How does customer support triage help your company?

Your customer support team receives a wide range of support tickets every day, from the easy and the routine to the complex. To give each customer stellar service, you need a lot of structure around the day-to-day. 

With a thought-through and thorough system of categorization and prioritization, your support team can work like a well-oiled machine.

This is where customer support triage can help. Customer support triage is a way to organize and streamline how your associates help customers in a way that makes most sense for your business and resources.

In this post, we’ll talk about what customer support triage is, how it works, what it looks like in action, and explain the benefits of a well-thought-out triage system.

Customer support triage (and how it works) defined

Customer support triage is the process of categorizing and prioritizing customer support tickets as they come in, and routing them to the associates that are best prepared to help. 

Customer support triage ensures your customers get the service they need, when they need it. It also makes sure the customers with the most critical needs and complex problems get the fastest service. 

The customer support triage process will first decide if a ticket needs any special attention, e.g. real-time translation from Spanish to English. Then, it categorizes the ticket (we’ll talk about categories in a bit here) so it goes to the right customer support associate(s), and prioritizes it according to its complexity. 

This way, the most critical tickets get pushed ahead of less immediate situations, and all associates are working on tickets they are more likely to know how to solve.

Let’s go through how it works in a little more detail.

How to start creating your own customer support triage process

Customer support triage exists to help organize an influx of tickets, which can otherwise be difficult or confusing to address, helping you deliver stellar service. 

Here are the three basic steps of creating a customer support triage process:

1. Identify any special needs

The very first step in customer support triage is determining if a ticket needs particular attention before it’s assigned to anyone. 

For instance, if a ticket isn’t properly filled out with the information needed to take action on it, a team member will need to find where the ticket came from and identify the issue it is attempting to describe. Once the request is easy to understand, you can decide how to categorize it.

Depending on your business, there may be different special cases for support tickets, so start by identifying any potential ones your support team could come across, and document them well, so your agents can be quicker with solving them. 

2. Use a case categorization system

The next part of developing a customer support triage process is creating categories for your customer support tickets. When you address tickets in order of urgency and send tickets to associates who are qualified to address them, you’re set up to deliver better value to your customers.  

Let’s look at some of the categories you should think about developing if you haven’t yet, starting with the most important one:


Urgency is by far the most critical support ticket category, as this will help make sure associates address the most critical support tickets first. 

For example, an error that makes it impossible to use a product or service would receive the highest priority, because the longer the product or service isn’t usable, the more likely it’ll lead to poor customer satisfaction and even potential customer churn.

However, a customer’s question about how to change their profile image is a lower priority because the change is purely aesthetic (this doesn’t mean you should ignore the question, it’s just in the lowest category of urgency).

Management is responsible for defining the levels of urgency and establishing which customer support tickets are the most and least urgent. Categories like “potential churn” or “severe revenue loss” are usually most important.

Customer type

Customer type is another factor many customer support teams look at when categorizing tickets. For example, one of your largest customers will likely get a higher priority than one that only makes up a small fraction of your revenue.

Customer type can also come down to an individual level, e.g. you might prioritize tickets that come directly from the company CEO rather than a mid-level manager.

Again, this depends on your business and the priorities you have set for your support.

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

If your company offers tiers of services or a free and paid product, you’ll probably want to account for these levels when categorizing tickets. Customers who pay for their service or pay for a higher tier of service should generally get a higher priority. 

You can also offer expedited customer service as a selling point for your higher product tiers. However, this means that you have to be absolutely sure you can honor this agreement and actually deliver the promised expedited service, hence why this category can be extremely important.

If your product offers a free trial and you have plenty of resources available, you may also opt to prioritize service for users in the trial period to help encourage them to convert to a paid account. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean you can let your support quality drop when they upgrade, though.

Support channel

If you run a multichannel or omnichannel customer support team, you most likely get tickets from several channels, such as phone, email, live chat, email, and even social media. 

If you have dedicated teams for each channel, you’ll want to categorize your ticket by channel so they go to the right support team’s workflow and reach a support agent on that team. 

For example, if a customer contacts your company via email, the ticket would head to the email support team who can reach out to the customer according to their specific process(es). 

Type of product or service

If your company offers multiple products or services, you may have help desks for questions specific to each of them. When you triage tickets with this dedicated setup, the process should include routing these customer issues to a specific team responsible for a specific product or service.

Required expertise

When routing tickets by category, make sure support requests go to associates who have the knowledge and experience needed to address them (we’ll get into defining customer support roles in the next section).

In many customer support teams, certain associates are specifically trained and qualified to handle high-priority customers and complex customer support issues. They also have a more extensive knowledge base that allows them to address advanced tickets efficiently.

When associates with the right training and knowledge are on hand to resolve advanced tickets, these customers will typically see a lower response time—a key customer support metric—and a generally improved customer experience.

Customer triage support categories

3. Define customer support roles

To make sure your required expertise categories make sense, you need to define what ticket categories your customer support associates will work with. Make sure to place your agents in the right roles, aligning their strengths with each category’s needs.

For example, your high-value clients with the highest priority should always go to your most experienced and knowledgeable team members. However, you can route new customers who may only need help with basic questions to the general customer support team or agents who have just started (or are even in (supervised) training).

If you can, it can also be very useful to cross-train associates so they periodically rotate responsibilities. This way, when your ticket volumes change in certain areas, your associates can help pitch in—for example, if you suddenly have a huge influx of high-urgency tickets, you can ask associates from lower-volume areas to help out.

Rotation may not work well in a large customer service team that sees a steady flow of tickets daily. However, this is a good option for a smaller team that may only get a handful of tickets per day, but can experience random higher-volume days in certain areas. 

When the right associates address each ticket based on their specific skills and knowledge from the get-go, the resolution time will go down, and your support costs may also decrease. Your team member morale may also go up, as you’ve set them up for success this way.

What customer support triage looks like in action

Once you’ve defined the categories of your customer support triage plan and who will work on tickets in each one, you’re ready to use the system. Here’s how it looks in action:

  1. The ticket enters the customer support queue via phone, email, chat, mobile app, social media, or any other channel.
  2. The ticket enters the triage process—which can be automated or manual—where it’s examined to determine if it has special needs. If it has special needs, triage routes it to the appropriate team. If there are no special needs, triage reads the ticket and places it in the appropriate urgency category.
  3. The triage system continues by categorizing the ticket based on the customer’s needs and places tags on the ticket to route it to the right team.
  4. Appropriate team members are assigned tickets based on urgency and other categorization.
Triage support in action

Benefits of a well-thought-out customer support triage process

The more you think through the process, structure, and categorization of your triage process, the more it will help out your support team.

Some of the benefits you can expect from a smoother triage include:

  1. Improved customer happiness—with a proper triage process, your customers will get the exact kind of help they need, when they need it. You’ll eliminate the chances of severe issues slipping through the cracks, and reduce negative customer experiences. Over time, you may also see a noticeable improvement in some of your key customer satisfaction metrics, such as resolution time, average ticket cost, and response times.
  1. Improved agent happiness—a solid triage system will help your agents be more organized and feel more confident in the support process as a whole. They’ll know exactly what kind of issues they’ll be dealing with most based on their skill set, and be assured that all most relevant tickets will be routed to them ASAP.With less confusion and time spent on sorting through an unorganized mess of issues and support tickets, agents will also have more time available to focus on better solutions and improving their respective skill sets.
  1. Better documentation and access to archives—once you have detailed categories and other information in place, your support history will be much easier to refer back to, filter, and sort for future reference.

Better documentation on past support issues will also help you plan better for the future—for example, you can take a look at which kind of ticket of which urgency and type you’ve encountered the most or least, and plan your resources accordingly.

Customer support triage can streamline your team’s workflow

With a solid customer support triage system in place,the main thing you will win on is speed and efficiency—you can address the most urgent customer support tickets earlier and send them to associates who are most qualified to help.

A solid triage system can also help boost customer service metrics—such as average resolution time, average ticket cost, and response time—, make your agents happier and more productive, and provide you with detailed documentation to help you evaluate and planning your support processes and activities.

Looking for more customer service tips and tricks? Check out the PartnerHero blog.