As the old saying goes, in this world nothing can be said to be certain… except that support tickets never stop arriving. Being a customer service agent, you know that the never-ending flow of support requests is a good sign, since it indicates that more and more people are using your company's products and services. However, their satisfaction depends not only on your knowledge about the product and your ability to solve cases, but also how timely your responses are.
How do you measure the ‘wellbeing’ of your ticket queue? One of the most important indicators of a healthy support process is your ability to prevent support tickets from pilling up. Of course there are unpredictable factors, such as a bug in your product that results in an overwhelming amount of tickets, or an unexpected situation causing a number of your team members to miss work. But having a methodology and help desk software for support ticket management will guarantee that these examples are the exception, not the rule - and even make your life easier in times of crisis.
If you are in charge of managing queues for customer service, and you are looking for advice to make your team perform better, read on for our seven tips to prevent support tickets from pilling up:
01. Create a comprehensive knowledge base
The first rule of ticket queue management is not to have a queue! We do not mean revoking your client's possibility of submitting tickets. Instead, creating a rich knowledge base (KB) is the best way to avoid receiving tickets in the first place. Bear in mind that the client would prefer to simply google their question and find a straightforward answer online than having to call or write an email.
Prepare a list of all possible questions that might come up about your products and services. You should include everything, from their most basic characteristics and purposes to advanced tutorials, payment methods and shipping rules. Then start writing standardized answers for each one of them, as well as for unexpected inquiries you get from potential clients. Publish this content in a dedicated section of your website, so people can go over them (or even better: find them on Google!) instead of having to talk to your team about every little detail.
You knowledge base will not only serve as a 24/7 first tier of support. The replies you prepared in advance will also be available for you to use when looking up the answers of actual support tickets you will receive. Using these chunks of text to compose your messaging has a twofold advantage: you are saving time by not having to write the same paragraphs repeatedly, and using pre-approved copy reduces the chances of incomplete answers, forgotten details and spelling mistakes.
02. Optimize the ticket submission process
Let's be honest: no knowledge base will cater to every client’s need. Even if you have the most comprehensive KB, there will still be those very intricate cases that have to be analyzed thoroughly by your team. For those situations, your ticket submission funnel must prompt the client to write the most complete ticket possible. They might be craving an open text field where they can open their hearts, so make sure you still provide them with one of those. In exchange, present some mandatory, straight-to-the-point fields (or even multiple choice drop-down menus), where they are compelled to fill in all of the boring information you need and might otherwise leave out. It will be like a ticket writing checklist!
03. Know (and apply) the FIFO method
What is having just a few unanswered tickets in your queue worth, if all of them have been waiting for more than a week to be answered? A high-performing service desk ticket management method not only maintains a careful balance between the amount of incoming tickets and the amount of answered ones, it also makes sure that no ticket waits considerably longer than average to be dealt with. This means that whenever possible, agents should answer tickets following the order in which they arrived. This management method is frequently called by the tag FIFO, for “First In, First Out”. There is no problem in prioritizing specific clients or issues, as long as all tickets are answered in a reasonably chronological order.
04. Use triage
Speaking of prioritizing… The bigger your team grows, the more specialized it can become. This allows for triage of tickets, which can be done by filtering according to different criteria, or a combination of them. Having dedicated teams to specific issues is one possibility, so your engineers never lose their time dealing with billing issues, for example. You can also train selected agents to deal with your flagship product or with a new resource, thereby prioritizing support ticket management for these areas.
Using triage as part of your service desk ticket management avoids wasting your more experienced agents’ time dealing with very basic tickets. It also allows you to offer a more personalized, responsive service for your paying customers, creating separate queues for premium and VIP clients. For those of you working with the freemium business model, it is here that lies the philosophical question of whether your company should provide customer service for free users. Some businesses opt to make their knowledge base available for everyone, while keeping the possibility of submitting support tickets as a premium feature. On the other hand, there are companies that believe that great customer service is a strong conversion force, and is used to convince free users to buy an upgrade. It's up to you!
05. Make it easier for other agents to jump into the ticket
As intuitive as it might sound, we still want to write it down: replying faster is a great way to avoid your ticket queue from pilling up. But you must do it without affecting the quality of your customer service. For that, you need to make sure the next available agent is able to jump in after reading the previous dialogue in your customer support software. A comprehensive support ticket management solution such as Wix Answers allows your team to leave notes for the next agent, who will also be able to easily access the whole history of the correspondence with the client, as well as their user profile. This avoids redundant questions, and expedites solutions.
06. Create a workflow
In the previous paragraphs, we talked about several decisions you and your team will have to make when managing the queues for your customer service. Now is the time to organize all those procedures into a workflow. Of course, we are not talking about a long treaty on customer service - a few paragraphs and some flowcharts are much more visual and should do the work just fine. Focus on explaining who deals with what, when and why, as well as where tickets should be escalated to.
After going through this soul-searching process, you should end up with comprehensive documentation for ticket queue management. This rich material should be easily available at all times (for internal use only!) but it is essential that every agent go through initial training, as well as advanced and recycling sessions. Team managers should be able to authorize overriding of the protocol on a case-by-case basis, when unordinary situations come up. However, under normal circumstances, they should be the ones leading by example, applying and enforcing the workflow.
07. Set performance goals
Naturally, results will not appear overnight. Service desk ticket management is a long-term job, but metrics should be analyzed on a regular basis. Seeing as this a client-centered job, an adequate indicator is FCR, which stands for First-Contact Resolution. Basically, it’s when the client's inquiry is solved in a single contact. If your customer support software allows for easily adding previously written chunks of text to your replies, such as detailed tutorials and well-crafted explanations, using them smartly will enhance your chances of solving the issue on your first reply and avoiding follow-up emails.
Based on FCR, you can measure the percentage of tickets that are closed after one single reply from your team (100% being the ideal), and the average number of replies required to close a ticket (1 being the ideal). It will not take you a lot of time to notice that different types of users and different levels of ticket complexity require different FCR standards. This analysis will help you set appropriate goals and make subsequent adjustments to the workflow that your team is following.
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