questions through the advanced stemming and implicit phrase query.
  3. Access and read content you deem most relevant to their questions with topic and curated content boosting.

Also you and your team will be able to...

  1. Quickly understand key trends in search analytics since search query auto-complete will reduce the number of uniques searches from your end-users.
  2. Promote your most relevant topics for each of your most popular searches by leveraging search analytics and topic boosting


These features are only available on Web Portal (not on Help Center yet).  All features, except for topic boosting which is an Enterprise-only feature, are available to all plans.  Also, it is supported on the mobile website of your Zendesk.  In addition, these search features will be accessible through our V2 API within the next two weeks (note that search query auto-complete is not available as an API service).


For more information about the above features, please visit our user guide.



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Arnaud de Theux

Aaand... I go to the settings section of my Zendesk now :-)

September 26, 2012 09:01
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Sven Hålling
Great! But... why not on the mobile version of the site?
September 26, 2012 09:23
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Pierre Grenier
Product Manager

@Sven... all the features works on the mobile website except for the query auto-complete.

September 26, 2012 10:48
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Matt Frowe
Cambridge ESOL

Sounds fantastic! Can't wait to get logged in and give all the new features a try :)



September 26, 2012 12:58
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Sven Halling

@Pierre, sorry if my comment was too brief, I was specifically thinking of the 'auto search' that happens when I write a ticket on the web version. ZD then automatically suggests articles as I write. That one is not on the mobile version.

September 26, 2012 13:55
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Pierre Grenier
Product Manager

@Sven... you are right, the ticket deflection is not on the mobile.  This would be a good addition when we improve the mobile website.  Pierre

September 26, 2012 14:27
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Jimmy Bowers

I see phrases, but the auto-complete doesn't appear to be working?  I've checked my settings and all looks good.  Is there just a delay in the release or should I see it working now?

September 26, 2012 14:56
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Matt Frowe
Cambridge ESOL

The auto-complete is not working for me either, I've also checked my settings. Do the terms have to be searched for a particular number of times before they begin to appear in the list?


September 27, 2012 03:44
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Pierre Grenier
Product Manager

Jimmy and Matt... there might be a small delay the first time we use the auto-complete.  Also, each search query must have 5 previous searches over the last 90 days before it is a suggestion candidate.

September 28, 2012 10:43
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Alan Conroy
Project CS Beta Testers

With the search query restriction in place doesnt that prevent new and potentially important articles being missed as they havent been searched.

Would it be possible to use a tag to help populate the auto complete i.e. if I put a tag in called   script_to_fix_bug_x that tag would be converted to a auto complete result (without the underscore)




October 03, 2012 02:37
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Pierre Grenier
Product Manager

Alan... the auto-complete is only a way to suggest related queries and help a user complete his query fast.  If you want to affect the the results, you may use topic boosting.

In your case, you can add "script to fix bug x" in the phrases of the relevant articles and those articles would show in the search results.  What I am saying is do not worry about the intermediary step (i.e. auto-complete) since you can still achieve your goal of showing specific articles given an end-user query.

October 03, 2012 14:57
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Avi Goshen

I can't get the search query auto complete to work for me either.  I can see in our Search stats that a string has been searched more than 90 times over the past 60 days but typing in the first word of the string does not give any suggestions.  Any advice?

October 03, 2012 17:38
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Pierre Grenier
Product Manager

Guys, if you believe the search auto-complete does not work as advertised, please open a ticket with us.  That way it will get addressed quickly.

October 07, 2012 18:08
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