This Fine Tuning session is all about agent productivity, and includes the following topics:
- Business rules, macros, and keyboard shortcuts
- Pre-qualifying customer issues and questions
- Zendesk apps
- Measuring productivity
Sylviana Ho is a Customer Success Executive and was one of the early Customer Success team members at Zendesk. She comes with a ton of tech and customer support experience and loves helping customers optimize their Zendesk accounts.
To find more Fine Tuning articles, see Fine tuning resources.
Customer support is not an easy job. As an agent, you need to balance being effective and efficient while keeping the customer’s issue and overall experience in mind.
This Fine Tuning session will help you optimize and measure your agent productivity while continuing to deliver the best customer experience. We'll give you with tips and best practices to improve your Zendesk instance and use reports to monitor your progress. Improvements that increase agent productivity translate to cost savings for your team, meaning your operational costs for your organization reduce also.
Business rules, macros, and keyboard shortcuts
Triggers and automations
Triggers and automations are known as Business Rules and can remove much of the repetition from working with tickets.
- Triggers are event-based conditions that run immediately after a ticket is created or updated
- Automations are time based, and run on a regular schedule.
There are many ways you can use triggers and automations to help make your agents more efficient. For example:
- Automatically assign tickets by channel - If you have a team or agent that's responsible for certain support channels like email or Chat, you can create a trigger that will automatically assign tickets to that team's group or agent whenever a request is received from that channel. This removes the manual work and potential errors from agents passing tickets around.
Note: If you deactivated the default trigger “Notify group of assignment” you will need to add an action to “Notifications: Email group” to the trigger above.
- Automatically assign tickets by text or ticket field - If you need a specific team or Tier 2 support to handle certain issues, you can build a trigger to automatically assign those tickets based on the text in the form or custom fields that are selected (for more information about custom fields check out part 2).
Note: If you deactivated the default trigger “Notify group of assignment” you will need to add an action to “Notifications: Email group (assigned group)” to the trigger above.
- You can escalate important tickets with a specific tag by using the ‘Hours Since created’ condition with an automation.
- You can notify a team when a new ticket has remained unassigned for a certain number of hours by using the ‘Hours since created’ condition.
- You can notify the assigned agent or team when a ticket has been open for X number of hours without an update. We use the "Hours since assignee update (business) is" condition to take into account hours of operation.
- You can notify the customer after a certain number of hours or days when a pending ticket has not been updated (meaning they haven't responded to your agent yet). In this automation you would use the Hours since pending and Hours since update conditions.
By configuring business rules that are appropriate for your organization, your agents can save time and energy, and focus on tickets that really matter.
Another timesaving feature for your agents are Macros. Macros perform a series of actions like adding a response and updating ticket properties at the click of a single button. This saves your agents time, and hence saves your organization money.
Example: Many customers submit tickets about the same issue and they all require the same answer. Instead of having your agents manually write out the same response for each ticket or copy/paste from Word, you can create a macro that will add the response, change ticket fields, and prompt the agent to submit the ticket in a certain status. A more specific example is a macro used for incidents where end-users cannot access their account. Our very own Support team uses a macro that helps guide the end-user through a password reset while setting the ticket to the pending status.
We understand that not everything is one size fits all in a support organization, so you can create both shared macros for the team and individual agents can create personal macros if they have slightly different workflows. Additionally, consider using placeholders to make macros even more useful.
Last, but not least, keyboard shortcuts can shave time off of tickets by reducing mouse activity. You can take any action on a ticket without having your hand leave the keyboard.
My personal favorites are the hotkeys that allow you to submit and update the ticket status with the tap of three keys!
You can view a full list of keyboard shortcuts from your user profile in the top-right corner.
Pre-qualifying customer issues and questions
How great would it be if your agents knew what customers’ issues were before responding to the ticket? This would not only reduce back and forth responses, but also make the agent’s life easier by having all the information they need up front to solve the ticket and create a fast and positive experience for the customer.
You can do this in Support by using custom ticket fields (depending on your plan type, you must also be able to report on them). Custom ticket fields are customizable ticket fields that you can create to capture more information from your customers or agents and can be made visible to agents only or to both agents and end-users.
For example, you need the make and model of the product that your customer is having problems with. You can use a custom ticket field to request this information from the customer when they open the ticket meaning you don't have to waste time requesting more information from the customer and waiting for a response.
There are a variety of custom fields you can use. You can find the full list here. I recommend using drop-down list and checkbox fields where possible because you can generate tags that can be used in automations, macros, triggers, views, and most importantly reports.
On Enterprise plans, you can also use ticket forms and conditional fields that take this concept of pre-qualifying tickets a level deeper. Ticket forms enable you to create multiple support request forms that display a unique set of custom ticket fields so that you can get the right ticket, with the relevant information to the right agents. Conditional fields enable you to show and hide fields in your tickets based on selections the customer makes.
Zendesk Apps extend the Zendesk functionality beyond what is out of the box. Installing an app is easy, seamless and fast. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in the Zendesk Marketplace, you can get guidance on building your own app by visiting the Developer Center.
A couple of (free) apps that I want to highlight that were built specifically to make an agent’s life easier are the following:
- User Data - This app allows you to surface customer information and ticket history right next to the ticket providing more context for the agent to get a holistic view of the issue. Not only does this prevent the agent from having to hunt for information, but they can also provide a more tailored response to the customer.
- Time Tracking - The Time Tracking app captures the time your agents spend on each ticket. This makes managing your team’s performance and support operations easier by identifying which customers submit the most complicated and/or most time consuming tickets. The best part of this app is that it leverages Insights so that you can create reports with the time tracking data allowing you to make informed decisions to optimize workflows.
I’ll end the apps portion with these powerful words from one of our customers, Groupon, regarding apps: “Our agents save about 40% of time per ticket on average thanks to apps, they make us more efficient” — Dominic Pasta, Operations Manager Groupon UK
Help Center is like the self check-in line at the airport. It enables your customers to self-serve by finding their own answers using various support options such as knowledge base articles and community forums. If they can’t find the answer through those avenues, then your customers can submit a ticket.
The knowledge base should be considered the source of truth, especially if it is customer facing - so make sure to keep it updated! This may input from all of your agents or hiring a dedicated Help Center content manager. You can make articles available both internally and externally so that your customers and agents can potentially have access to the same articles, but see additional content based on their role. It’s good practice to have internal articles with access restricted to your agents to reference policies and procedures, and it can also help to minimize the time spent onboarding new agents.
Whatever the tips and best practices you introduce to improve productivity, it's important to measure them. This is equally, if not more important than workflow enhancements, because numbers don’t lie, and can help build a case for staffing, workflow changes, organizational changes, and more. Below are some helpful metrics to start measuring:
- Tickets per agent by day/week/month - Tracking the number of tickets per agent is a simple yet effective way to measure if the workload is distributed evenly on the team and also to see who your top performers are. The insights gained from this information allows you to make decisions around staffing based on volume, training, and creating/updating knowledge base articles.
- Tickets per agent per channel - Similar to tracking the number of tickets per agent, measuring by channel helps to see volume by channel. You may discover that you need to add more agents to a particular channel or come up with ways to reduce ticket volume for those channels.
- Time Tracking App metrics - This app tracks time automatically. However, you will need to build a few custom metrics and reports within Explore to analyze your team’s time logs. You should track total time spent, average time spent per ticket, and average time spent per update in order to gather a holistic view on how much time is actually spent on each interaction.
- One-touch tickets - These are tickets that are solved in one interaction. I consider one-touch tickets the slam dunk of tickets and have potential to be turned into a self-service opportunity. Make sure you track them!
Share with us how you optimize for agent productivity! What features and functionalities do you use to make your agents more efficient while keeping the customer experience in mind?
I'm wondering what the best way is to measure Agent Productivity. We want to know how many tickets an agent handIed per hour and the Average Handling Time per ticket/agent.
I created metrics for Ticket Handling Time and Update Handling time. Right now i use the AVG Ticket Handling Time to monitor the daily performance. I notice that the Ticket Handling Time increases in time. I also see almost 2 minutes of difference between Ticket Handling and Update Handling time. Please advise, thanks!
One suggestion I'd have is to be cautious about using Average Handle Time -- it's a very common metric in the industry, but it's vulnerable to outliers. For example, if most of your ticket have an handle time of fifteen minutes, but one ticket gets lots in the shuffle and ends up sitting around for six months (an extreme example, hopefully), your average is going to be much higher than you might expect. For that reason, I generally recommend using Median Handle Time instead, since that's going to tell you the handle time that 50% of tickets will be better than and 50% worse than.
There's some more useful tips in this article: What is average handle time? Calculate it with caution.
If you need help understanding the results of the two metrics you're using, can you reply and list how you're defining the metrics? Thanks!
Thanks for your reply and apologies for my late response.
How can i adjust my metrics to make a Median Handle Time? I created a standard calculated metric for Ticket Handling Time:
VALUE(Total time spent (sec))/60
And Update Handling time:
IF ([Changes - Field name] = "Total time spent (sec)")
IF ([Changes - Previous value]=NULL)
THEN NUMBER([Changes - New value])/60
ELIF (REGEXP_MATCH([Changes - New value], "[0-9]+") AND REGEXP_MATCH([Changes - Previous value], "[0-9]+"))
THEN(NUMBER([Changes - New value])-NUMBER([Changes - Previous value]))/60
Hi Dave, in the meantime i found how to change the metric to median. Thanks for the suggestion.
I have one more question.
Which attribute is best to use regarding time? Is that Ticket Update, Ticket Solved or Ticket last updated?
It will entirely depend on how what metrics you are currently using. If you are extracting solved tickets, it will be best to used Ticket Solved - Date. But based on the formula you are currently using, it can also help if you use Ticket Assigned - Date instead.
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