Assume a customer service website of some description.

The company behind this website wants customers to navigate through it and find the answer to their question themselves.

They do not want customers to just ring up customer service and ask a basic question that is already answered. Though of course they will have to provide this option somewhere for those cases that can’t be easily handled with self-service.

Hiding the phone number to encourage customers to use the self-service is very bad UX; though business-demands of reducing call numbers will often push designers towards this dark design of making it very hard to actually get directly in touch.

I wonder; has there ever been any research into just how much having an easily visible phone number will lead to increased calls but improved UX?

This will heavily vary case by case and so many other aspects of the design of the site and service will come into play.

But I’m curious about whether anyone has come across a decent A and B study that attempts to quantify the value of hiding/showing numbers, how much a more visible contact number impacts drop-out rate of self service, etc...

Any pointers towards work remotely in this area would be very welcome.


I have no research data for this, other than my own personal experiences (and those I've heard from others).

I think there is often a massive disconnect between what the company is trying to do, and what the end users want to do. I prefer to think of this as specific use cases.

  1. I have a question, that can likely be solved via online help if there is good documentation that is well organized/searchable

  2. I want to talk to a person, what I am looking for/need help with requires a human being to interact with (by phone or text chat)

I am willing to give any company/product/service a go with #1, if they have a system and this is the use case I am dealing with. However if I know my scenario is #2, anything causing me artificial delay in talking with a human being is extremely frustrating and causes my perception of said company to turn negative very quickly. e.g. There is a problem with my billing, I've been overcharged.

For #1 scenarios, if I can quickly search for and find my answer, great. If not, then I should be presented with the ability to contact someone (email/phone/chat) to get the answers/help I need.

I think companies need to understand that there are other use cases too. E.g.

  1. I want to talk to a person, I don't want to (/don't feel comfortable with) using the computer system
  2. I'm somewhere that I can't talk (library, video conference, loud/public place,...) I'd prefer an online chat option
  3. The website/help tool is down/offline/broken (or I'm trying to resolve my lack of Internet with my ISP) so I can not use the online help tool, I need a phone number

I would therefore not do anything to hide the phone number, but feel free to highly recommend the online help as much as you want, and even put the "top 10" help topics right there. e.g. "How do I reset my password?", "How do I check my balance?", "Where did my content go?"...

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