Support, zombie tickets and continual improvement

So far in 2013 we’re handled just over 1,300 client support tickets. When you write it down like that it’s sounds pretty impressive but break it down and it’s about 1 support ticket for every working hour.

A rather impressive 94% are picked up within our 1 working day standard response window. Our client SLA was set at 85% so we’re comfortably inside our support commitment.

However, our real support numbers are actually a lot more impressive. Our mean response time is a good deal quicker with occasional tickets spiking the average. Taking a look at the response graph below you can see that it generally trickles along nicely inside 10hrs response but for the odd spike.

Screen Shot 2013-11-27 at 14.32.55

These spikes are (almost) 100% caused by Zombies. These are the undead tickets of the client support world – not a fictional niche market we operate in!

They all fall into one of two categories.

Those that come back from the dead. Support issues that are 99.9995% closed but need one final push (or blow to the head, in Zombie parlance). They are the ‘almost solved’ blight of our client support team. Why can’t we finish them off? Usually due to a misunderstanding or poor communication so we think they are dead, but they are not. 2014 will see a concerted effort to use more eyes on the challenge to better serve our clients.

Pending Client Feedback/Action Tickets. Whilst our SLA states we’ll pick things up in a working day and respond pretty quickly, the fact of life is simple – clients are not that responsive back. To deal with ‘its with the client’ stage we have a pending category. This is the stage in a ticket’s life that we’ve usually done our bit and need the client to confirm, or expand, or clarify some element. Pending typically makes up 50% of our backlog of tickets.

To fix pending tickets we’ve added an automated function that closes the ticket if the client has not acknowledged or responded at all in 14 days. We’ve been testing this over the last quarter and had no adverse feedback, in fact we’re currently on a purple patch with 4 consecutive weeks of 100% satisfaction.

A final note. Lots of chatter about tickets, pending, SLA and other stuff that, really, is far less important than what we do for the client. These are operational issues and we deal with them in an operational manner and employ the latest and greatest software to do that.

The benefit? We can respond faster, solve quicker, exact better outcomes and treat our clients as people – not numbers. And we can do it for less cost.

In 2009, our support department was bigger, more expensive, slower, delivered less and had a lower client satisfaction rating than today. The attitude shift made a big difference, using tools such as Zendesk, Podio & Basecamp filled the rest in.