Upwork has 90% self-service adoption rate with Zendesk Guide

With Zendesk's omnichannel solution, Upwork has seen a 50% increase in agent productivity and a 90% self-service adoption rate across its freelance network

“To me, the key differentiator for Zendesk is the relationship we have. We feel Zendesk really values our feedback and that our voice is heard. I’ve worked with multiple CRM companies in my career, and Zendesk is definitely the most proactive in providing support to customers.”

- Joe Wang

Director of Customer Experiences at Upwork

Products used


Self Service Adoption


Productivity Gains


Increased Adherence to Chat SLA


Support Channels Offered

Talent can be hard to find—or once was. Upwork has successfully connected clients with talent for the past 15 years, growing to become the world’s largest online marketplace for freelancers.

As long as an assignment can be completed on a computer over wifi, Upwork can help companies source a freelancer from around the corner, or around the world. With a focus on knowledge-based work that can be done online, Upwork clients across the globe can engage with freelancers in 180 countries.

Upwork’s model works so well that the company uses it internally. Upwork’s own team is comprised of its corporate workforce and also collaborates with up to 700 freelancers at any given time. All Upwork support agents work from home, many from the Philippines and the United States, and all use the same solution to perform their work: Zendesk.

It was important to Upwork to use an integrated omnichannel solution to provide a seamless support experience to end users as well as the freelancers providing the support. Each support channel offered—email, live chat, phone, and a self-service help center—creates tickets in Zendesk Support. In addition to Support, Upwork uses Zendesk Guide for its help center, Zendesk Chat for live chat, and integrates with NICE inContact for phone support.

“One of the biggest benefits is that everything is centralized,” said Joe Wang, Upwork’s director of customer experience. “Agents can go to just one source and look at all the history with a customer instead of having to check three different places. By putting everything together, we can improve our productivity and performance.”

Half of Upwork’s volume comes in through live chat. Wang noted, “Chat is definitely the most popular method for both freelancers and clients to get assistance, when it’s an option, because they can get answers in real-time.”

Clients have access to all three channels at any given time, but since Wang’s arrival nearly two years ago, Upwork has moved toward differentiating the channels available to freelancers based on their needs and their activities on Upwork.

Upwork makes channel distinctions for freelancers based on data they pull in from an integration with Zendesk Support and the company’s internal data warehouse. No matter which channels are visible at any given time, all clients and freelancers are encouraged to turn to self-service first.

Upwork’s help center provides articles and information designed to address commonly asked questions, thereby reducing the number of chats and tickets submitted. Wang shared, “We examine a lot of metrics in our help center, and self-help is something we’re looking into optimizing now. Chat is fast, but self-service is even faster. For freelancers, 10 minutes saved means doing 10 minutes more work on our platform.”

Upwork’s differentiated, omnichannel strategy has been smart. Wang can point to successes such as a 10 percent increase in self-service usage and a 20 percent improvement in adherence to its chat SLA—along with an improved first touch resolution rate, and a 50 percent increase in productivity.

“A case that before needed multiple touch points is now handled in one interaction,” he said. “We also improved the escalation workflow between teams. Many cases no longer require escalation.” By fine-tuning Upwork’s support with Zendesk, Wang has been able to try new configurations of agents and is introducing a new model in which agents handle specific channels rather than supporting all of them.

Wang is also implementing a creative use of chat to promote the success of both clients and freelancers. He explained, “Clients who are new to remotely collaborating with freelancers rely on Customer Support to assist along the way, so we’re starting to use chat to help users go through the whole cycle from initial connection to the successful finish of their project. We’ve seen a lot of success with this new service we’re providing, and a lift in our business metrics, so we believe this is something we’ll continue to invest in.”

As Wang continues to strengthen the Upwork customer experience, he values the support his team receives from a customer success executive and others at Zendesk. “Everyone at Zendesk is very responsive, and that has helped us in our journey,” he said.