Fine Tuning: Best Practices for Ticket Deflection

This Fine Tuning discussion focused on best practices for ticket deflection, including:

  • Promoting self-help for internal and external use cases
  • What your Help Center data is telling you
  • The Zendesk approach to ticket deflection

Zendesk Customer Success Manager Phil Hansen has been working in the tech industry for 7 years with a background in Marketing and Data Analytics. For this Fine Tuning, Phil led the online discussion and shared tips on how to increase ticket deflection for your Zendesk support team.

See all the Fine Tuning series discussions.

Part 1: Promote ‘self-help’ through marketing and communication

Providing a knowledge base and a community platform are great ways to help customers find solutions to problems on their own. However, having a plan on how to drive customers to this content is equally important. As obvious as this may seem, your marketing plan for how users navigate to your knowledge base and clear communication directing customers to your online information are two essential elements that set the stage for ticket deflection.

Ticket deflection is often executed differently for internal support vs external support use cases, but the overall goal is the same: provide easy access to information so users can help themselves before submitting a ticket becomes necessary. If your customers can find solutions to their questions or issues without contacting support, you can cut down on the number of tickets in your support queue. A shorter support queue can help increase customer satisfaction and control costs.  The overall cost savings of self-service versus assisted-service can be significant when looking at your organization’s bottom line and allocation of resources.

While generally it’s a best practice to allow customers to reach you through all available channels, it doesn’t always make sense for your business model. Some Zendesk customers choose to forego using a support email address - directing all customers to their knowledge base instead.  This self-service model is a great way to funnel your customers to your Help Center, allowing them to search for topics or read a suggested article answering their question before submitting a request.

Need proof? It’s in the numbers. Customers prefer to help themselves.

Effective marketing and communication can encourage ticket deflection from day one, while also speeding up end-user adoption. Check out our September Fine Tuning about end-user adoption. But for now, here are some tactical ideas to help drive customers to your self-service pages. Internal and external use cases have been identified

Internal Use:

  • Develop a marketing campaign that includes a company-wide announcement and an official “Go-Live” date.
  • Build excitement around the office by promoting the launch in creative ways.
  • Include promotional messaging in email signatures of the team who is launching Zendesk.
  • Offer training sessions for end-users who will be your “customers” and also for management teams who will be receiving Zendesk reporting or statistics.
  • Encourage internal customers to bookmark your Help Center and create friendly reminder Macros if requested info could have been found in your knowledge base.
  • Promote subscribing to an announcement section of your Help Center - A great way to keep customers informed of news and other important topics.
  • Make accessing your Help Center easy. Create navigation from your own website and any internal intranet(s).
  • Incorporate single sign-on for seamless authentication and quick access.

External Use:

  • Link your knowledge base with one click from your site’s main navigation menu.
  • Integrate your “Contact Us” information into your knowledge base. Since a majority sites have a “Contact Us” page separate from their knowledge base, combining the two could lead customers to find information or content they were initially going to contact you about.
  • Keep the Search bar above-the-fold and in a prominent location. One Help Center template that does this well is “The Wiry Merchant”.
  • Remind customers about your knowledge base in replies and correspondence to their inquiries. Ex: Thank you for contacting support! We are working to answer all e-mail support requests as soon as possible. In the interim, please feel free to take a look at our forums (include appropriate hyperlink).

Participate in the conversation Share your ideas, we’d love to hear from you!

For internal customer support: Did you communicate the launch of your Help Center? If so, how did you do it? Is there anything that worked really well or is there something you wish you had done differently?

For external customer support: How do you direct people to your knowledge base? Was making it easy to find a priority? Do you have a high percentage of tickets coming in from other channels that could be deflected by encouraging customers to search your knowledge base? 

Part 2: What is your Help Center data telling you?

With the data available in Help Center Dashboards, Google Analytics, and within your own Zendesk tickets, you can gain a better understanding of how your customers are engaging with your Help Center and determine what areas or content subjects need your attention. For instance, making sure you have articles written for the top search terms in your Help Center or analyzing your ticket data to create more detailed content clarifying your most frequent requests. Let’s take a look at each of these tools to see how they can help.

Help Center Dashboards (Professional/Enterprise)

With the Help Center Dashboards, you can monitor user activity in your Knowledge Base, Community and Search activity. While Knowledge Base and Community info is very powerful, Search is the star here when it comes to helping find areas to increase ticket deflection. Search information can be used to gain a better understanding of what users are looking for in your Help Center. These insights will hopefully prompt your team to create content or improve upon existing content based on your Help Center dashboard data.

For more information, see Analyzing your Help Center community and knowledge base activity.

Search data  provides you insight into the following:

  • Total - Total number of searches and the most popular search strings
  • With No Results - Total number of searches with no results along with the term that was searched
  • With No Clicks - When a user does not click on an article after a search
  • Ticket Created - Search results are provided and a ticket is still created

For more information, see Analyzing your Help Center search activity.

Google Analytics

It’s likely you’re already using Google Analytics to track your Help Center’s visitors, but if not, I encourage you to read the 4-part series in our forums and enable it on your account right away! Google Analytics for your Help Center allows you to track a number of metrics from the moment it's enabled on your account. Here are some of the metrics Google Analytics can track and how they can uncover areas for ticket deflection.

Audience Data:

  • Visitors & Unique Visitors - Are your customers visiting your Help Center and are they coming back often? The more traffic the better, if you are seeing a lot of repeat traffic, that’s telling you customers are finding your Help Center content useful.
  • Page Views & Pages Views per Session - Are your visitors viewing a lot of content when they stop by? High numbers here could mean users find the content useful. It could also mean they can’t find what they’re looking for. Cross reference the pages with the highest views and the type of requests you’re seeing in your ticket data. If there’s a match you may need to improve your content.
  • Average Session Duration & Percent of New Sessions will tell you how long the average visitor is staying at your Help Center and what percentage are first time visitors. If the average session duration seems low chances are visitors are not engaging with your content. If the percent of new sessions seems low and your ticket volume in other channels remains high, improvements could be made to drive customers to self-serve. An exception here would be for internal use cases where the percentage of new sessions should decrease over time.
  • Demographic Data can tell you more about the visitors coming to your Help Center, including the city and country they are accessing from and what language they are using to read internet content. Analyzing this data can help you determine if you need location specific content or enable localization to support multiple languages in your Help Center.
  • System & Mobile Data: Do you need to provide browser or operating system specific content in your knowledge base? Or maybe you're wondering if your "on the go" users are using their mobile device to search for answers. The Google Analytics system and mobile data can let you monitor and track this info. You can also enable the mobile layout so when your customers visit your Help Center using their tablets and smartphones they'll see a layout that is optimized for these devices.

In addition to the above out-of-the-box reporting data that Google Analytics provides, we’ve created some Custom Event Tracking Snippets that you can add to your Help Center’s Javascript to track actions and activity. For example, tracking what page a user is on when they decide to click “Submit a Request” or when they choose a Suggested Article over submitting a ticket (ticket deflection).

Your Zendesk Tickets

Review your ticket data and identify areas for self-service opportunities:

  • What are your most common requests and contact drivers? Could they be deflected by creating FAQs or an article?
  • What are your most common requests via Ticket: Channel Web Form? Requests created in your Help Center implies the customer was not able to find an answer to their question in your knowledge base.

With Zendesk ticket forms, a feature available in the Enterprise plan, customers are served a dynamic form to complete that is customized to the type of request selected. Analyzing not only the types of requests submitted but identifying trends within the details can help your content management team pinpoint what additional topics should be included in your knowledge base. If you’re not using ticket forms, you could add an “About” drop-down to your default ticket form to identify the type of request.

Participate in the conversation Share your ideas, we’d love to hear from you!

Share any tools, metrics, or analysis tactics that you’ve implemented to help improve your Help Center content and increase ticket deflection.


Part 3: The Zendesk approach to ticket deflection

Despite being easy-to-use, beautifully simple software, Zendesk still receives a large number of customer requests and product feedback suggestions. Our development team is constantly rolling out improvements to the product, so staying up-to-date on new features and product changes isn’t always easy and can be challenging even as a Zendesk employee.

Beyond our weekly release updates, demos, and documentation, there is often a need for additional education. As an organization we make it a priority for different teams within Zendesk to contribute to ticket deflection, each reducing the number of tickets we receive in their own way. So, how do we do it? Below are a number of ways different teams and efforts help deflect tickets at Zendesk.

Zendesk Teams:

  • Advocates - The front line. Whether answering customer questions on a call, chat or educating other Zendesk colleagues, our Advocates are one of our main contributors to ticket deflection.
  • Sales -  The sales team answers many of the early questions customers have either through scheduled calls or one of the many product demos they offer.
  • Marketing - Proactively reaching out and engaging our customers - communicating what’s new and what’s on the horizon for Zendesk.
  • Customer Success - works closely with customers to help them plan, build and grow with Zendesk. This includes regularly scheduled calls with customers often to discuss new features or answer any questions.
  • Documentation - Certainly our champions of ticket deflection! A team of writers work to build our knowledge base. This team does an amazing job of keeping our knowledge base up to date while also managing content that is no longer relevant. If you have a question, chances are the answer can be found in our forums.
  • Community Forum Moderators - Our customers are some our best teachers. Knowledgable customers are invited to provide insightful answers and feedback to comments on articles and product feedback pages publicly available for all Zendesk community members to see.
  • Community Support - This is a dedicated support person providing one-to-many support in our Zendesk Community.


Zendesk Events & Education:

  • Zen U. Online Training & Education - Using technology we put our customers in the driver’s seat to remotely access a variety of education and training material on their own schedules or sign up for live classroom style support.
  • Zen U. Events - The college of customer happiness - Events are a great way to support and get to know our customers on a large scale.
  • Video Library - Interactive content demonstrating software features

Participate in the conversation Share your ideas, we’d love to hear from you!

Is ticket deflection a priority for your organization as a whole? Do multiple departments or teams help contribute to ticket deflection? Are there departments within your organization not listed here that contribute to your ticket deflection?


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    CSM response

    Welcome all! Parts 1 & 2 are now open for discussion. Please feel free to ask questions or share techniques you've used to successfully increase ticket deflection.

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    Hi Phil - We rely on the Help Center Dashboards to give us insight on the new articles that we need to create for ticket deflection.  We have a team that meets once a month and we cover the Reporting "Search" to see what our end users are searching for the most on our Help Center.  We also look at ticket tags which the new "Insights' is helping shows us the new trending tags.  Based off that data we come up with several topics that we think need to be added to our KnowledgeBase and start working on the articles.  The positive benefit to this is that even if you deflect one end user to an article then thats one less ticket that we have to worry about :-)


    CSM response

    Thanks for breaking the ice on this topic Wes! This is a excellent example of how the Help Center Dashboards Search data can be used to uncover articles or topics that may be lacking in your current knowledge base content. It's also nice to hear that your team meets monthly to discuss areas for improvement which brings up another great point...ticket deflection is ongoing process that requires regular attention and analysis from your content team.

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    Sally Anne Dishong

    Hi! Thanks for this great topic. I'm just digging into the content...this link isn't working for me: "SEO techniques" https://support.zendesk.com/entries/26237033-SEO-Basics-for-Help-Center-

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    Hi Sally Anne,

    Sorry about that! Looks like that's an internal KB doc. I removed the link for now. We'll see if we can post an external version of it.

    Glad you liked the spotlight topic. Let us know if you have any other ideas/experiences to share!  

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    HI again,

    We've updated the link about optimizing search to a public-facing article:  Optimizing your Help Center content for search 

    Hope that helps!

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    Sally Anne Dishong

    Thanks for updating the search portion!

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    Hey Phil, great article - I did have one quick question -- do you have more information on the data collection methods in the survey your referenced in the "Need proof" section (see below)?



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    Hi John!

    The sources for that whitepaper are listed at the very bottom:

    You should be able to get the information you're looking for from them!

    Please let me know if you have any other questions!

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