Delivering prompt customer support is a must for SaaS businesses that want to provide a stellar customer experience. But when support requests start piling up, it can be easy to end up with too many open tickets and not enough satisfied customers. This is called a ticket backlog — any time period with a significant number of unresolved tickets.
This problem is fairly normal for companies. In fact, ticket backlogs are one of the eight common customer service challenges that SaaS companies face. Luckily, there are ways to prevent and address it.
Let’s take a look at how to identify a backlog in your ticketing system and how you can speed up the customer support process in six easy steps.
A ticket backlog refers to the number of support tickets that haven’t been addressed within the target response time outlined in your customer support strategy or service level agreement (SLA). This could be the result of a sudden increase in ticket volume due to a shopping season, a sale, press coverage, or an influx of new questions about a feature release.
Backlogs can also be caused by temporary staffing issues, like team members calling out sick, or unexpected product events like a major outage or product recall. It could also mean you don’t have enough customer support associates, or you need to further optimize your workflow for effectively resolving customer issues.
The best way to measure your ticket backlog depends on your customer support strategy. If your SLA outlines a 24-hour response time, then your ticket backlog would refer to the number of tickets that don’t receive responses 24 hours after they were sent.
Using this policy, if 50 out of 500 tickets are still unanswered after 24 hours, then your backlog is 10% of your total ticket volume. If your SLA outlines a longer response time you can adjust your method for measuring your ticket backlog accordingly.
Note: When calculating your ticket backlog, it’s important to distinguish between unanswered tickets and unresolved tickets. A backlog of unanswered tickets suggests that you may be understaffed, while a backlog of unresolved tickets may indicate issues with your training programs or escalation management process.
Another option is to measure your ticket backlog for each service tier and monitor the average age of your open tickets. Do Tier 1 tickets have a consistently faster resolution time than Tier 3 tickets? Are the majority of open tickets in your ticket queue more than 30 days old? If so, the backlog is more likely due to the difficulty of customer issues, not to an increased number of tickets arriving at your service desk.
Before we go any further, it’s important to mention that ticket backlogs aren’t all bad. In fact, a ticket backlog of 5-10%, rather than 0%, shows your customer support team is comfortably busy. If they resolve all new tickets at the end of each day, it may be a sign that you’re overstaffed.
Having a small but manageable ticket backlog means there’s a steady stream of tickets in the queue, and your team members are comfortable with ticket prioritization and dependencies.
Once your ticket backlog climbs past 10% or 20%, it can start to have a negative impact on your business in several ways:
The good news is that these outcomes are avoidable. With a little planning, you can take charge of a ticket backlog and get it under control.
The best time to address a ticket backlog is to prevent it from becoming an issue. As you start to notice your ticket numbers creeping up, implement these six help desk strategies:
Ticket prioritization refers to the order in which tickets are addressed. You might choose to prioritize tickets based on the importance of the issue, with urgent requests going to the top of the queue. Or, you might prioritize them based on subscription levels, with paying customers taking priority over free tier tickets.
Prioritization can help prevent more follow-up tickets, such as when a business customer is troubleshooting an issue that affects their entire company. It can help you resolve tickets before they become more serious, and respond to your most-valued customers first.
One way to address a ticket backlog is to reduce the volume of incoming tickets. Build your self-service options so that customers can resolve simple issues on their own.
Self-service tools can take the form of a knowledge base with tutorials and answers to frequently asked questions, or an interactive chatbot that tries to solve the customer’s problem before routing the request to a live agent.
Make sure to update your knowledge base as soon as you release a new feature or product update so customers can quickly learn how to resolve new issues on their own.
Crafting every response from scratch can take time, so create a library of pre-written responses and answers to frequently asked questions. However, make sure your associates still come across as personable and warm.
AI-powered assistants can provide email templates or just-in-time reply text for associates to choose from, reducing the time it takes to analyze a ticket and craft a response. Your customer support associates can choose the most relevant response for each ticket, while maintaining a consistent brand voice across customer support channels.
Some tickets require more information from the customer, but the customer never responds to confirm whether a solution has worked. This is especially common with chatbots and live chat channels, where it’s easy for a customer to get disconnected and fail to return to the chat.
With automation tools, you can follow up on these cases quickly. Simply direct your software to send a follow-up notification reminding the customer that the ticket is still open and awaiting a response. After two attempts, mark the ticket as resolved and remove it from your queue.
This kind of automation can help to reduce your ticket backlog without any additional effort on the part of your associates.
If your ticket backlog is getting out of hand, set a time for all of your team members to come together and clear as many tickets as possible. With everyone pitching in, you can escalate the most complex tickets and batch similar tickets together and reduce your backlog.
You can make this a weekly routine, or schedule it on an as-needed basis. The most important thing is to have team members from multiple support tiers available so you don’t have to wait for responses for more complex issues.
To more sustainably shorten your ticket backlog, you may need a longer-term solution, such as more customer support associates. For example, if tickets are building up while your support team is off-duty, consider working with an offshore team to provide round-the-clock services.
How do you know when it’s time to try outsourcing? If the number of backlog tickets is consistently growing, but your overall ticket volume isn’t, then you likely need more customer support associates.
On-demand outsourcing is a good solution for teams that need occasional help clearing a ticket backlog, while dedicated outsourcing is ideal for companies needing continuous coverage at multiple support tiers.
Your team can get a customer support ticket backlog due to any number of issues, from insufficient self-service options to an inefficient system for ticket prioritization. But often, it’s simply a matter of not having enough hands on deck to keep up with the inflow of new tickets.
PartnerHero can help by providing onshore, offshore, and nearshore customer support services to supplement your in-house team. Whether you need Tier 1, 2, or 3 support, or coverage in multiple languages or time zones, our experienced customer support associates can help you clear your ticket backlog and improve your KPIs.
Get in touch today to learn more!