Managing Your Support Ticket Queue
At some point in your business's life-cycle the number of open tickets in your support system will be greater than your ability to process them. So, how do you prioritize tickets to ensure the least damaging impact on your business? With just a little bit of research we found a few good ideas for you to kick around...
First Come, First Served
This is the classic method for handling tickets on small support teams. Even when the number of tickets outstrips the team's ability to respond in a timely manner, it may seem as if this is the fairest solution. But, for larger organizations (and even some small ones), this might be the worst of all possible solutions. Below are some other ideas for prioritizing your support tickets.
Split The Staff, Split The Queue
In the ideal world you would handle both new tickets and old tickets. Sometimes the best way to do that is to work from both the top and the bottom of the queue simultaneously. For example, you can split your support staff into two groups. One group tackles the top part of the queue (most recent tickets) while the other group tackles the bottom part of the queue (old tickets).
If you only have one person handling tickets, then you can have them alternate handling an old ticket with a new ticket. So for every new ticket handled they would handle an older ticket.
Handle The Easiest Tickets First
Another option is to simply handle the easiest tickets first. If you have multiple support agents, assign one or two to race through the list and create replies to those tickets where its very obvious what the reply should be. If the agent has to stop to think for more than a minute or two, the ticket is put aside to be handled by the rest of the team.
The advantage of this approach is that many (maybe even most) of your customers get a very pleasant experience with your support desk - which grants your business a 'wow' factor for those customers.
If you have products at various price levels, you can consider servicing the customers who are using your most expensive products first. If you have a "free" level then those customers would end up at the bottom of your queue. Or maybe you don't even provide service to customers using your free products!
In Awesome Support, its easy to set priorities for support tickets based on the customer or product - our article, Automatically Escalate Tickets from VIP Customers is one example of how this can be done.
For many of the ideas mentioned above, we assumed that agent skills are interchangeable. But what if that's not the case? What if certain agents are better on certain topics or have particular skill sets that enable them to rapidly resolve certain types of issues? In those cases its less about the age of the ticket and more about getting the right ticket to the right agent.
Key words in the ticket or the product selected for the ticket can result in your help desk software automatically routing the ticket to the right agent. (Awesome Support's Business Rules Engine extension allow routing of tickets based on keywords and products - read Six Ways To Assign Agents To Your Tickets).
Using this technique might leave certain agents without tickets at certain times so it is wise to pair this method with the next one below...
Combining Processes Using An Unassigned Queue
Tickets can easily be routed to agents based on the skill of the agent and the keywords and product on the ticket. But you don't have to do that for ALL tickets. You can route certain high-value or high-impact tickets to dedicated agents and leave the rest unassigned. Agents can then simply work the unassigned queue. The unassigned tickets can be worked using one of the other methods mentioned above - "Split the staff, Split the queue" or "First come first served" for example.
Depending on your type of business, it might be appropriate to have someone decide how and when each ticket should be handled. This would allow for situations where a ticket arrives from a different time zone and therefore does not need a reply for another 8 hours. It would also ensure that your VIP customers are always treated well and that simple questions get responded to faster instead of taking up space in the queue.
Obviously each of the ideas mentioned above have upsides and downsides. But, by implementing something other than "First Come, First Served" you might create a more lasting POSITIVE impact on customers that end up needing your support desk!
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