Put your customers first

As fast-growing startups put more time and effort into their support operations, their investments are paying off. Increased productivity means less time keeping customers waiting and a better experience for customers and agents overall.

At six months, early stage startups had nearly identical wait times (14 hours), regardless of whether they were fast-growing or not. It actually took fast-growing teams an hour longer, on average, to first reply to a customer request than their slower growth peers. But by year two, their support teams were resolving tickets and responding to customer questions in about half the time.

If you’re an early stage startup, you should aim to keep your reply times to around three hours for non-live channels (e.g. email) and have tickets resolved within one business day (8.4 hours) by your second year of adding a support platform. And as you look to the future, these resolution times should fall even further. The benchmark time for fast-growing mid-sized startups is just over five hours.

Fast-growing startups are not just throwing people at the increased demand from customers to get these quicker results. Efficiency is also improving over time, and the number of tickets per agent is on average 42% greater for this group than other startups after two years. Productivity improvements take time and investment, so focus on the benchmark ratio for the end of year one —100 tickets per agent.

Performance results at end of year 2

Above: performance for three important customer service KPIs for the startups analyzed (by company size): first reply time, first resolution time, and requester wait time - the lower the better!

What about unicorns?

Every startup wants to become the next big thing. So what can we learn from companies using Zendesk that have gone on to become unicorns? For one, they adopt omnichannel and live channels quicker than anyone else (even the fast-growth startups in our dataset!). In their first two years, unicorns were 37 percent more likely to offer omnichannel customer service, 38 percent more likely to have rolled out chat, and 48 percent more likely to have phone support. They were also quicker to build out online help centers to answer common customer questions before they became tickets. Unicorns added self-service 61 percent faster than other startups in their first year, and most (60 percent) have a self-service feature like a help center or community forum by year two.


more likely to offer omnichannel

customer service


more likely to roll out chat

as a live channel


more likely to offer phone support

as a live channel

Despite these results, fast-growth startups actually saw lower customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores. In fact, average scores dropped as companies processed more tickets. How can this be if customers are getting faster responses, more options for contacting support, and better experiences overall?

As companies build out their support systems, it’s not uncommon to see a downward trend in CSAT scores because customers expect more from bigger companies with more sophisticated customer service operations. Early-stage startups should work to maintain at least a 90% customer satisfaction rating.

To the right: the average CSAT score at year 2 for startups based on company size. Growing teams have lower CSAT, implying their customers may have higher expectations.

Median CSAT score by ticket volume

Median CSAT at year 2 by startup size

To the left: the median CSAT score by ticket volume. Note that as volume increases, CSAT decreases.

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