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  • Craig Stoss

Setting up your Zendesk platform to do more with less


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Support teams are often asked to do more with less. As budgets tighten and customer expectations increase, support leadership needs to find ways to constantly improve while minimizing the negative impact to their agents and customers.


Luckily, Zendesk has many features that can help achieve those goals.


With a few administrative and workflow adjustments, your agents will be able to operate with more efficiency and effectiveness, which should translate into improved employee engagement and high-quality customer experiences. Let's explore some powerful features that will help you set up your Zendesk platform to do more with less.


Highlight more context


When your team members have more context on the issues they are working on, they’ll feel better prepared to answer questions. More importantly, they’ll be able to answer those questions with more confidence in less time. You can create more context for your team in a few different ways within your Zendesk platform.


1. Use contextual workspaces


Contextual Workspaces are views in Zendesk that can focus agents' attention based on the context of the ticket they are working on.


This powerful feature allows you to re-organize the apps the agent sees, the macros that are shown first, and the fields that are listed most prominently. It’s important to note that this feature doesn't restrict access to any feature or functionality — it simply highlights the most important workflows and metadata that are relevant in the situation.


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Reorganizing your team’s workspace based upon the context means that agents can find what they need faster, which helps lower your response and resolution times.


2. Notify external webhooks


External webhooks are often an underutilized feature of Zendesk. Whether it’s a communication tool like Slack or an operations system like PagerDuty, external webhook triggers enable you to send notifications to other tools or systems when certain conditions are reached. This can reduce time and effort and bring more consistency to your workflows.


For example, if a ticket needs to be escalated, don't force the agent to transcribe details to another tool. Use a trigger connected to a checkbox field that will fire the relevant information and urgency to an appropriate team or individual.


External notifications can send Zendesk context to other teams, notify leaders of critical cases, spawn defects and much more. Putting more automation behind these actions will result in less manual work and errors and a more consistent experience for customers and team members.


Webhooks can also be used to automate complex ticket processing logic that can’t be achieved using a simple trigger and action. For example:

  • Extract a piece of text from a ticket attachment and add that information to a ticket field

  • Check each new ticket to see if an existing ticket from the same requester already exists. If so, merge those tickets.

To achieve objectives like these you will need to implement a small web app that gets notified through a Zendesk webhook every time a new ticket arrives. Although the app can be very simple, it typically requires help from a developer to build it and run it in production.


If you don't have access to a developer, you can use low-code platforms such as Triggers+ for Zendesk. It already comes with a set of predefined use cases implemented such as automatically merging of tickets that are duplicates.


An added bonus to all of this is that driving these actions through Zendesk also brings the ability to report on what’s happening. You’ll be able to see what triggers are firing (and when), enabling you to improve your product and processes continually over time.


3. Use Zendesk Apps to customize your agents’ experience


The Zendesk App Marketplace is a true superpower. The marketplace contains thousands of apps, allowing every Zendesk customer to customize and extend the functionality of their Zendesk platform.


Regardless of what your tech stack looks like today, chances are you can further integrate Zendesk into it. Zendesk apps enable you to create unique workflows and processes that make life easier on your agents and scale your customer support efficiently. You can get deeper analytics to improve your help center and find answers for customers faster.


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Remember Apple’s “There’s an app for that” advertisements?


Frankly, if you’re experiencing any kind of consistent challenge with your Zendesk software, chances are that “there’s an app for that.” Just hop on the Zendesk Marketplace and get to searching!


Reduce manual tasks


When you’re building out a support team, it’s easy to default to letting humans do all the work. But when you’re dealing with repetitive tasks and a growing volume of support tickets, you need to start leveraging automation to reduce manual tasks so you can scale your team more efficiently.


There are two chief ways to reduce manual tasks within Zendesk: Macros and Automations. Use these two tools wisely and you’ll rapidly reduce agent clicks and manual effort.


Macros


Zendesk macros are responses you prepare for your agents to use ahead of time. They enable multiple tasks to be completed with the click of a button, including adding or removing tags, changing the assignee, and updating fields. Macros don’t rely on conditions, because they’re only applied when an agent deems appropriate.


A common complaint about macros is that they can make a team sound robotic or pre-scripted. In some cases this may be true, but it’s a situation that’s easily avoided. Just create multiple macros for one purpose!


For example, there are only so many ways you would normally say "hello" to a customer. Instead of having your whole team always use an identical greeting, create several different variations and label them consecutively: "Greeting #1," "Greeting #2," and so on. Each macro accomplishes the same purposes, but in a slightly different way. For instance, for a greeting you might have:

  • "Hello, [Customer]"

  • "Thank you for your question, [Customer]"

  • "I’d be happy to help you with this, [Customer]"

Mixing these different macros across your support tickets will help your team to sound less repetitive, while still saving your team valuable time.


Zendesk macros can also improve your support reporting while saving your team from repetitive clicks. Because macros can complete tasks like setting ticket fields or updating the ticket subject, you can use them to ensure fields aren’t getting missed or incorrectly updated. Once you’ve built out a macro, you’ll know for sure that fields are updated correctly every single time (assuming your team uses the macro!).


For example, you can create macros that set issue type, priority, group, and other common fields all at once. Combine this with an external webhooktarget notification (as mentioned above) and you can fill in ticket details, set important ticket fields and escalate a ticket to the right people all in one click.


While it might not seem like much, saving a few clicks here or there can add up to hours of saved effort each week, while also removing the monotonous, mechanical elements of support work.


Automations


Zendesk automations use time-based triggers to act on tickets that meet a defined criteria. They run once per hour, and they’ll take action upon every unclosed ticket that meets the defined criteria. Here’s how Zendesk summarizes them:

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One common use case of automations is to send CSAT surveys after a ticket is closed. You define your criteria, and then once per hour Zendesk will automatically send out surveys to the customers from relevant tickets.


Automations can also help you draw attention to tickets that require a response. For example, consider a ticket that is waiting for a defect to be fixed or a waiting on a third-party for an update. You can set up an automation to escalate these tickets after a certain amount of time, making sure that no customer gets forgotten or overlooked.


Automating these time-based workflows will help focus your agents' attention where it needs to be while automatically taking care of common actions that don't require human involvement.


Improve your self-service


How many of your tickets have repeatable answers? If your support team is like most support teams, it’s probably a huge majority.


This means your agents likely type or say the same answers many times each day. Some of these requests may be easier — like “how do I sign up?” — while others may be more complex, yet still common. Macros can speed up your team’s responses, but you’re still requiring some kind of human involvement on each of these ticket.s


Improving your self-service options reduces the volume of these repetitive tickets. More importantly, self-service is something your customers want from you. Zendesk has several options available to help you improve your self-serve support options.


Use Zendesk Guide & Knowledge capture


Zendesk Guide in Zendesk’s native help center solution. When used alongside the Knowledge Capture app, Zendesk Guide becomes the key to building a culture of knowledge sharing across your support team.


When you don’t have a help center or knowledge base available for your customers, you’re teaching them to rely on your support team for help in every single situation. Most support leaders today know that this is a recipe for failure over the long-term. Relying on humans to help your customers with everything is incredibly expensive—and your customers would rather find answers themselves.


Using Zendesk Guide successfully requires creating thoughtful and helpful knowledge base articles. As you create these articles, your agents can refer to them more often in their conversations with customers. You can also update the user experience (UX) on your website to make your help center the obvious first stop for anyone needing assistance.


A robust help center means your customers can solve issues themselves, reducing your support ticket volume. But it doesn’t stop there. Your support team can also use your help center to quickly resolve issues, resulting in reduced effort and shorter handle times.


It's a win-win strategy for you and your customers.


Automate answers with a chatbot


Layering in Zendesk Answer Bot (or one of the many integrated artificial intelligence tools in the Zendesk App Marketplace) can provide answers to your customers' questions automatically.


Tools like chatbots have improved significantly in recent years. Most of these tools no longer rely on keyword matching, which means your customers don’t have to type a specific sequence of words to get the answer they need. Today’s chatbots are smart enough to recognize your customers’ intent. That means that even if there’s a typo or your customer uses the wrong word for one of your features, your chatbot has a good chance of still serving up the correct answer.


If you’re already investing in Zendesk Guide (or another knowledge base), a tool like Answer Bot is a logical next step. These tools help you get more of a return on your existing investment by putting your knowledge articles in front of customers in a seamless fashion.


Ongoing maintenance


When your support team is trying to do more with less, it’s easy to start relying on ad hoc workarounds. If there’s no known solution to a problem (or if the solution is known to be bad), agents often take it upon themselves to create their own shortcuts.


For example, if your macros are out of date, your support agents may resort to using their own macros stored in a Google Doc or Apple Notes. While the intention behind this is good, these shortcuts lead to information fracturing and quickly growing outdated. If you have twenty agents, you may have twenty (or more) versions of the same information floating around. This significantly increases the odds of customers receiving bad information, and it also means that when your product changes all of your agents need to spend time updating their macros.


In short, it’s a really bad idea.


To avoid this scenario, ongoing maintenance of your Zendesk instance is required. Regularly checking accuracy and putting processes in place to flag errors ensures that your system remains fully functional. It instills trust across your team that they can rely on your tools, and it improves the experience for your customers because they’ll always be getting consistent and up-to-date answers.


Do far more with less using Zendesk


Tight budgets are no problem for Zendesk customers.


Because Zendesk combines a wide variety of features that reduce manual work, automate common actions, and enable self-service—plus an app ecosystem that can give your agents superpowers—every support team can get a ton of value from their Zendesk platform. Since most of these features are relatively easy to use and will drive immediate value to your agents, there’s literally no reason to start making the most of them today.



 


Written by Craig Stoss

Craig has spent time in more than 30 countries working with support, development, and professional services teams building insight into Customer Experience and engagement. He is driven by building strong, effective support and services teams and ensuring his customers are successful. In his spare time Craig leads a local Support Thought Leadership group. He can be found on Twitter @StossInSupport


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