Nine ticketing system tips for outstanding customer service
By Liz Bauer
Last updated July 13, 2021
Customers expect a lot from support teams, especially when it comes to speed. In our 2020 Zendesk customer experience trends report, people rated quick resolution time as the top factor in good customer experience.
To meet customers’ demands for fast resolution times, agents and support reps need to adopt ticketing system best practice that drives consistent, excellent service. If agents can be on the same page about how to prioritise, respond to and follow up on every service request, then your company’s overall customer experience is likely to improve across the board.
Nine support ticket system best practices::
- Define your service-level agreement (SLA)
- Set up tiered support for a smoother ticketing workflow
- Roll out self-service tools
- Use predefined ticket actions and message templates
- Review and add ticket tags
- Track ticket status and monitor progress
- Train new staff on the ticketing system
- Watch your ticket backlog
- Collect and implement feedback from your team
A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contract between you, the service provider, and your users or customers. It spells out the service that customers can expect from you, from first-response time to full-resolution time. An SLA may be an informal promise to all customers, or a formal legal agreement made to specific customers or groups of customers.
SLAs help reps to prioritise tickets and help your customers understand what to expect from your team. An SLA should set service objectives that align with business goals. A start-up, for instance, may promise customers a first-response time of five minutes or less after recognising the metric as one of its strongest growth levers.
Hold your company accountable and create peace of mind for your customers by publishing your SLA openly. Share your SLA via a knowledge-base article linked in agents’ email signatures, or even your automated responses, to make it publicly available.
Done well, an SLA can improve the experience for everyone. For example, FINALCAD achieved 100% SLA compliance with a team of 35 agents processing 2,500 tickets a month – and that led to better service across the board.
‘We know exactly what our priorities are, and can identify and remedy any friction points for our customers,’ said David Vauthrin, co-founder and CMO at FINALCAD.
To organise your ideal ticket workflow, start by looking at the intersection of your customers’ requirements, the size of your company and the capacity of your agents. For small teams with a reasonable number of requests, tackling issues chronologically in first-in, first-out fashion might be the most efficient ticketing system best practice. But the larger the team and the more complex the product, the more agents need to take a layered approach to prioritising tickets.
Large teams usually have more tickets to process, more variables to consider and more channels to manage. That’s why, in addition to investing in omni-channel support software, many large teams also set up tiered support. For example:
- Tier 1: Agents handle simpler problems that can be resolved in 10 minutes or less
- Tier 2: More experienced agents handle more complex problems that take under 10 minutes
- Tier 3: A small team of hybrid agents dedicated to VIP customers
- Tier 4: Specialists who handle technical issues too complex to promise a resolution time
By tiering support capabilities, large teams can spread tickets across multiple agents depending on the circumstances.
The data is clear – customers like using chatbots. The 2020 Zendesk customer experience trends report shows that customers prefer to use a chatbot if it means faster resolution time. Self-service tools also help customers find the answers they need on their own and free up agents to focus on complex issues that need direct monitoring.
Consider setting up chatbots, which simulate conversation on channels such as web chat, social media and mobile apps. Some chatbots are rule based, presenting predefined options to the customer. Others, like Answer Bot, use machine learning to continually get better at understanding customers’ requests and suggesting content.
Another self-service option is creating an internal knowledge base.It’s a searchable online library that groups common issues together and is designed to help your customers find everything they need to know about your products and services. . Our Customer experience report 2020 found that 63% of customers always, or almost always, start by searching a company’s online resources before reporting a problem. This means that a well-built knowledge-management system can stop tickets before they’re raised.
Dollar Shave Club’s story shows how much self-service tools improve efficiency. Its Answer Bot alone handles 12-16% of Dollar Shave Club’s tickets every month. Many of these are simple requests, such as customers wanting to know how to pause their account.
‘We wanted to deflect these kinds of tickets and have more meaningful, consultative conversations with our members, and Answer Bot has been the answer,’ said Trent Hoerman, Senior Programme Manager at Dollar Shave Club.
Customers’ steep expectations regarding response times puts pressure on agents. Our research shows that 51% of consumers who prefer the phone as their primary support channel expect a response in less than five minutes. Twenty eight per cent expect the same on live chat – and 76% expect some level of personalisation as well.
Predefined ticket actions and message templates on your online ticketing system greatly speed up response time. Here’s a look at some common automation for responding to chat, text and email tickets:
- Chat: Set up a bot to have an initial conversation with customers when they submit a ticket via chat. Program the bot to ask questions that will help reps understand the basic details of the problem when they’re able to resolve issues directly..
- Text: When customers submit tickets via text, set up an automated response so that they know their message has been received.
- Email: Just as sales reps have email templates in place for their most common scenarios, so should your customer support reps for the most common problems they solve. They can choose a template, personalise it quickly with details from a customer’s ticket and send it in moments.
With predefined tickets, customers see faster resolution times and agents have more time to handle complicated issues that need their direct attention.
Help desk software automatically tags tickets with short descriptors, such as ‘feedback’, when they’re created. These tags contextualise the problem to help agents prioritise and route each ticket.
But over the course of helping a customer, agents often learn new information that wasn’t available at first. When that happens, agents can add ticket tags that clarify the issue further. This way, they make sure that tickets surface in relevant reports as they develop and are easily searchable. Here are two examples:
- An agent takes a ticket that has been automatically created and tagged by their help desk software. The customer describes their problem in a way that isn’t recognised by the AI software, but the agent sees that it refers to a known bug. The agent adds a tag, such as ‘system_crash’, that triggers reassignment to a higher support tier.
- A support rep recognises that a customer may churn based on the tone of their voice and past service history. So the rep adds a tag flagging the customer as ‘at risk’, along with a note explaining why.
By reviewing and adding tags, agents equip themselves and their team members to solve customers’ problems more effectively.
Always update each ticket’s status as it advances from ‘New’ to ‘Closed’ in your help desk software. This process creates visibility that makes it easier for your team to do their work. Agents will be less likely to let tickets fall through the cracks and they’ll be able to recognise tickets that need extra support.
For status updates to be helpful, agents need to know the expectations associated with each one. For instance, your team may agree that ‘New’ email tickets should be claimed within 60 minutes, and within 60 seconds for chat. Or, you might ask support agents not to advance a ticket to ‘Solved’ status until the customer explicitly agrees that their problem has been solved.
Use alerts in your customer service software to remind agents to take action for each status. For example, you might set an alert that reminds reps to contact a customer again if their ticket has been ‘Pending’ for 48 hours.
If agents and support reps don’t know how to follow your ticketing system, they can’t do their jobs. Make training on your ticketing system a priority during the onboarding process to set your team up for success. Here are three ideas to get you started:
- Ask new reps to resolve simulated tickets. This training creates a low-stakes scenario where agents can build their confidence, understand the ticket management system and learn how to make informed decisions before they start handling real tickets.
- After new reps have solved X simulated tickets, ask them to handle live tickets under your supervision. Review their responses before they interact with customers.
- Create a ‘buddy system’ between new and senior reps. Assign agents an experienced rep who can answer questions, allow the new rep to shadow their calls and review their decisions.
Although a bit of ticket backlog is healthy, an excessive amount is not. An unchecked ticket backlog can create a downward spiral of unhappy customers ready to churn, and burned-out agents ready to leave their jobs. Here’s how to keep your customers and agents happy.
First, watch for signs of overload. Since your backlog breaks down to simple maths, i.e. the number of unsolved tickets divided by the average number of tickets solved weekly, an overload is usually pretty apparent. A ticket spike for one week of the month probably isn’t of great importance. But a backlog that increases a little more every week of the month should be investigated.
If your backlog is unhealthy, analyse your customer service data to evaluate the root issues driving your backlog.
- Customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey scores show how well you’re meeting customers’ expectations. If it’s trending downwards, send follow-up surveys to find out why. Perhaps customers will say that they’re passed off too many times, which gives you clues as to why tickets keep getting stuck. Maybe there’s confusion about tagging processes on the ticket software system, or perhaps tickets are not being escalated appropriately, keeping them from getting to the right agent.
- Ticket volumes by channel point to where your customers prefer to get support. If your backlog shows stuck tickets ramping up on certain channels, consider adjusting agent coverage to balance your team’s load.
- Full-resolution time and reopening rates reveal changes in the complexity of your customers’ issue requests. Maybe your company has launched a new product that requires more technical expertise to support than expected. Your team might need extra training or you may need to expand your specialist tier.
By diving into the data, you’ll find solutions for reducing your backlog, whether that’s re-optimising your ticket workflow, adding more staff or increasing software spend to resolve tickets faster.
Ask your agents. Your reps are a great source of insight, as they’re doing the work every day. Not to mention that they’ll probably be happy to know that you value their input.
Gathering the feedback doesn’t have to be complicated or time consuming. For instance, you could:
- Host ‘town hall’ meetings. To help spark the conversation, collect questions about ticketing issues from reps ahead of time.
- Send internal surveys with incentives to take them, such as a draw for a gift card. Use a survey when you need to gather in-depth feedback on your ticketing processes, such as digging into how well agents think your SLA objectives serve customers.
- Create polls to quickly gather agents’ opinions on ticketing. For instance, if you’re considering several tactics for bringing ticket volumes down, ask agents which ones they think would work best.
Just as customers want their service to feel personalised, your agents also want their work to feel personalised. Collecting and implementing their feedback helps to do this.
Help your agents to help your customers.
With a good ticketing system, you’ll help your agents create positive customer experiences that drive customer loyalty. You’ll also help create a better employee experience for your agents, a streamlined workflow and more understanding about expectations for ticket times.
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