Driving self-service without Community involvement

I love community tips! This collection of tips will likely be more helpful to newer Zendesk users, but may help some of the more seasoned users, as well.

Some companies have embraced the Community concept with great results for customers, support staff, and the bottom line. However, I doubt it is the best approach for all companies. We haven’t opened up our support world to community participation, for several reasons. For one, we have limited resources for community forum moderation. There could be liability issues if incorrect information leaked through (there is no room for error in our business--parking!) Perhaps we will rethink this in the future, but for now it is the best approach.

Does this sound like you? Are you sad-faced because you think that you can’t drive self-service unless you tear down those walls and let your customers have a free-for-all in your forums? Dry your eyes, Zendeskians. It is possible to drive self-service even if you don’t embrace the Community concept.

Here are some of the ways we make it happen!

Use the mobile site/portal

Make sure you are using the mobile site/portal. If you don’t have it turned on, you are turning off your mobile customers by forcing them to look at a standard website on a mobile device. Yuck.


Drive traffic to your forums

Point to your forums in every possible way! Here are some ideas:

  • Include a link to your forums in trigger comments, especially for the “request received” notification, since it is the first response they'll receive from you. So important: Make sure they can see you pushing it.

We realized our customers were missing our reference to the forums because we had it buried in a paragraph of less important text. Our forum views and searches sky-rocketed when we changed from a two-paragraph "request received" trigger comment to a super brief response that fits on a single screen of most mobile devices. 



Push it in a way that will make them WANT to look for their answers. Our customers are in a hurry - that’s just who our customers are and the nature of what we do. So we changed from a two sentence description about how or why they may want to check out the forums, to the simple yet beautiful: “Can’t Wait? Visit the Knowledge Base.”  That’s putting it in terms that hit home for them (and it worked!).


Direct them to your forums from several places on your website and apps – in every webpage’s footer, nav pane, and the feedback tab. Integrate it into your app, or at least point to it.


  • Include a link to the forums in your agent signatures and make sure the agents know they don’t have to shy away from mentioning it in their support ticket comments. 

And speaking of ticket comments – make sure you are pointing to the forums in any macros where you have content included. You may choose to give the answer but then also tell them where they could have gone (and can go in the future) to find the information themselves.

For more ideas, check out the Zendesk article about driving traffic to your knowledge base.

Control the flow of information

For some companies it works to restrict ticket creation by NOT having every email become a support ticket. While that is not our method, we do filter and funnel in other ways.

Within our app we include a button to email us, but really it is just an integration directly into Zendesk and so it creates the ticket directly in our system. To the end-user it seems like they are emailing us, but we are actually guiding them down a certain path, giving them tidbits of helpful info along the way.

This way, we've pointed them to the forums, and we've provided some high-level info before they have the opportunity to submit the support ticket within the app.

Stock up on articles

Get in touch with your inner author. Essentially, if you have ever fielded a question about it, there needs to be an article for it. Less is not more, when it comes to the number of articles you post.

Remember who your customers are

If most of your customers look for help while on their mobile device, give extra attention to layout and article length. If they can’t quickly get the information they need, it's like not having it there at all. So, avoid posting novel-length articles unless it is really, really necessary to do so. (Guilty.)

Stick to realistic article length and use anchors and links

 If you do have some novella articles (soooo guilty), at least organize the information in ways that make sense. Pop in some jump-to section links with the anchor and reference points, and list the links at the top of the article so the end-users can quickly see a way to get to the good stuff. 

Tip: Use this Zendesk Support tip to add jump-to links to your Help Center articles.


Organize your forums in ways that make sense and tell your customers how to use the site

We realized that renaming of some categories and forums, and reordering them based on greatest use, would put the news they can use front and center.

We also post an announcement article that tells customers how to look around or search on keyword. That may seem like a no-brainer, but we get a good bit of traffic on that article. If it helps just 5 people a month to self-serve, I consider it a win. (It took me 10 minutes to create that article over a year ago. So yeah, that’s bang for my buck there.)

Don’t fall in love with your words

Sometimes info that makes sense to you doesn't make sense to the masses. Put your articles in words your customers can understand, and don't use internal jargon. 

Plan content audits

Plan times to audit your forums and keep a running list of articles you need (Especially if you are like us and can’t add them the minute you realize you need them.) The information in your forums should be current, complete, and correct. Otherwise, you are doing more harm than good.

Optimize for keyword search and include information your customers are hoping to find

Many customers don’t want to look around or guess where the info might live (even if you have done a stellar job of organizing it.) So make sure you create your articles with strong words and using the words your customers use. The built-in reporting feature in Zendesk (on Plus and Enterprise) will show you what your customers are searching on and whether they are finding articles from that search.

If I see 75 searches a month on the word "refund" and there are no article hits, and 75 tickets were created as a result, there is an obvious need for an article about the refund policy. Putting that info to work means the next 75 customers who search on "refund" won't have to email in frustration or wait for a response. Your customers and your support staff will thank you.



I hope the information we've learned over time will help you think about ways you can drive self-service at your company.

How do you promote outside-the-community self-service? We'd love to hear your ideas! 


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    @Dee - Just something to note here as myself and other companies do not use the mobile site as we've made our Help Center sites responsive so that if someone pulls up our HelpCenter then our mobile site and regular site still looks almost the same.  We prefer our mobile site to be branded which you can't really do with the default Zendesk mobile.  Just wanted to add this as with the right design you can have the best of both worlds :-)  Great article and thanks for sharing.

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    @Wes - I love that! Thank you for sharing. :)

    Sadly, we have not yet transitioned over to Help Center (we are just a few days away though!) so I was unaware of those juicy details. Thanks again, and I can't wait for everyone on a mobile device to benefit from an improved Parkmoble-branded look and feel when we make the move to the Help Center format. 


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    @Dee - Thanks for the great article! I think this is going to be really helpful for users who are intimidated by the self-service concept. Fabulous!

    @Wes - Do you think maybe you could post some links to the stuff you've written on making the Help Center responsive here in the comments? I'm sure that some folks reading this will share your preference and would find that info helpful.

    Thanks again guys! So awesome!

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    @Jessie - Not a problem

    Here are some links to Responsive Design, along with links to my free themes which are responsive.

    All community tips can be found here:

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    @Dee - Thanks so much for the tips! Not only are they helpful to the Zendesk ecosystem, but you'd be surprised at how many other aspects of your business can be improved by following the same guidelines (ex: content audits and optimized customer interfaces). I share ParkMobile's best practices with all my colleagues regardless of whether they use ZD or not!

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    Great tips, thanks for sharing!

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