[MUSIC PLAYING] OK, so it's time to do a little bit of math. Or if you're Australian like me, maths you can choose. So take the number of paying customers that you had in the last month, and divide that by the number of support staff you have. So using some nice small numbers. If you had 300 paying customers and 2 support staff, that's 150. We'll call that number your customer support ratio. How many customers you have for every support agent.
Now one more calculation. Start with the total number of support requests in the last month, and divide them by the number of paying customers last month. So if you received hundreds support requests from your 300 customers, you'd get 0.33 or 33%. And that number is your contact rate. With these two numbers, you can do some pretty basic forecasting.
And say for example, if we add another 300 customers, and assume that they ask questions at roughly the same rate, then we're going to need two more support staff to maintain those same ratios. And you'll quickly see, it can become pretty expensive in staffing as you add customers to your business. So the key to scaling up your business without scaling your customer service staffing in the same way is to change those two ratios, the customer support ratio and the contact rate.
And you can do that by each customer support agent assisting more customers every month or by reducing the average number of support requests per customer. And ideally of course, you would work on both of those factors. For this lesson, we're just going to talk about self-service as a way of reducing your customer's need to contact you. And therefore, bringing down that contact rate. Now, when I say a self-service, you might be thinking about those robot checkout machines at the supermarket.
You know, the ones that yell at you to put the item in the bagging area, even though the item is already in the bagging area. You stupid machine. Anyway, not talking about self-service which really means make the customer do the work. I'm talking about useful self-service, like when you're dreading having to call your bank to change some limit. But then you realize, you can do it online, and it takes 10 seconds.
That's the ideal self-service. It's a genuinely better experience. What does that look like for e-commerce stores? Well you should start by identifying the most likely targets for self-service in your business. If you don't do the service yourself, ask your customer team. They can probably tell you the most common queries. And look at your tagging, look at your reporting, so you get some insight into where the questions are coming from.
But some good targets are common questions where the answer is the same or similar for everybody like, how do I do a return. Customer questions which currently need your team to do some small task, but that the customers could do if they had the tools to do it, like changing their credit card details. Or queries where the answer is already on the website, like if I queues around shipping costs and times, you can make those more visible.
Link them more prominently. Put them in your receipts and other forms of contact. And product detail pages-- if you're finding you have to provide the same information to customers individually over time, invest the time upfront, add those details to the website directly. And look at using other media, using photos or videos where possible. Text is great for some customers, but other people just don't want to read too much. Another good self-service target is customer forums.
Can you provide a place for your customers to help each other? You'll still need to staff it and maintain it, but you can scale it much more effectively than answering every question individually. Of course, it's easy for me to tell you, do some self service. The reality is, it's very time consuming to set it up even though you know that it's going to pay off in the long term. So enlist your team to help. Customer service staff, they're often really grateful for the chance to get their heads out of the queue for a while.
And write some documentation or create a video. And at the very least, you can remove as much friction from the process for them. Make it easy for them to tag and answer as there should be a knowledge base article for this. And then prioritize those articles in your self-service knowledge base. Self-service is only one way to reduce the customer contact rate, but it's an easy one to start with, and you build it over time. And if you combine that with improving your tools and processes, and making your team more efficient, then you can start to really reduce your reliance on hiring new staff to help all those new customers.
Figuring out how effective your team is where there are opportunities to improve, that's why you need solid reporting. And that is our next and final lesson in this course.