Making the Case Deflection Dream Come True

Here’s the dream. Your support team wants software that enables case deflection and improves customer satisfaction. Devs want quick, thorough, and accurate answers without having to go to the support team. And your company leadership wants hard numbers to justify the expense and to reduce overall costs for product support. Can it be done? Of course!

Developers Would Rather Not Reach Out to Support

It’s in a developer’s DNA to tackle problems and share information and code with other developers. It’s so important to them that 88% expect software vendors to provide a free online community where they can find answers themselves and collaborate with other developers (2019 State of the Developer Report).

And an online community can even help deflect complex requests, such as issues with product features, integrations, plugins, and customizations. For these situations, you can still set developers up for success by building a library of documents to cover every possible question.

But if you’re relying on your support or content teams to craft the docs, you still have a scale problem — it’s an enormous undertaking that could take months. And if you are encouraging outside developers to build integrations with your software, the changes may occur too quickly for your team to stay in front of developers’ needs. You need a solution that allows you to build an online knowledge repository in a scalable fashion and grow it organically as the needs of your developers mature and change.

The Wisdom of the Crowd

You can accomplish this by encouraging the developers who use your software to do the heavy lifting of populating a searchable knowledge base. Give them functionality that supports Q&A, allows them — and your SMEs — to post best practices articles and documentation, and lets them share ideas for future enhancements. Pair that with a predictive search capability that populates answers as the developer types a question. In this environment, developers have the tools to be self-sufficient, as so many of the questions they would have posed to support are answered by their peers.

Another great outcome of this self-service model is that you are also supporting those who gave up the fight without submitting a ticket. Why is this important? Because dissatisfied or frustrated customers don’t renew contracts, expand deployments, or recommend you to their peers.

In addition, this extends the reach of your support team. Self-service support is available 24/7 — around the globe. And since your customers are providing the answers, the community can be multi-lingual without the need to employ native-language speakers on your support team.

Think Differently About Case Deflection ROI

Case deflection ROI. Can I just start by pointing out the elephant in the corner? It’s really no secret that no one has definitively cracked the nut on proving and reporting on case deflection ROI. We’re all trying, and we’ve seen some good ideas. Unfortunately, all of the current methods have holes. It’s just so hard to capture this moving target.

For instance, a common calculation is:

  1. Identify customer support costs and divide that by the number of tickets to get a cost per ticket.
  2. Count the number of accepted answers in your community.
  3. Measure the traffic to those questions that have an accepted solution.
  4. (B + C) X A = case deflection ROI.

This calculation is good, but it doesn’t account for the fact that as your company grows and your product line expands, the need for support grows, too. And, as membership in your community grows and the community content gains SEO traction, more devs will come to ask and answer questions. That means that more and more devs with find answers by searching the community — more cases deflected.

An alternative is to agree to internal measurements. For instance, you know your support costs and the number of tickets you have today. Internally, you could agree that 10 searches in the community equals one case deflected. Or you could use an analysis of bounce rate and time on page as the barometer — a developer searches on a topic, lands on the site, and bounces within XX seconds could equal a case deflected. The point is that you can identify a case deflection metric that is right for your business and report on ROI based on activity in the community.

Can Teamwork Make the Dream Work?

You bet it can. Here’s a simple but powerful example that provides proof that an online community can help you scale support without an increase in headcount. This example has an ROI in the millions:

A popular online community platform had a burgeoning support caseload. They had a choice: They could spend several million dollars to hire 17 support engineers or they could spend a fraction of that to build a developer community. They started with a developer community. It was so successful at deflecting cases that they didn’t need to hire the extra support staff. That extra headcount expense could now be used elsewhere to grow the business.


When you arm developers with resources to answer their own questions, everyone wins. Developers can resolve issues on their own (which is what they want anyway),  support staff can focus on more pressing issues, and your execs have the ROI they need to prove the value of your community. That’s a dream come true for everyone.

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