What is a Customer Support Queue?
When customers reach out to your support team – via various support channels available to them – their messages are converted into support tickets that are stored in a queue. That queue is basically the inbox for your customer support team. Most customer service platforms allow filtering the ticket queue into specific views so the agents can see and work on the cases specifically assigned to them, or the cases with a certain priority. Agents may be faced with different types of customer support queues – email ticket queue, call queue or live chat queue.
Why Support Queue Management Matters
When support requests are piling up and the agents are not able to respond to customers in a timely, organized manner, it lowers customer service levels and ultimately results in customer frustration. According to the recent SuperOffice’s study of 1,000 companies, the average time to respond to customer service requests was as much as over 12 hours.
With a smart queue management strategy in place, you can minimize the time that customers need to spend on waiting for a reply, improve the overall quality of support, deliver consistency during customer interactions and increase support agent efficiency.
Types of Customer Support Queues
- Ticket Queue
Since email still remains the most widely used customer support touchpoint for the majority of businesses, having to handle ticket queue is a daily reality of almost any customer support team – especially those of mid and large-sized organizations. Long support ticket queues with no proper queue management system prevent agents form being efficient and focusing on other important tasks.
- Call Queue
Businesses offering phone support as a primary customer communication channel need to deal with call queues which can often be extremely annoying for customers. Any amount of time on hold can actually begin to negatively impact customer service experience. A study by Software Advice has shown that 60% of customers feel that waiting on hold for just one minute is already too long.
- Live Chat Queue
As live chat continues to grow in popularity among online consumers, and more companies are incorporating it into their support workflows, live chat queues are also becoming the norm for many support teams. Modern chat tools usually provide advanced chat routing and distribution (such as assigning chats to agents who've had previous communication with chatting customers) that allows preventing queues and enables faster and more efficient support.
10 Tips to Effectively Handle Your Support Ticket Queue
Managing customer support queue can be challenging since a lot of factors come into play when deciding the order in which tickets should be addressed. Below are 10 tips on how to build an effective support queue management process to properly prioritize tickets, improve ticket resolution time, agent productivity and customer satisfaction.
1. First in, First out (FIFO)
The most common method of handling support queue for small teams with a relatively low volume of requests is on a first-come, first-served basis - frequently called FIFO which stands for ‘First In, First Out’. That means the agents should respond to the oldest tickets first, and then follow the order in which they arrived. This approach, however, lacks flexibility in evaluating support requests in terms of urgency or importance.
2. Handle the Easiest Tickets First
Another simple practice is dealing with the easiest support tickets first. Those are the requests that don’t require long and complicated answers, and should take a service agent a couple of minutes at maximum to reply. It allows giving the customers with tougher issues the attention they deserve while those with simpler queries a faster response.
3. Prioritize Support Requests
For businesses having free and paid users it makes sense to prioritize support requests based on their product plan or the revenue per user. It ensures the customers that are more valuable and profitable are serviced first. Prioritization can also be based on another criteria. For example, you may consider giving a higher priority to customers submitting support requests for the first time to make a good first impression.
4. Segment Tickets By Category
If your support team usually gets many different types of inquiries, you may opt for segmenting tickets according to various categories – by issue type, by product, by department etc. It allows assigning the right tickets to the right teams or particular team members that should be handling them. Since certain agents are better on certain topics or have a specific skill set that enables them to rapidly resolve certain types of issues – ticket segmentation can help to prevent requests from being stacked in a queue.
5. Build a Tiered Support Structure
Setting up a tied support structure is a great strategy for SaaS support teams that commonly receive requests of different technical difficulty. The first tire may consist of the agents who will respond to general inquiries and escalate more complicated technical issues to the second tire agents. The structure will generally depend on the size and complexity of your support team and your business.
6. Set up Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
Setting up Service Level Agreements (SLAs) helps to keep your support ticket queue under control. SLAs are predetermined time periods during which tickets should be responded to - those can vary by ticket types and priority levels. Service Level Agreements are helpful for setting clear standards for your support team as to reasonable response time frames, as well as giving customers an estimate of how long they will need to wait for a reply.
7. Create a Support Workflow
Having a well-outlined, comprehensive support workflow documentation for ticket queue management will not only increase the efficiency of support agents but also help them deliver a consistent service experience. It should clearly explain who deals with what, when and where tickets should be escalated to – and it should be easily available to all the support agents, at all times.
8. Empower Your Support Team
Enable support agents to respond and resolve issues promptly by providing them with the right tools and resources. Make sure all the team members are properly trained and have access to the internal knowledge base and all the necessary documentation. The more knowledgeable and empowered support agents are, the easier it will be for them to handle tickets quickly and efficiently.
9. Ensure Other Agents Can Easily Jump into the Ticket
To ensure that support tickets don’t get stuck in anyone’s personal queue, make it easy for the next agent who lands on the ticket to access the accurate view of the ticket history and know what’s going in within seconds. Being able to see all status changes and all the updates from previous dialogues with the customer enables service agents to respond quickly with minimal back-and-forth communication.
10. Leverage the Power of Self-Service
One of the easiest ways to reduce your support queue is letting customers find common answers and resolve issues on their own by implementing a customer self-service solution. In fact, Microsoft’s research revealed that 90% of global consumers now expect brands and organizations to offer an online portal for self-service. Having a rich knowledge base with an FAQ section helps to avoid receiving similar support requests in the first place.