• Ty Givens

Make’em wait. Just kidding, how to get out of a Customer backlog

Backlogs. I ha

te them, don’t you? If you’re not familiar with the term, let me enlighten you: it’s when your Customers have been waiting to hear back from you for a long, LONG time… and you have no idea how you’re going to address them all. Or, it’s when you get bombarded with requests and there’s a strong chance you don’t have enough people to reply back in a timely manner.


It would be great if you could grow people. Literally. I mean, plant a seed at 8:00 AM, and they’d be ready by 12:00 PM to answer more Customer inquiries. If it were that simple, the problem would be solved. But… that’s a different episode of Black Mirror…


(By the way, I recorded this video that has a few more insights on backlogs. Check it out if you’re interested.)


The Reality

I’ve gotten out of some doozies. Well, not just me, my team and I. The most tickets I’ve ever had the pleasure of digging out of was over 9,000 strong (I really shouldn’t be telling anyone this, but it actually happened). I’m a Customer Service person. Emphasis on the word SERVICE. That mindset can sometimes interfere with my ability to be scrappy and do what needs to be done, even if unpopular.


Plus, when you’re stressed about a backlog, your mind is in about a hundred different places: How do I hire fast enough? Who do I hire? How can I get more productivity out of my current team? How much overtime do I need?


With all those thoughts, not one is how do I prevent a higher backlog, and let’s face it… a huge backlog can mean great things when it comes to a marketing effort. No one is going to agree to stop growth.


So, I won’t do what most do (tell you how to prevent it, if you’re reading this, you’re already in it). I’m gong to tell you how to get out of it, then I’ll tell you how to avoid going down this road again (unless of course it’s Old Town Road).


Getting out of a Backlog

Delete all the tickets. I’m kidding, don’t do that. Below is an approach I’ve taken to reducing backlogs. It’s one I’ve formulated after thinking clearly and applying practices from mistakes I’ve made over the years. You don’t have to mess up like I did. I messed up for you! :D


Gain a better understanding

  1. Take inventory of your ticket count according support need (why the Customer has contacted you). If you need help creating custom ticket fields that show why customers are contacting you, check out this video).

  2. Separate new tickets (never received a response) from follow-up tickets (have received at least one response from an agent), but are not resolved. You can do that with a good set of views. This Playbook will help you figure out your views.).

  3. Of those tickets that have not received a response (new), separate the tickets into two groups: one response fits all, unique response required.


One Response fits all

  1. For all tickets that fall under the category one response fits all, you will take a two prong approach (one for new tickets, one for existing tickets).

  2. First, draft your response. This response will apply to both new and current tickets. A good example of tickets that fit this category are password reset tickets, or any other response you’ll send that requires no work from your agent. The message should include how to resolve the issue with no effort from your team (click here to reset your password).

  3. For new tickets, that fit “one response fits all”, create an automated response with automatically close or solve the ticket depending on your ticketing system. This will reduce your backlog. After all, this is the message that would’ve been sent to the Customer anyway. If the Customer response back, you have an open ticket which falls into a different bucket.

  4. For current tickets, use the same automated message to respond back to the Customer. Let them know the ticket will be resolved, and to respond back if they have any questions.



Unique Response Required

Take advantage of some of the free time you’re getting from the newly automated response, and quantify the tickets. Designate a few agents who will take on these responses. For example, if there are 100 tickets and 10 agents, assign 10 to each for follow up.


If you don’t have one already, create a way to track responses that could potentially become FAQs (unless this is native your CRM). This will help you keep your ticket volume down.


Preventing backlog

It’s simple. Next time Marketing wants to send out a too good to be true offer, tell them no. Just kidding, that will never work. Instead, get ahead of the curve and think about how you’re planning to handle various scenarios.


You’re the subject matter expert on your Customer. Let no one tell you differently. Based on your experience engaging in Customer support, take these steps:

  1. Decide what can be automated up front, and do that. I’m a big fan of letting machines handle all logic and letting the people do the thinking.

  2. Update your FAQs with details related to the offer.

  3. On any outgoing emails, instead of directing the Customer to submit a request if they have a question, link to your FAQ page specifically for the offer (the FAQ page will have your contact information).

  4. Disable replies to your marketing emails.


Will Customers be turned off by automatic responses?

You know your Customer better than I do, but here’s what I’ve learned: A Customer is turned off by an impersonal response that took days to receive and did not address their concern. If you respond back with a resolution that works, they’ll be grateful to you. If by chance they need a different outcome, they’ll let you know that too.


There are some great tools on the market that support automatic responses, with resolved tickets or simple follow up. Let me know if you’re interested in learning more about those.


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