A Tier in My Eye: Notes on Soapbox Support ticket management strategies

I have been asked, when talking about how our support ticket management strategy is set up, what sort of tier structure we use.

For those of you who don’t know, ticket management usually has some sort of “tiering structure” where a ticket starts at Tier 1, and then may get escalated to Tier 2, Tier 3 and so on, depending on how complex the issue is.  Three or four tiers are typical – but I’ve heard of structures as large as ten tiers. If a ticket comes in, and the Tier 1 agent isn’t able to address it, she will escalate it to Tier 2, and so on.

The benefit of a tiered approach is that you can hire the largest number of the least knowledgeable support agents, and the least number of the most knowledgeable.  If you are managing hundreds of tickets a day, you may have five Tier 1 agents, two Tier 2 agents and a single agent for Tier 3 tickets.  The Tier 1 agents can move up in the ranks as they gain more knowledge, but you are maximizing cost efficiency by having the most of the least-paid agents.

The problem is that the tiers of agents are primarily isolated.  Once a ticket gets escalated, the new agent takes over and the initial agent is out of the loop.  You end up with very laterally compartmentalized knowledge.

In supporting our many Soapbox products, we take a slightly different approach.

We use what I like to call a “blended” or “organically” tiered approach.  With this approach, the agent that is first assigned the ticket sticks with it and follows it through to completion.  However, she has resources to resolve issues with which she may not have prior experience.   Our various teams are always at the ready to assist with a ticket, as needed.  The project manager who set the site up, the product developers who build our tools, even our sales and billing staff are all within reach to help resolve issues.

As an agent works her way through even the most complicated of tickets, she is working with those who are most familiar with the issue, and is learning herself to address issues that are likely to come up again.

Additionally, this creates a relationship between our client and the agent.  How many times have you had a customer service call escalated… and had to explain everything from the beginning to a brand new person?  It’s awful.  We want you the have a friend, a partner, that works with you by being able to access the full knowledge-base of our staff.

Another element of this “organic” tiered approach is that we don’t number, or label our tiers. Is a ticket Tier 1 or Tier 2?  We don’t look at it that way.

Sometimes it would make things easier if we did – metrics and analysis of our ticket management would probably take a little less time.

But it is vitally important to us to maintain a human relationship with our clients in each and every ticket.  By considering each ticket ‘equal’ in terms of importance, and by allowing our agents to work through each ticket from beginning to end we are assuring that our customers and their issues are not just ‘numbers.’

We view each ticket as a relationship – an opportunity for us to interact with, learn about, educate and generally get to know our clients.

By stepping away from a strict tiered structure, I believe we have been successful at doing that.  And if the feedback from our clients is any indication… I’d say they agree.

Brad Grochowski drives the Client Success bus for Soapbox, and thinks night and day about how to help accidental techies. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/bradhelpsyou

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This entry was posted on Thursday, February 27th, 2014 at 4:26 pm and is filed under nptech, quick tips, Soapbox Support. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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