When less is more in customer service


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Less is more.

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Source: Wikipedia

Most are familiar with this expression, but what about its origin? This required a bit of research–thank you, Wikipedia–which credits German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohewith with originally coining the phrase. Not surprisingly, his work and this idea fall into the category of minimalism, a trend also present in other fields like art and music. The concept has more personal and daily application, as well, such as when applying perfume or salting food.

But what does this have to do with customer service? A lot, actually. The idea of less being or offering more applies in a few areas, and results in a better customer experience.

Knowledge management

Knowledge bases are started with the best of intentions. An organization plans to capture information in a single location searchable by customers and agents alike in need of a solution. What could possibly go wrong?

Left to its own devices, a knowledge base can quickly lose its value. Solutions for products and services that are no longer available linger on. Duplicate answers exist. The number of articles balloons. This means searches take longer and return long lists of potential solutions to choose from, frustrating both customers and agents.

The solution is ongoing curation. That same team of editors responsible for ensuring consistent, well-written, and correct articles must also monitor the lifespan of those articles. Outdated articles must be retired. Less frequently accessed documents should be reviewed and either updated or removed. A leaner knowledge base of the most-needed and accessed articles will ensure more nimble searches and a greater chance of success for its users.


A healthy, vibrant online community of interactions and answers is a great thing. Like a knowledge base, it’s a great source of answers for customers. And also like a knowledge base, it can quickly become bloated with outdated conversations no longer useful or relevant.

Once again, the solution is curation. Remove threads that are no longer useful. Ensure helpful conversations are designated as such so they are easier for customers to locate, and consider copying or moving proven solutions into the knowledge base.


Chatbots are one of the newest additions to the customer service tool belt. Though the technology continues to improve, customers remain skeptical about their use.

And with good reason. Like a knowledge base containing too many articles, a chatbot without a specific set of scenarios it can address and defined guardrails for those conversations can result in customers having long and empty conversations. This reduces their faith and makes for a poor experience. The solution to this problem is two-fold.

First, focus the chatbot on the high-volume, low complexity issues. Addressing these types of issues ensures customers can receive solutions at any time from the chatbot, thus reducing the burden on the contact center. Low complexity issues also require the least amount of back-and-forth dialog between the customer and chatbot, minimizing the chance for frustration.

Second, ensure both the customer and chatbot have an easy route to a live human agent. (For the chatbot, this means it must know when progress isn’t being made and to offer a transfer.) Naturally, all the details of what has transpired between the chatbot and the customer must be passed along to the agent.

Customer selections

In most customer service scenarios, a lot of the burden is placed on the customer to provide details. What is the product or service they are contacting customer service about? What is the issue? Regardless if they are calling, emailing, chatting, or opening a case online, they are assaulted with questions asking for details. Oftentimes they are required to select from long lists of choices which don’t even apply to their circumstances.

The solution? Personalization. By knowing the customer and the products and services they use, questions can be limited to only those appropriate to the customer. Selections and responses can list only those pertinent. The result is a more focused interaction with the customer, saving them time and effort.

Don’t stop there. Look across the entire customer service experience for opportunities to personalize. In the three prior “less is more” categories, for example, knowledge base and community search results can be automatically filtered only to those products and services the customer possesses; chatbot conversations can be limited to only those applicable.

Words to live by

As humans, it’s in our nature to be acquisitive. We want to build on what we have. We want more, because more just feels right. The problem is that too many choices and options can be overwhelming. It creates too many paths, paths that don’t lead to the desired result.

The answer is to cut back. Mindfully reduce the number of options. Knowledge base articles, community threads, chatbot conversations, and customer selections are just a few examples of places where excess may be accumulating. Reduce the volume to lessen the friction and get customers to solutions faster.

Paul Selby
I am a product marketing consultant for Aventi Group. Aventi Group is the first product marketing agency solely dedicated to high-tech clients. We’re here to supplement your team and bring our expertise to bear on your top priorities, so you achieve high-quality results, fast.


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