Looking to improve your support team’s ticket management?
Unlock your support team’s potential and deliver exceptional customer service with these 8 expert tips for ticket management. When you’re an early-stage startup or you’ve just launched support for a new product, you tend to focus on each support interaction.
Replying to your customers in a friendly and helpful way—while solving their problems—is the most direct way to provide that great experience. And it works.
For a while.
Past a certain size, your support ticket queue becomes its own beast. Some people describe it as an “enormous, gelatinous, sticky, messy blob” or “25,000 Jack Russell terriers with their heads stuck in paper sacks.”
Seem like an exaggeration? You’d be surprised (or maybe not, if you’ve been in support for long enough).
As your business grows, your support queue can morph into something that’s overwhelming, all-consuming, and out of control. But with the right ticket management methods in place, it can provide clarity, priorities, direction, and that great feeling of a job well done at the end of the day.
It’s important to get this right, because delivering a great customer experience has wide-reaching positive consequences for your business, ranging from better customer retention to more referrals to increased revenue. In fact, an NPS Promoter score has a customer lifetime value that’s 600%-1,400% higher than a Detractor.
- How ticket management influences customer support
- 8 ways to improve your support team’s ticket management
- 1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!
- 2. Create the minimum necessary views
- 3. Agree on a standardized workflow
- 4. Automate as much as possible
- 5. Create a triage role
- 6. Maintain a good overview
- 7. Make the queue motivating
- 8. Keep experimenting!
- Great ticket management unlocks your team’s productivity
Start your day
How ticket management influences customer support
We (humans) tend to assume that workload is static.
If it takes 10 minutes to answer a ticket, that’s just how long it takes. It would take the same 10 minutes regardless of when you’re answering, what you might have done before, or what you need to do after. That’s just what it takes to do the job, right?
Bad ticket management reinforces this lesson like nothing else.
At its core, ticket management is about organizing and prioritizing customer support tickets. The goal is to manage the flow of the ticket from the moment it’s created to the point it’s resolved. Reducing and optimizing the steps involved makes all the difference.
Here’s an example: Say a ticket gets reassigned repeatedly. Each time it’s reassigned, someone has to open it, read it, think about it, and reassign it. That’s all wasted time.
Better ticket queue management leads to better customer service, reduced response times, higher customer satisfaction, and a more productive customer service team.
8 ways to improve your support team’s ticket management
The good news is there are a lot of easy wins when it comes to ticket management.
Here are 8 ways to streamline your queue today:
- Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!
- Create the minimum necessary views
- Agree on a standardized workflow
- Automate as much as possible
- Create a triage role
- Maintain a good overview
- Make the queue motivating
- Keep experimenting!
1. Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize!
Ticket management starts with setting good priorities.
Many companies use the first in, first out (FIFO) method with great success. It’s a simple and easy way to prioritize: whoever contacts you first gets answered first.
But it’s not the only way to approach your support tickets. Other options you should consider include:
- Giving higher value customers preferential treatment. Customers that pay for a higher tier plan get a faster response.
- Treating some types of issues as more urgent than others. For example, if a customer experiences a failed payment, this could be a higher priority than a “how-to” question.
- Allowing customers to select the urgency when they create the ticket. This often works best if you offer a business-critical service.
You can also mix and match these approaches. Perhaps higher value customers get prioritized, but a payment issue always gets bumped to the top of your queue, regardless of who it’s from.
93% of customers will likely make repeat purchases with companies that offer excellent customer service. The difficulty is in defining what that excellent customer service looks like for your customers, then consistently delivering it.
2. Create the minimum necessary views
You’ve probably heard of the principle “as little as possible, as much as necessary.” It’s traditionally used in agriculture, but it’s also a good principle for support.
It’s much easier to manage your support queue if you have one view. Everyone in the team always works in the same view when they’re working on tickets.
Why? Because every additional view reduces focus, creates distractions, and makes it feel like you’re playing whack-a-mole. Your team has to spread their attention and switch focus every time they switch a view.
So while minimizing views is wise, there will be reasons you need multiple views: for different types of tickets, different categories of customers, or to separate urgent cases from the rest. All of these allow for some level specialization. Specialization increases efficiency, as long as your team is clear on what they should be focused on.
Every support team has its sweet spot when it comes to ticket views. What’s yours?
3. Agree on a standardized workflow
A standardized workflow defines how every person works on tickets. You can agree on some ground rules within the team, such as:
- Avoid cherry-picking
- Answer assigned tickets first (or last, or in the same order as the main queue).
- Every person can freely hand off one ticket to someone else that day if they’re struggling or frustrated.
- Clean up all open tickets before going on vacation.
- Leave notes describing your findings when you do in-depth investigation or testing.
Defining these rules as a team creates a sense of shared commitment and responsibility, making the queue easier to manage.
4. Automate as much as possible
Automation reduces human error and saves massive amounts of time.
In the context of ticket management, automation usually refers to automatic ticket categorization, tagging, or prioritization. It can also include auto-replies, reminders sent to your team, or pushed certain tickets to the top of the queue (e.g. when a ticket approaches your SLA).
Automation can also extend out to things like macros, chatbots, and more. While some tools—like chatbots—aren’t technically managing your queue, each time they help your customers self-service, that’s one less ticket you’ll see in your queue.
When your queue is automatically prioritized, sorted, and streamlined, your team can focus their energy on responding to customers.
5. Create a triage role
Did you know that 90% of customers rate an “immediate” response as essential or very important when they have a customer service question? And 60% of those customers define “immediate” as 10 minutes or less.
Even if you can’t usually deliver that response time for all tickets, you can create systems that ensure at least some of your customers have that experience.
One way to do that—while organizing the queue efficiently—is to have a triage role.
The triage role typically involves:
- Reviewing and prioritizing incoming support requests.
- Categorizing them based on their type and level of urgency (if this isn’t automated).
- Assigning tickets to the right team members.
- Solving any tickets that can be answered quickly with a macro.
- Identifying new issues or bugs that only emerge now.
An effective ticket triaging process can deliver a near immediate response for simple customer issues, while also shortening the wait time for the rest of your customer base.
6. Maintain a good overview
The power of a good dashboard in enabling ticket management cannot be overstated.
Whether you use a dashboard or find a way to do this inside your helpdesk, maintaining a good overview of the queue makes a huge difference to your team’s ability to organize their work.
Everyone on your team should know:
- The size of the queue
- The incoming ticket volume for that day (or week)
- How many tickets were answered that day
- The distribution of open tickets based on status, such as the number of on-hold or pending tickets
Having this overview makes it easier for the team as a whole to keep track of the queue and manage their priorities accordingly.
7. Make the queue motivating
Let’s be honest: working in a ticket queue is a Sisyphean task.
If you’re not familiar with Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king who was punished by the gods. His punishment? To push a huge boulder up a hill for all eternity. Each time he neared the top, the boulder would roll back down and he’d have to begin all over.
The support queue never ends. You can answer all the tickets, hit inbox zero…but wait a few minutes and new tickets will always appear. Working in customer support is hardest when the whole team works like mad, but the ticket backlog just doesn’t budge because the incoming volume is equally as high.
Focusing on motivation can dramatically change how your team manages this never-ending ticket workload. Here are some surprisingly reliable examples:
- Set goals for the team. Setting ambitious, achievable goals is an extremely effective way to rally and motivate your team. If incoming volume is high, it might be good to set a goal of answered tickets—because that’s one thing that’s within your team’s control.
- Celebrate goal achievement. Throw a party. Buy everyone lunch. Create a little firework animation in your helpdesk if you achieve a weekly goal. Big or small, celebrating wins encourages hard work.
- Have a visual representation of progress, such as a progress bar on your dashboard. It may seem like a small addition, but it helps keep the team focused and on task.
Another way to make sure the queue doesn’t get draining is to give your team tasks that are not ticket-related.
It might sound counterintuitive to say you can improve your ticket management by reducing the time your team spends in the queue, but people need variety to perform at their best. 74% of all customer support team members experience burnout throughout their careers. Queue fatigue is a big driver of that burnout.
8. Keep experimenting!
Ticket management is a never-ending experiment.
As your team and company grow, your process will change. Your ticket volume will ebb and flow. Some methods might work great for now, but they’ll need tweaking at other times. That’s why you have to keep experimenting.
Give your team regular opportunities to take stock of your current system. Explore what’s working and what isn’t. Listen to their feedback.
Experiment with different specialized techniques to tackle specific problems:
- Filter out some tickets to reply to later. When you’re working efficiently, some tickets might take the wind out of your sails and slow you down. These are often very long or complex tickets. Dealing with these separately can keep your team in the zone.
- Batch bug reports. It’s easier to notice if a new bug crops up when those tickets are handled as a batch. This can make identifying bugs much faster and decrease the effort of testing.
- Assign specialized roles for some periods. If your team often struggles to answer some types of tickets, assigning them might make a huge difference. These could be old(er) tickets that everyone avoids, or tickets from certain channels (like social media).
- Hide the queue. Most helpdesks offer a feature like Zendesk’s “Guided mode” that allows you to hide the whole queue so your team can only see the tickets they need to work on. This is a great way to handle stressful situations.
- Use round-robin ticket assignment. Round-robin assignment means assigning a ticket to each agent randomly until they have the same number of tickets. If you need to combat cherry-picking and want to improve knowledge across the team, this can be a great tactic.
Great ticket management unlocks your team’s productivity
setting up the queue in a way that works for them.
As a support leader, giving your team the tools they need to provide an amazing customer experience should be priority number one. Managing the queue may be a never-ending challenge, but improving your ticket management is one tool that can transform your entire support team.