When a customer reaches out to your company with a question or problem, they expect a timely response. In a perfect world, you’d be able to respond to each of them immediately. But for most companies, that’s simply not possible. And this means that for many customer support teams, there’s almost always a queue full of requests.
So as soon as an agent finishes helping one customer, they move on to another. But how do they decide which is next?
After all, every customer is important — so it can be challenging to determine which enquiries are the most important, or most in need of immediate help. Fortunately, most customer support software today enables teams to create prioritization systems and simplify this process.
Why Do You Need a Prioritization System?
A prioritization system is the best way to create an efficient workflow for your customer support team. It eliminates the need for agents to waste time scanning through the queue for urgent requests by delivering them to the front immediately. This way, your team can focus solely on the customers they’re working with, without worrying about whether there’s a more pressing issue they should be handling.
If you have a relatively low volume of requests, this may seem unnecessary. After all, if your team isn’t struggling with prioritization, it may not seem very important to create a new system.
But if (and when) you experience an issue, and your team suddenly gets swamped with enquiries, you’ll be glad you did. All it takes is one broken page on your site or one bug in your software to spur an overwhelming amount of customers to reach out.
Without a system in place, this can quickly get messy. But even under normal circumstances, having a prioritization system in place can help your team create a balance between urgency and importance.
It’s easy to get caught up in low-impact requests, just because they feel urgent. If a user reaches out on live chat, for example, you know they’re expecting a fast response — which may lead you to make it your top priority. But if other users are alerting you to a major site problem via email, this isn’t the most efficient approach. And a prioritization system can eliminate these types of issues.
Then, once you’ve put a system in place, you can also monitor your average response and resolution speed.
This will help you gauge how efficiently you’re helping customers — and whether your prioritization system is helping.
4 Ways to Prioritize Customer Support Enquiries
The first step to creating a prioritization system is determining which requests you want to take the highest priority. These are four of the most common approaches.
1. First in First out (FIFO)
With a first in first out, or FIFO, approach, customers are helped in the order in which they make their enquiries. This is how many teams who don’t yet have a formal system in place work through their queues. And if you have a relatively low volume of requests, it makes sense.
It eliminates the need to evaluate enquiries before handling them and ensures that no customer is ever stuck at the bottom of the queue while other users skip past them.
On the downside, though, it doesn’t account for urgency or importance. So, for example, let’s say a customer reaches out to your company on live chat because there’s a typo on your homepage. A few seconds later, another customer sends a message letting you know that your payment portal has crashed entirely.
It’s obvious which of these is more urgent and important — but with a FIFO approach, that wouldn’t matter.
2. Manually Assign Priority Level
Another approach to prioritization is manually assigning priority levels to each request.
Today, most helpdesk software options let agents add priority level to enquiries.
If your team does this while each request is still in the queue, they can tackle them in order of priority and make sure they’re not keeping customers with urgent requests waiting. With this approach, though, you’ll need to create a concrete set of guidelines by which to assess priority.
If your team assigns priority levels based solely on their own judgment, you can easily wind up with a jumbled queue that doesn’t really help you — and isn’t much more helpful than having your team pick customers at random.
You can remedy this by creating a basic chart or checklist of factors that determine importance and urgency. For example, is the issue of preventing a customer from working? Is it costing them revenue? Or is it merely an inconvenience?
Of course, the exact factors you use to determine importance depends on your industry and business model. But asking the right questions can ensure that your team is on the same page about which enquiries matter most so that you can efficiently tackle high-priority issues.
3. Automatically Assign Priority Level
The most advanced method is to use your customer support software to automatically determine which enquiries are most important. This requires creating rules that enable your platform to accurately assess them based on content and customer.
For example, if you offer a trial version of your product, you might opt to give higher priority to paying users than trial users. You could also use certain keywords that indicate serious problems to automatically flag an enquiry as urgent. This way, your agents won’t need to spend time manually evaluating each ticket.
Then, as requests come in, they’ll be automatically delivered to your team in order of urgency — so that they’re always addressing the most important tickets in the queue.
4. Categorize Enquiries by Type
Finally, if your company sees many different types of enquiries, you may opt to create a few basic categories and sort them accordingly. You can either do this manually or create rules to automatically detect certain words and phrases. But regardless of the technical details, this can help you more accurately assess the priority of each.
In the case of a SaaS company, for example, messages about bugs would likely be a higher priority than feature requests. Having these two types of messages pre-sorted into categories could make it easier for agents to identify the most critical enquiries — even without a fully automated system.
Setting up Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
As you develop your prioritization system, it’s also a good idea to create Service Level Agreements or SLAs. These are predetermined time periods during which a response and resolution should be delivered for a ticket — and they can vary by priority level.
For example, you may expect your team to respond to urgent tickets within 30 minutes, but give them a full day for low-priority ones. Once you’ve determined what, exactly, those time periods are, you can add them to your customer support software.
These guidelines are helpful for setting clear standards for your team, as well as for giving your customers an accurate estimation of how long they’ll need to wait.
Plus, most tools give you the option to enable reminders and alerts — so that your agents never have to worry about forgetting to resolve a ticket.