How to eradicate the backlog — and avoid it in the future!
A backlog of tickets is an issue that can cause a lot of sleepless nights. Ticket backlog occurs when customer support issues are not resolved in a certain time frame. That could be hours, days, or even weeks depending on your certain situation and set resolution times. If you’ve added ticket backlogs to your support dashboard, you could be totally killing your metrics. Of course, it all depends on which support software you’re using.
But pushing KPI’s and conversations and all metrics aside for a moment. There are two other areas that need attention when it comes to ticket backlog. One is customer retention and the other is support team workload. Normally, both go hand in hand. When the support queue is full and the team is over taxed, the customers in the backlog can tend to get forgotten about. Ticket backlog rarely takes into consideration the entire ticket queue. In most cases, your support team won’t be able to devote 100% of their time to handling backlogged cases since they’re likely handling other new incoming support requests.
This leaves the customer in the backlog hanging. Ready to take their business to the competitor. Worse yet, they could be losing money themselves. I’m sure you’ll agree with me that neither of these are desirable situations. Frustration levels can really get the kettle whistling. And who gets the brunt of it all? That’s right, the support agent.
The last thing anyone wants is the customer taking their frustrations to their friends, social media, or even sending angry emails or phone calls to the CEO.
Touchpoints For Backlog Customers
How often do you touch base with backlog tickets? One of the worst things to do with backlog tickets is keep the customer in the dark. And to make them reach out to your support team for updates. This is frustrating for the customer and for the support team. Many times, a customer may even create an entirely new ticket, which adds to the queue and takes up precious support resources. Especially when they get an agent who isn’t familiar with the case. They will need to research the case and then provide an update.
Setting the customer’s expectations is a huge advantage. Although they may not like to hear what their issue may take longer than expected to resolve, at least they understand the situation. Furthermore, it’s also extremely important to make sure they know the ticket is still open and they can reply in that thread for updates. If a customer thinks their ticket has been closed, well, all hell can break loose. So creating a touchpoint map for tick backlog is essential.
However, each of these situations take a lot of time. Even just opening the case and sending a template takes time. Let’s say it takes on average three minutes to open a backlog case, fill out the template with the proper information, send it, then document it. Multiply that times ten cases a day five days a week, that’s two and a half hours per agent spent on just sending templates. Multiply that by ten agents. Then four weeks. Now we are looking at a hundred hours a month spent on just sending templates or updates to backlogs. Insane, yes? And that’s only if the template emails don’t open new conversations with the customer.
Sometimes you just can’t win for losing.
The Black Hole
Resolutions. That’s why customers contact support. They want resolutions and they want it fast. That can’t always be possible. Especially when it comes to deeper issues that may involve payments or fixes from development. But at the same time the company still wants the client to continue paying for services. Both are fair, however when they don’t match up it can be a catastrophe.
There are those tickets that fall beyond even the backlog. What I call “The Black Hole”. These are ticket resolutions that may involve other departments in the company that don’t exactly feel the same urgency for a resolution that support does. And it can drag on and on. So much so that the ticket and case eventually gets lost in the void somewhere. Still open, still showing up on the dashboard, but with no resolution in sight.
These cases are ones that are just beyond the reach or level of perhaps even tier two or three. But they can’t be closed. Not without a resolution. So they sit there. Killing the metrics. And frustrating the customer.
Tracking Ticket Volume and Ticket Conversations
Why is the backlog happening? There can be several answers to that question. It’s important to get a good sense of what’s actually going on and if the backlog is happening at the support level. By tracking ticket volume (total number of tickets) and ticket conversations( total number of conversations) you can get a high level view of where your support energies are going. This is the best way to track trends and understand the workload for your customer support team.
Gathering these types of data can help you understand why backlog tickets may not be getting the attention they deserve. Average handling time for new cases, conversations, and first call resolutions may be taking the front seat. As well they should, but how can you eradicate the backlog and take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen?
How big is your current backlog? It may be manageable at the moment. And you may think all is under control. However things can change in a heartbeat. This can happen as a result of outages, new product releases, agents being out sick, or a myriad of other occurrences.
I personally have seen backlogs grow to over 500 cases in a single week. I’ve also seen backlogs with tickets that predated the current staff. Totally and completely overwhelming. Where to even begin? Then comes the temptation to organize, and reorganize, and reorganize again. Analysis paralysis. That gets nothing done and just drives the agents insane. And the support director. The best thing to do is dive in — assign cases — and chip away at it.
But didn’t we just say with incoming tickets, it’s almost impossible?
Yes, we did. But if your backlog is through the roof then it may be a good idea to have a weekend “Backlog Party”. Asking the agents to come in for some coveted OT, not be in the queue, and simply spend a few hours each working on backlog cases. In a lot of instances, there may be duplicate or even triplicate tickets open for one issue. Letting the customer know that you’ll be closing the duplicate, but keeping the case open can help get rid of some of those tickets.
Also, some of those cases and tickets may already be resolved. Researching the case number to see exactly what’s going on and if it can be closed. Unfortunately, sometimes you have to even reach out to the customer to make sure they are happy.
A Remote Team Can Solve Your Issue
Bringing on extra staff is always an option. Not just for help with the backlog, but also to make sure the backlog stays low. More hands on deck, more people in the queue means more first call resolutions. Which of course, means happier customers (and happier executives!). But I know, what about overhead.
That’s the amazing thing about offshore outsourcing. You can build a team here with TeleworkPH, from one agent on up, for a fraction of the cost of bringing on more help locally. Also, with offshore outsourcing, you don’t need to worry about office space, IT, equipment or anything. Everything is explained here in my ebook, The VA Element.
Your remote staff can work alongside your local staff. Also, the remote staff is more than happy to take weekend, overnight and even holiday shifts. Giving your local staff a break now and again. You can expand your coverage, eradicate your backlog and keep it there.
It’s worth exploring, yes?