6 Tips to Streamline Customer Support Ticket Management

Innovative technology, such as on premise ERPs and internet fax software, provide essential streamlining of essential processes that help businesses to succeed. One such process that managers will be keen to refine in this way is their customer support ticketing system. Fortunately, ticketing software is available to deliver streamlining in this area.

Ticketing software is used to record and track customer support requests. It offers features that enable users to prioritize requests, automate workflow and the assignment of tasks, and monitor the progress of requests as they make their journey through the support procedure. They also provide a neat and convenient live hub that compiles all of your support requests, and some even integrate with a voice-over internet phone system.

However, these ticketing softwares are not self-sufficient and require active management so that they don’t become backlogged with unresolved requests. This article will outline six tips for you to implement to ensure the smooth operation of your ticketing system, and thus that you are making the most of your ticket management software.

1. Triage

Typically, there are two approaches for attacking a backlogged list of requests. The first is to utilize a first-come, first-served policy, whereby you simply work your way through the list starting with the oldest cases through to the new. This is generally best practice, especially if your company has an SLA to adhere to.

However, when you’re dealing with a backlog composed of cases of varying nature, you may find that spending ages attempting to deal with an old and complicated request allows for new and simple requests to amass at the bottom of your list. This calls for the second approach which is to establish some element of prioritization.

To separate priority cases from the bunch, try implementing a triaging regime. This involves commissioning an employee or team to sift through the requests – without working them – and group them according to the type of issue they represent.

Priorities to Streamline Customer Support Ticket Management

The advantage of doing this is that you can then identify typical requests, and proceed to define protocols that will resolve them. This type of business management minimizes employee mistakes by providing a tried and tested procedure for them to follow.

Now each group can be assigned to relevant teams that are specifically trained to resolve such cases. You can impose this on new requests in order to keep your queue short, but also use the method to categorize backlogs of unresolved cases into manageable chunks.

In this way, your operation will simultaneously be picking off new cases as they come in and dealing with trickier issues. It also means that team members can approach cases with confidence as they can be sure they will be familiar with the kind of issue coming to them. It encourages deeper specific knowledge that is better equipped to deal with requests than a broad yet shallow knowledge base.

2. Automation

Manually labouring your way through tedious processes such as triaging and case assignment detracts from time that could be more lucratively spent. If you could only avoid having to do these tasks you’d be free to work on ventures to form business partnerships, develop new products, or whatever else you would rather be doing to advance your business.

Luckily, there are softwares that can automate these processes, including specially designed scheduling software for small business owners. These can automatically handle all aspects of a booking procedure and send customers confirmation emails, freeing up your time to focus on more pressing concerns without compromising on customer service.

Similarly, some customer request ticketing software will have a function where you can configure rules for automation. There are generally two types of rules you will want to use.

Processus to Streamline Customer Support Ticket Management

The first are event-based rules. With these, you can trigger actions to automatically happen in response to a stimulus event. A stimulus event could be the receipt of a new request which would in turn trigger actions like; moving the request into the to-do queue, sending an automated email reply, or notifying the supervisor. All of this could be done instantaneously from one event.

The second type of rule is time-based. With these you can specify time interval triggers that affect things like the priority rating of requests or have requests that are beyond a specified age automatically assigned to a particular team. Using these rules ensures that you always adhere to your SLA timelines.

You can also combine automation with human intelligence – for instance, Inbenta’s Messenger assists human agents with responses. Natural language processing (NLP) is used to assess the content of a ticket, and provide suggested responses, saving the agent time.

You could also consider using artificial intelligence to automate a triaging process. NLP can be used to survey customer emails and chats, and identify issues expressed by the customer. It can then automatically place requests into categories.

Furthermore, it can also be used to prioritize tasks based on the sentiment of the customer. A particularly disgruntled customer can be identified by the language they use. In this way you can prioritize customers who are likely to complain, thereby minimizing poor reviews.

3. Self-Service

In a similar vein to #2, you can avoid an inundation of requests by implementing measures that will enable customers to help themselves before they submit a support request. If you provide the means for customers to do this, you will eliminate the issues that are raised by customers time and time again.

A comprehensive ‘frequently asked questions’ (FAQs) page is a familiar way of communicating this information to customers. A typical FAQ page will consist of a list of common questions from customers with a drop down arrow next to them. Customers can easily scroll through the questions and, when they find the one that is relevant to their concern, click the dropdown arrow to show the answer and information regarding that issue.

These sections can be built using tools like Inbenta’s Knowledge Management System. Tools like this are particularly helpful due to the built-in gap analysis and performance analytics. This allows you to keep it up to date, and ensure anything your customers ask has an answer available.

Of course, the types of questions on the FAQ page will depend on your business and type of customers. As an example, a company providing internet calling solutions may want to include information about VoIP pricing or a guide on how to set up a conference call using their system.

Integrate the FAQs section with a knowledge base in which customers can find all the answers that they are looking for—for instance, ‘how to set up a conference call’. Having said this, having an exhaustive compendium on everything there is to know about your company is only useful when customers can easily navigate that information. 

Otherwise, it is simply overwhelming and will most likely deter customers. Consequently a search bar is essential so that customers can find what they are looking for without scouring page after page of information.

Chatbots can function as an alternative to using internet calling, and as a filtering device for customers, leading them directly to the information they need after answering a few simple questions. This has the added advantage of being open to analysis by the NLP software discussed earlier.

4. Escalate

When a particular type of case that none on your team knows how to resolve starts cropping up in your inbox, team members are often inclined to put them aside – particularly if they have a heavy workload. Sometimes these cases can go unaddressed for weeks, rendering the customers who need help feeling abandoned, and potentially deciding to take their custom elsewhere.

Previously mentioned methods of automatic assignment and manual triaging could provide a solution to this problem. However, if the issue in question is one unaccounted for by these processes, a lack of confidence in escalation will allow this problem to persist.

You must develop a tiered contingency plan that safeguards against such eventualities. Also ensure that all your employees are familiar with, and know exactly, who to escalate to, under what circumstances, and how escalation should be done. Part of this plan may be using an automated service – like Inbenta’s chatbot – in combination with human agents. The chatbot can take care of most common questions, but escalate to a human agent when needed.

If there is any doubt then people are inclined to palm off the case upon whoever they can, but only after having kept it unactioned for a few days. Repeat this a number of times and before you know it the cases are scattered haphazardly about your entire office, all of them massively overdue.

Plan to Streamline Customer Support Ticket Management

The trouble with this issue is that these types of cases are usually put aside in a place where no one ever looks. This may be because the automatic triaging process doesn’t have a designated folder to put them in. So, it auto-assigns them to a ‘unassigned’ folder that no one ever looks in. If you find this to be the case, you can utilise the automatic notification system detailed before to notify a supervisor everytime a case is unable to be assigned.

5. Empower your agents

The ideal scenario for support-seeking customers is to receive a solution to their issue immediately and without hassle. They don’t want to be repeatedly tossed from pillar to post because their assigned agent is unfamiliar with their issue or has restricted access. If a company can’t trust its agents, then why should a customer trust them? This thinking is grounds for customer churn.

Your agents should inspire confidence in your customer. Your agents are likely already perfectly capable and inspiring individuals. However, if they don’t have thorough company-approved procedures, it doesn’t matter who they are, they’ll still be facing every case with uncertainty. Fortunately, there are measures that you can put in place to remove this uncertainty.

Produce detailed workflow charts that are easy to follow and account for every eventuality. Your employees will be able to utilize these to avoid being caught off-guard. These workflows can include guidance for the aforementioned contingency plans and more. A prepared and knowledgeable agent is a confident one. 

Be sure to hold regular meetings to test-drive the workflows and keep them updated with agents suggestions. After all, they will be the ones handling the requests and will have some of the best suggestions for levying solutions to procedural friction.

Make sure team members know where to find any relevant data, knowledge bases, and tools before unleashing them on your clientele.

Any systems that you have with a restricted access feature should be carefully governed. Try to provide as much access as possible to employees without compromising security. The aim is to avoid encountering obstacles in agents’ service delivery which would lead to customers doubting their ability and reliability.

6. Record data

Aspects of your performance can be recorded. Known as ‘key performance indicators’ or KPIs, these are things like your ticket close rate, average resolution time, and average response time. You’ll want to keep track of these numbers and aim to improve them. It will help you to identify bottlenecks that are paving the way to backlogs. 

Perhaps one specific type of issue routinely takes longer to resolve. Knowing this enables you to focus your efforts to streamline the process in that area.

Another way of finding out where you need to improve is by considering your customer complaints folder. Look for trends in the kinds of grievances that customers are raising and vow to contend with the most offending ones. 

Do this by generating a procedure for resolving them or by refining the existing procedure to deal with them more effectively and promptly. Customers and agents alike will thank you for dealing with these most bothersome cases.

Agents will also have a good idea of where improvements can be made, so hold regular team meetings which will allow them to voice their ideas. Some people may not be comfortable speaking up in a meeting so consider the use of a suggestions box.

Conclusion

Hopefully, these tips have given you a foundational launchpad for managing your customer support request queue. They have deliberately been left rather general in scope so you will need to specify certain aspects to suit your particular needs, but they are universally applicable.

Whether you operate a wholesale company or manufacture technological goods, having great customer support services will hold you in good stead and these tips, if applied aptly, will help you maintain that reputation.

Richard Conn – RingCentral US
Richard Conn is the Senior Director, Search Marketing for RingCentral, a global leader in unified communications and call center service. He is passionate about connecting businesses and customers and has experience working with Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Experian, Target, Nordstrom, Kayak, Hilton, and Kia. Richard has written for sites such as Voilanorbert and Nextdoor.