Fine Tuning: Analyzing the metrics that matter

Customer Success Executive Roshni hosted this discussion.


You can still participate:

  • Read the best practices below that Roshni and others shared.
  • Add a comment to ask a question or share your ideas.

This Fine Tuning discussion is about analyzing your metrics, including:

  • How do I analyze my ticket backlog?
  • What are my tickets about?
  • How can I determine if my customers are satisfied?

Roshni Sondhi is on the Customer Success Executive team at Zendesk. Her favorite part of her role is understanding customer’s strategic goals and mapping a way to their success.

See all the Fine Tuning discussions .

Part 1: How do I analyze my ticket backlog?

Business Question: How do I analyze my ticket backlog?

Why it’s important: Summary to see how Zendesk is handling your ticket volume, allowing you to staff appropriately to deliver an effective customer experience.  Overall, the backlog analysis provides a general pulse to the health of your support organization. Backlog is defined as all tickets currently in new, open, pending, or hold status. In summary, tickets that are outstanding and have work to be completed.

Action: Review trends in the number of inbound tickets. If the trend in inbound tickets is increasing, analyze the ticket types.  Can any of these be solved through a knowledge base article or in the community? Can the incident workflow be optimized through triggers and automations to help agents response and solve tickets more efficiently?

Action: Look at your backlog by group.  Are certain groups experiencing a more significant backlog than others?  If so, drill further down to analyze the handle time for those specific groups. Are there certain training opportunities to allow the agents to work more efficiently? If the handle times are consistent across groups, then perhaps you need to increase the number of agents for the group experiencing the backlog.

Action: Are there trends in your median response time?  If the median response time has increased month over month, review the tickets coming in.  Is there a new reason customers are contacting you?  Are your agents able to help customers with the tools currently available to them?  If your agents don’t have the appropriate resources available, they are probably responding to fewer tickets per hour, thus increasing your backlog.

(Insights only) Action: You can review your backlog composition over time in the Ticket tab of the prebuilt dashboard. This enables you to see whether the health of your backlog is getting better or worse. This is a great way to measure how well your efforts to manage the backlog are working.

Let's discuss, how do you handle your ticket backlog?

Part 2: What are my tickets about?

Business Question: What are my tickets about?

Why it’s important: Understanding your top contact drivers allows you to have full visibility into why customers are contacting your support team and to provide better service to your customers. By having visibility, you can optimize your agent and incident workflows.  Understanding your top ticket drivers month over month will also highlight trends in your business and allow you to train agents more effectively.

Note: If you are not currently capturing what your ticket are about, you’ll need to first set up a custom field where agents can indicate the issue for each ticket. At Zendesk, we call ours the “About” field. For information, see Adding and using custom ticket fields .

Action: Which “About”s can be answered through a web channel, i.e., self service or community?  Review your top five “About”s to see which can be solved through the web channel.  If you’re on the Enterprise plan, enabling Ticket Forms for inbound incidents would also expose relevant knowledge base articles to the end-user before they submit a ticket.

Action: Which “About”s can be answered through an automation?

As you review your top five “About”s, determine if any can be solved through an automated response or a trigger. For example,  Vodafone was able to reduce their top contact driver (requests for a password reset) by creating a trigger with instructions on how to reset their password, then setting the ticket to solved and removing it from the ticket queue.

(Insights only) Action : Which channels do you target for these optimizations?

If you have a custom “About” field in your tickets, you can build a report in Insights to analyze your top “Abouts by Channel” (see the Insights recipe Reporting on what your tickets are about .) As you start to review the breakdown, focus on the channels that are at a higher cost to your organization - typically this includes phone and chat.  If you focus on the top contact drivers by these channels, you can create a plan to determine which actions are best for your company.

Part 3: How can I determine if my customers are satisfied?

Business Question: How can I determine if my customers are satisfied?

Why it’s important: Customer satisfaction is defined as the percentage of customers whose experience was positive against all customers who underwent the experience.  Customer satisfaction is a great indicator of how you can improve the customer experience and optimize your internal processes.

Action: Are certain agents consistently receiving poor customer satisfaction ratings?  If so, review their tickets for possible training opportunities or to designate subject matter experts on your team.

Action: You can share your customer satisfaction data with the rest of your team, so that all agents can see the number of good and bad rated tickets from the last week, as well the last week’s customer satisfaction score for the entire team. You can even set up a weekly email to send your Satisfaction dashboard to your agents before your weekly team meeting. Here at Zendesk, we share our customer satisfaction ratings with feedback on our internal collaboration tool for full visibility within the company.

If you have Insights, you can also build a custom report that shows satisfaction ratings by agent. See the Insights recipe Reporting on whether your customers are satisfied .

_Action: _The value of customer feedback is all about follow-up. Use the comments your customers provide through satisfaction surveys to start conversations. Read through the comments and let customers know their feedback has been heard.  Where you will be incorporating feedback, let the customer know. This shows that the relationship is a true partnership. If a customer had a poor experience, you can reach out, try to fix the problem, and then ask them to reevaluate their satisfaction rating.

If you have Insights, the Satisfaction tab in the prebuilt dashboard enables you to track how often customers trade their bad satisfaction ratings for good one.

(Insights only) Action :  In Satisfaction tab in the prebuilt dashboard, there is a graph showing “Satisfaction by Assignee Stations.”  Is there an inversely proportional relationship between customer satisfaction and the number of ticket reassignments?  If you see customer satisfaction declining based on an increasing number of ticket reassignments, review your internal support procedures to determine how to best reduce the number of ticket reassignments.

Bonus Question: What actions do you take based on your customer satisfaction data?


  • 0

    Hi All!  Our first discussion topic is up!  As a reminder, this first discussion topic is around analyzing your ticket backlog and why this is an important report to review on a frequent basis.

  • 1

    I love hearing the ZD take on this stuff.  Very helpful.  Thanks for defining "backlog" as well.  I wasn't sure if the headline report for "Current backlog" included solved tickets since they can still be re-opened but now I know that it doesn't.

    Can you explain what the Insights "Historical backlog" report is indicating?  I would think it should show the # of unsolved tickets on the last day of a given month but since the numbers are way too high for that in my report I don't think that's the case.  Thanks in advance.

  • 0

    Understanding your top contact drivers allows you to have full visibility into why customers are contacting your support team and to provide better service to your customers.  In this section, we'll discuss how to understand what the tickets are about.  Part 2 has just been posted.  Let me know how you review your contact drivers!

  • 0

    I think that designing your 'about' field is one of the hardest things to do in a new Zendesk. Too many options distracts agents; making the choices clear and unambiguous takes care; agents are not always accurate and consistent in their selection and management can place too much weight on the data without first ensuring these issues are addressed. The help desk manager really needs to get a handle on the 'about' field using analytic tools.

  • 0

    Graeme - how do you help your agents define the "about" - do you do this through custom ticket fields with tagging, conditional fields, custom ticket forms???

    We have a custom ticket form internally for our incoming media files - things that people send us that we know have to go through an internal process to be loaded onto their online sites.  Depending upon how that media comes to us (electronic, physical), what it is (portraits, candids), and some other choice pieces, we have a macro for each of those selections.  That might seem like a lot of macros to choose from (it's around 10), but after about a day's worth of slogging through media, you know what you're looking at.  8000 tickets and 3 months later, you come to love those macros!

    Now I just need to get better...more "Insights-ful" - on how long the tickets are in certain statuses (we have views for issues or specific plant locations which are more important than actual ticket status), was there a customer faux pas that caused delay or was it our fault, and so on.

    I guess I need to start making my lists of what's important to me.  My teammate and I differ on how much to track.  He says I try to report on too much.  I guess I've been asked by upper management for enough things that I just happened to have thought ahead to capture.  :)


    I can't wait to see the "how satisfied are your customers" part.  Some of our Satisfaction comments are very odd, but telling.  "How come you didn't tell me about...." such n such?  And you know that information is in a printed document, an online document, and has been sent in an email by their account rep. 

    The Lead A Horse To Water syndrome is hard to solve - I never mind answering a question if it's asked.  It's frustrating to receive bad satisfaction when you not had the opportunity to answer before being thwacked and you think you've flooded the stable sufficiently.


  • 0

    I changed the whole concept when I designed my helpdesk. I took away the free text subject line and replaced it with a dropdown of symptoms. This allows me to have the "about" without my agents having to always set it. Do customers always get it right? Most of the time they do as I analysed my tickets from our previous ticket system and came up with symptoms that made sense to our customers. Investing time upfront is important as you cannot go back and change your mind retrospectively on closed tickets.

    I am now finding also that I can further segment the "about" by the types of customers we service. The result differ based upon consumer/business and company size. I was not originally expecting that.

  • 0

    Diane, we use a custom ticket field with nested options to tag each ticket. The field is mandatory before solving. I have no problem with having many options to provide a lot of detail, but that is hard to do well. As Colin says, if you get it wrong, you are lumbered with it.

  • 0

    Hi Justin, 

    Even though the pre-built dashboards aren't customizable, you can still click the title of any report to see how it was built. When you click 'Historical Backlog,' then click the 'What' section, you'll see the basis of this report is the metric called 'Backlog Ticket Count.' Clicking on the words 'Backlog Ticket Count' will populate the MAQL recipe for how this metric was built in the column to the right. Here, we can see this 'Backlog Ticket Count' metric specifies this is the backlog as of the last day of the month. 

    Since you mentioned your report's numbers aren't adding up, I'm creating a ticket on your behalf where we can dive into your project and find out why. I'll see you in that ticket shortly!

  • 0

    I've typically encouraged setting up an "About" field for customers to fill out, as well as one for agents to fill out.  I think the information becomes very telling based on the similarities versus gaps in what customers think they're emailing you about versus how the agent codes the ticket.  Colin,  I think it's really interesting that you segment the "Abouts" by customer size/business.  Have you seen similarities between verticals?  Have you been able to forecast business trends based on this?

    Graeme:  I would agree that setting up the "Abouts" requires some detailed thought, because you can either be too vague or get too detailed, and overwhelm the agents.  Do you currently have an "Abouts" field set up?  If not, how do you determine contact drivers?

    Diane:  I'm glad you're excited about the Satisfied post - only 40 minutes left!  I am a data fan like yourself, the more data points the better!  As you determine what to measure, it's really important to keep your business goals and strategies in mind.  If you can post what your goals/strategies are, I'd be happy to help brainstorm on metrics.


  • 0

    Roshni, I was actually surprised how different the results were between the verticals. So much so that I have now started to revisit the customer journey a little more to see how we can better meet the different needs of these segments.

  • 0

    Colin:  That's really interesting.  Are you building the journeys that are vertical based?  Or are you looking to create a focus group with some of your different vertical customers who are pretty vocal?

  • 0

    Although I should do the job properly, at this stage I am simply adapting the support areas of the journey for each segment from an internal viewpoint. I am sure this will bring some improvements for our customers.

  • 0

    We all want customers to be satisfied, so in this section we'll discuss what actions to take based on customer satisfaction feedback you receive.  We'll also share what actions you can take based on the data received from your customer satisfaction surveys.   Part 3 focused on customer satisfaction has just been posted.  


  • 0

    Diane - The customer satisfaction portion has just been posted. Looking forward to your thoughts.

  • 0

    We have a company information session each month where I share who has achieved 100% customer satisfaction since the last meeting. I feel it is important that all areas of the business hear the results not just the teams with agents in them. We do have a rule that states that you must have more than 5 responses in order to qualify and i do have a treat for the first agent who achieves this 3 months in a row. 

  • 0

    Colin:  That's great!  Here at Zendesk, we post CSAT ratings (positive and negative) on our internal Yammer feed for company visibility. 

  • 0

    @Colin - I'm super interested to know how you hid the subject field and replaced it with a drop down.  I thought ZD required it.  Have you created an article on this?

  • 0

    Hey guys,

    I wanted to share this two part tip that our community moderator Andrea wrote about the metrics you should measure:



  • 0

    Hi all,

    You can learn more about analytics and Insights in our Support Analytics Masterclass.

    You can register at https://university.zendesk.com/#/purchase and apply a 20% discount using this code: 0OtMoA3q

  • 0

    I recently managed a revision to the "About" field we use in support.zendesk.com. It was a major undertaking, since the aim was to add more granularity to a field that was fairly complex already. 

    1. Consider your "customers" and their needs - who's going to be looking at this data, and what will they use it for? There's no use creating and using a field that's not going to be used. You'll want to talk to those stakeholders; in our case I spent time with our product experts in Support as well as the members of our Product team.
    2. What's the "mission statement" for the field? Do you want to capture what the issue is, or where the issue is happening? The complexity and rate of change of your product/service can inform this. If you have a fairly straightforward product with a limited number of frequent issues, then a simple field listing common symptoms (with an "other/misc" selection), accessible by your end-users when creating a ticket, may be good for you. In our case, we have a complex product worked on by independent engineering teams that evolves rapidly, so we want to capture where the issue is happening - our About field is only accessible by agents,  and lists areas of the product (in many cases with a layer or two of specificity so we can pinpoint areas that need concentrated attention).
    3. There are some details of the custom field implementation that you may want to pay attention to, especially if you're using a nested field with categories and item (like we do):
    • The ticket field in the Agent UI only shows the name of the actual item selected, and not any category information, so you'll want to make sure all your items have unique names. You wouldn't want to have "API" under two different categories, for example. The clearer your names are, the less training and documentation you'll need for your team (or customer) to know which choice to make.
    • Views will show the category (or nested categories) as well as the item name (e.g. "Product::Reporting::Insights"), but note that if you're sorting by a custom dropdown field, the sorting is alphabetical by Tag. This isn't a problem if you use the tags automatically generated by Zendesk, but if you're using your own (and especially as items evolve over time), this can cause problem if you don't have a consistent tagging strategy.
    • The fewer cooks, the better - if practical, limit the number of Admins so that desired changes can be vetted properly (to prevent redundancy, naming-convention issues etc.).

    • If you're doing a major revision and/or have a large number of options in your list, consider using the API to update the field instead of the Agent UI. This way you can make sure everything is correct before committing the change, and you can easily apply all the changes at once (and fix or revise as needed later on). Note that if you're revising an existing field, the API update call doesn't just make changes or add items - it completely replaces the old list with whatever you supply in the API call. It's a good idea to test in a temporary field (or sandbox account, if you have one available).

    Finally, once your field is in place, periodically review it, spot-checking tickets for accurate usage, making sure people are using it at all (if you haven't made the field Required), and circling back with your stakeholders to make sure it's still meeting their needs. 

    Hope this helps!


  • 0

    Hi - we've been using the "about" field - and now I'd like to see the breakdown. Where does it live?  I don't see anything in reporting.  Is seeing this only visible if you have Insights?  Thanks. 

  • 0

    @Dgood: Your "about" field will appear as an Attribute in Insights. To see the breakdown, you'll need to create a new report in Insights that uses that Attribute - here's one recipe on how you could do that:


    Another way I like to look at "about" results is by looking at the most frequently-used values. In Insights, you'd do this by creating a new report and specifying:

    What: #Tickets

    How: About (or whatever your custom "about" field is called)


    * Ticket (Date Created) is last 90 days [or any time frame you'd like to see]

    * Add a Ranking filter and specify Top 15 About by #Tickets

    Select the bar chart format, then click Show Configuration and:

    * Under "Configuration", drag "Metric Values" to the X-Axis, and "About" to the Y-Axis, and click the Apply button there - this will switch the bars of the chart to being horizontal

    * Scroll down to "Chart Sorting" and select "largest first" (and click Apply) - this puts the most frequently-used About field selections at the top

    Then click Create, and you've got yourself a report!


Please sign in to leave a comment.