Eric McKirdy, Global Customer Care Manager,

SuperNova Award Category

Next Generation Customer Experience

The Company (formerly has been in the Q&A business for more than 16 years delivering trusted answers to more than 100 million global users each month.

The Problem

In 2010, Ask’s customer support was based on an aging support portal powered by an unbending CRM platform containing hundreds of disorganized knowledgebase articles that nobody wanted to navigate or read; innumerable tier-one tickets were being filed which could have easily been answered by self-service. The platform didn’t offer key elements of a modern customer service solution such as social media, mobile  or self service functionalities. The company known for answering the world’s questions was facing a huge challenge in answering its own customers.

The Solution

Coming in to Ask, I recognized right away that a huge opportunity was being missed in not allowing people to easily find answers on their own to very basic and common support questions. A constant backlog of tickets to respond to resulted in slow response times, adding salt to the wounds of already frustrated users and leaving the company to respond from a position of weakness.

The weak self-service functionality was the biggest and most urgent problem to focus on. We also knew a more personalized approach to all customer interactions across all channels would be critical. We wanted to let users choose how they preferred to engage with customer care, whether that was through self-service, email, phone, social media, or even chat. I began cold-calling customer service technology vendors and knew I had the right one when they said they were going to make their solution work for, not the other way around.

The Results 

Previously, the content on’s customer-facing support portal was uncategorized and disorganized. In the old portal, going to the Help Center meant seeing a page of blue links to support articles, and a trail that led to countless more pages of blue links.  To add to the frustration, the search function on our self-service portal was flaky at best and usually returned irrelevant/unhelpful articles for most queries. Thin on patience, users would place tickets, call, email or tweet (in upwards of 30 tweets a day at a time when we didn’t have social customer service capabilities).

We launched with our new customer service software provider, Parature, on November 21, 2012. The most obvious difference was the level of customization we had, from organizing content in the knowledge base to the personalized emails users received when they had unique questions for Ask.

Now at, the Ask Help Center articles are both categorized and organized, with the most popular articles and the most recently viewed articles appearing first. And if users couldn’t find their answers on their own, support ticket submission, live chat and a feedback tool is offered just one click away.

Parature’s Easy Answer functionality also suggests knowledgebase articles as a user is typing in their support ticket issue which helps in deflection. With detailed reporting dashboards, Ask can track exactly how many people started off writing an email to us, but were deflected into a relevant, useful knowledgebase article. saw a dramatic decline in tickets filed after just two weeks. Page views in the knowledge base were head and shoulders higher than they had been in the previous portal, and users were far more informed about our products and processes, so when they did need to get in touch, they were able to speak from a point of authority about their situations and know exactly what kind of help or information to request. Because we were more confident in our platform, we changed our phone greeting to steer people online to the Help Center where we knew we could address the majority of their concerns.

This evolution of our self-service portal was a huge win for us. I’m confident enough in it now, that my name and my picture is on the home page of the support site. How many customer service executives are willing to do that?

We’re also adding and improving channels, including social media. We now monitor and respond to Twitter, Facebook and Google+ around the clock, and our goal is to be the first response to people when they express any sentiment about the brand or one of its products. A friendly, official presence immediately defuses a frustrated user and allows for a constructive and useful interaction.

From a self-service platform that didn’t serve well, to a true multi-channel service offering at scale to our more than 100 million users per month, we’ve come incredibly far in less than a year.

The Technology

Parature Customer Service Software, Parature

Metrics Matter

Under’s previous support system, we routinely saw in upwards of 2,000 support tickets filed each week. That number dropped to 800 per week within two weeks of launching Parature. 

The previous support site knowledgebase got approximately 500-600 page views per day. The Parature knowledge base receives more than 2500 page views per day on average.

The impact is huge with is less time spent being buried in reactive support (responding to tickets), and support interactions can now be handled in one or two exchanges (instead of several). When an agent can spend three minutes on a ticket instead of 20, more tickets are handled in the same amount of time, thereby reducing cost-per-ticket. This also allows more agent time for providing proactive and personal support on social media, forums and blogs and other sites outside of our own.

Using Parature, customer service response times went down from 8 hours to 1.5 hours. Beyond receiving less support tickets, calls and tweets through successful self-service deflection, processes are simpler, too. A great example is the process of changing a username on an account in our Q&A Community. Prior to Parature, a typical ticket would say "I want to change my username" and nothing else. Without a crystal ball handy, we would have to go back and forth to first verify that the person really is part of the community and has a valid account, and then ferreting out what the desired username was.

In Parature, typing "I want to change my username" will first bring up an article that outlines the step-by-step process, from the need to tell us your current username and email address-of-record, and three suggestions for a new username between 3-20 characters, and containing only numbers, letters and underscores. Armed with that information, users come to us with all of that data ready so we can get the username changed in one transaction and move on. Huge time savings!

Disruptive Factor has become a leader in customer service and support within less than a year with successful self-service and personalized full-service capabilities.

When users request service and support from, whether that’s by phone, email, support ticket, self-service, chat or social media, they are literally one in 100 million, but can now make them feel like one in a million.

Internally, the quick turnaround and success in’s customer service offering has helped renew our brand’s passion for service and support; it makes us feel closer to our users, and helps us better understand and resolve not just wide-scale support issues but unique ones that require a personalized, human touch.

Shining Moment

Parature’s mobile offering that we didn’t have with our previous solution has allowed me to respond to support tickets while rehearsing on the pipe organ in the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, at 38,000 miles on commercial flights, below sea level in Death Valley – even at the top of the Empire State Building. Our responsiveness and dedication to support now that we have the solution to back up our passion just keeps getting more and more impressive.

About is a leading online brand for questions and answers and an operating business of IAC (NASDAQ: IACI). With more than 100 million monthly global visitors, the company is ranked as a top U.S. Internet site. Ask offers the only curated Q&A experience that surfaces actual answers (not just links) through search, opinions from a community of real people and topic authorities to offer a 360 view on any question. Originally known as Ask Jeeves, is now available as mobile apps and have been downloaded more than 3 million times. More information is available at or