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  • Writer's pictureJenny Dempsey

How to reduce backlog tickets

Reduce backlog of tickets

You're knee-deep in a sea of tickets, desperately trying to keep your head above water.

The dreaded ticket backlog has struck again! But fear not, my dedicated customer service friends, for we have some proven strategies up our sleeves to help you turn the tide and emerge victorious.

In the fast-paced world of customer support, a backlog of unresolved tickets can feel overwhelming. It can feel like you’re letting down your customers and may mean you’re failing to achieve your key metrics.

But let go of the guilt!

As a customer service leader or agent, it's essential to acknowledge that achieving a zero ticket queue is often an unrealistic goal. Instead of feeling guilty about it, it’s better to get proactive about managing your support queue effectively.

This article will equip you with the knowledge and tools to conquer your ticket backlog and restore order and efficiency to your workflow. We'll explore practical, actionable strategies that will empower you to streamline your processes and provide exceptional support to your valued customers.

Ditch duplicate tickets by automatically merging them

Let's talk about a common situation we've all experienced.

You know how some customers believe that the more they write in, the faster their issue will get resolved? It happens to every support team, and I've been there.

My awesome colleague Kylie and I found ourselves in a little "oops" moment awhile back. We both spent a good chunk of time — about an hour — working separately to solve the same complex customer issue in two different tickets. We were working remotely, so it wasn't easy to know who was tackling what ticket at any given moment.

Twice the time and effort for the same result. Oops indeed!

What else could we have accomplished with our day if we hadn't doubled up on the same problem? Time is precious, and we could have put those valuable hours to much better use.

In my career, I’ve seen customers reach out multiple times in an hour from the same email address. I’ve also seen disgruntled customers reach out from as many as five different email addresses in the same day! They were hoping for a faster resolution, but their actions actually led to more confusion than necessary.

That's where Swifteq’s Merge Zendesk Tickets app swoops in to save the day. It's a game-changer! This nifty app automatically merges tickets based on criteria you set, creating a seamless experience for customers and saving your team loads of time.

Configure Zendesk to automatically merge tickets

With an app like this, you'll wave goodbye to those frustrating moments when multiple agents unknowingly tackle the same issue. You’ll also clean up your queue, making it feel less overwhelming.

The result?

Your team can focus their talents on solving unique customer challenges, delivering a top-notch experience every single time. It's a win-win for both your team and your customers.

Leverage Zendesk triggers to filter internal tickets

In my own team's experience, we encountered a situation where we received automated system update emails in our support queue.

These emails were primarily intended for our manager to stay informed about changes happening behind the scenes. While we had triggers set up to auto-assign these tickets, we wanted to ensure they stayed separate and weren’t merged with other customer inquiries. After all, they were time-sensitive and required special attention.

How’d we solve it?

We used Zendesk’s triggers and customization capabilities to implement exclusion criteria. By tailoring the merging process to align with our team's specific needs, we gained full control over which tickets were merged and which ones remained separate.

You can customize Zendesk triggers to fit your unique requirements, ensuring that only the tickets you need are merged efficiently and effectively. Whether it's excluding certain email addresses or entire domains from the merging process, you have the power to maintain the necessary distinctions in your customer support operations.

This level of control gives you peace of mind, knowing that you can merge or eliminate unnecessary and duplicate tickets, while keeping critical tickets separate and safe so they get the attention they require.

Prioritize and set clear goals

Customer inquiries flood in from all directions.

Some messages are urgent, like technical issues or critical service disruptions. Others are more general in nature, like simple requests for information.

It's crucial to prioritize these messages and respond accordingly.

Here's where setting response time targets based on the urgency of different message types becomes invaluable.

Suppose you receive a high-priority message regarding a full system outage or a damaged/lost product. In these cases, providing a prompt response within an hour or less can make all the difference for your customer.

They're relying on you to address the issue swiftly and alleviate their concerns.

On the other hand, lower-priority messages — like account updates or general questions — can be dealt with satisfactorily in a longer response window, like within 24 hours.

By allocating the appropriate time frame for each type of ticket, you're optimizing your team's resources and ensuring efficient handling of customer inquiries. Instead of feeling pulled in all directions, you’re helping your team know what to prioritize and enabling them to stay focused.

Over time, this clarity and focus can have a dramatic impact on reducing your ticket backlog.

I’d also encourage you to clearly communicate these response times to your customers.

Even if they're unhappy about having to wait for a response, setting expectations upfront builds trust. When customers know what to expect in terms of response times, they understand that you value their concerns and are working diligently to address them.

By proactively managing expectations and meeting or exceeding your response time targets, you're instilling confidence in your customers. They feel assured that their concerns are being acknowledged, even during busy periods. This level of transparency and reliability goes a long way in nurturing positive customer relationships (and in ensuring the same customer doesn’t reach out five times in one day).

Trend analysis

With hundreds or thousands of tickets coming at you each week, it's crucial to create clear categories that help you understand what’s going on. Your categories should cover a range of topics such as technical issues, billing inquiries, account changes, or product feedback.

In several of my contact center roles over the years, I've implemented robust ticket tagging processes that combine automated and manual tagging techniques to identify trends and provide valuable insights.

Let me walk you through an example:

Whenever we receive inbound billing questions, Zendesk automatically tags them with the handy tag "billing."

This automated tagging helps our agents quickly identify the nature of the inquiry. But it doesn't stop there! Our agents then manually add more specific tags like "credit card update," "refund," or "pricing question" to capture more granular trends.

By consistently tagging and tracking these trends, we’re able to generate insightful reports that inform various aspects of our customer support operations. These reports guide us in creating future knowledge base articles, developing internal team training materials, crafting helpful canned responses, and any other resources needed to tackle the problem head-on.

We also use this information to provide feedback to our Product and Engineering team on where customers are struggling and what they’d like to see improved within the product.

While trend analysis won’t reduce your backlog overnight, it’s a critical and strategic step that helps you get upstream of customer issues by improving your self-service, your processes, and your product.

Embrace the evolution

When it comes to prioritization, it's all about progress, not perfection.

I can't stress enough how important it is to regularly review your strategy and metrics to ensure everything still makes sense for your business. Set up a regular cadence — monthly, quarterly, or whatever works for you — and take a deep dive into response times, customer satisfaction ratings, and your team's workload. Try to uncover areas that could use tweaks and changes moving forward.

Here's the secret sauce: Be open to experimentation.

Instead of striving for a flawless solution right off the bat, I like to gather my team and test out different approaches. We'll give something a whirl for a set period, learn from it, and evolve as we move forward.

It's a dynamic process that allows us to fine-tune our prioritization methods, optimize efficiency, and enhance the overall customer experience. When you’re dealing with a large ticket backlog, you’ve got to be open to trying to methods and consistently iterating on what’s working.

Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all answer, and it takes time to find the sweet spot. But trust me, the journey is worth it. So, embrace the spirit of exploration, adapt as you go, and keep your eyes on the prize — delivering top-notch customer experiences.

Optimize self-service to reduce backlog tickets

What if you had an all-inclusive knowledge base that acted as a bundle of solutions, catering to your customers' every need?

Say it was packed with frequently asked questions, interactive tutorials, engaging video guides, and troubleshooting instructions that are tailored to your customers' language and preferences (goodbye, jargon!).

This ideal state might feel like it’s a long way off, but creating these resources doesn't have to be a complex endeavor.

With user-friendly tools like Loom and Scribe, you can build free how-to videos and documents in no time — even if you already feel underwater because of your ticket backlog.

Don’t believe me?

Several years ago, armed with just my trusty cell phone, a tripod stand, free screen recording software, and iMovie, I personally created over 80 how-to videos for customers.

The impact was incredible.

Not only did these videos reduce the number of support tickets flooding in, but they also empowered customers to find answers on their own, at their convenience. (It also gave me a chance to shine in the spotlight, fulfilling my childhood dream of becoming an actress. But that’s a story for another time).

It's a win-win situation!

By investing time and effort into crafting engaging and accessible resources, you're empowering your customers.

This can feel hard when you’re dealing with a ticket backlog, but you don’t have to tackle it all at once. Here’s a simple approach to get started:

  1. Identify your top five ticket drivers

  2. Create quick but effective resources that answer those questions well

  3. Publish them somewhere they’re very hard to miss

  4. Measure the impact (these strategies might help, along with the Help Center Analytics app)

  5. Repeat

When you’re struggling with a large ticket backlog, you’ve got two main choices: hire more support agents or find a way to reduce the number of incoming tickets.

Creating or improving your help center is the perfect way to do the latter (and it’s something you control).

Provide contextual support

Imagine you're a customer, frustrated by a common issue that you're about to complain about. Just as you're about to hit that "Submit Ticket" button, a prompt appears on the website, catching your attention.

It's like a friendly nudge in the right direction.

This prompt, tailored specifically to your situation, suggests a relevant knowledge base article that addresses your issue. Suddenly, you realize that you can solve the problem on your own, without waiting for a support agent to get back to you.

It’s not just customers who benefit from contextual support. When your support agents are swamped with a big backlog of tickets, every single time a customer chooses self-service is great news. It means less work for your team and more time to focus on eliminating the backlog.

To get started with contextual support, check out apps like Pendo and Appcues.

Empowering agents with automations

Small automations save huge amounts of time, especially when your team is dealing with a high volume of tickets.

With the assistance of apps like Triggers+, you can leverage automation to improve your customer support and crush your ticket backlog. Smart automations and apps supercharge your support team’s efforts and increase the capacity of every agent.

AI and automations are a hot topic right now, and with good reason. From ChatGPT prompts to Zendesk macros, automation helps every support team get more done in less time.

Get proactive about reducing your ticket backlog

The dreaded ticket backlog can feel like an insurmountable challenge.

We’e explored a range of strategies that will empower you to crush those ticket backlogs. Some of these strategies help in the moment, like macros and merging duplicate tickets. Other strategies can help at the moment, but have the biggest impact if you implement them proactively — long before your backlog grows.

If you’re using Zendesk and want to get proactive about building an effective help center and automating more of your support operations, check out a demo of Swifteq today.


jenny dempsey

​​​​ Written by Jenny Dempsey

Jenny is a freelance contractor and consultant who assists businesses in enhancing their customer experience and community management. She co-founded Customer Service Life, a blog focused on service excellence and teaches a beginner customer service course on Udemy. She believes that customer service is just people helping people and strives to keep that at the forefront of everything she does.


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