6 Best Practices For Optimizing Zendesk

Share this article:
One of the cool things about working in outsourced customer service is the opportunity to learn about a wide variety of industries, tools, and technologies. One tool we work with quite often is Zendesk, an omnichannel customer service platform in use by many of our clients.

We tend to intersect with Zendesk at a few different stages in our client journey. The first is when implementing new clients, especially the closer their company is to start up phase where there’s some work we can do to help optimize their set up. A second opportunity is in the area of reporting and agent productivity tracking. In our world, it’s critical that we’re aligned in the way we’re pulling data otherwise it becomes difficult to measure and improve performance. Finally, we spend a ton of time in the customer experience space, reviewing feedback from voice of customer surveys and closing the loop with customers.

Out of this experience, we’ve noticed some patterns and best practices that can help organizations get the most out of their Zendesk configuration. Here are six best practices.

Practice #1: Track email average handle time

A huge key to understanding how to appropriately staff a support channel is to understand both how much volume you receive on that channel and how long it takes to handle that volume. While average handle time is fairly cut and dry on certain channels, this can be a challenge for email. Support teams frequently find themselves making educated guesses as to how long it takes for their agents to send an email or solve a ticket. To gain insight around this metric, we recommend the Zendesk Time Tracking App which is a simple, free add on for Zendesk. In addition, if you want to gain more insights around the other ways your agents are spending their time, Tymeshift can help track breaks, meetings, and time spent working other channels among other activities.

Practice #2: Plan for repeat contact handling

It’s one thing to respond to a ticket but what happens when the customer responds back to the agent? Should that response be assigned to the agent that sent the last email? What if that response is received at 5pm on Thursday evening and that particular agent doesn’t work again until Monday? Sure there’s benefit in having the same person work with the customer from start to finish but is that benefit so great that you’d make the customer wait more than 48 hours for a response?

Support teams choose to handle repeat contacts a variety of different ways. Some teams address this by creating a buddy system where people on opposite shifts check each other’s tickets. Others set up Zendesk to unassign tickets when customers respond and instead have their agents work on a first in, first out (FIFO) basis continuing to work through the oldest tickets first. While we tend to recommend FIFO we encourage you to think through what makes sense for your operation and how these different models might impact service levels and customer satisfaction. Users can set up a variety of triggers and automations to customize the flow of tickets in and out of your contact center.

Practice #3: Simplify agent views

Zendesk offers the ability to customize views such that your agents can see only the cases that they’re responsible for — eliminating wasted time spent sifting through other stuff. When we work with clients we encourage them to focus on simplifying the agent experience, avoiding excessive views that aren’t relevant to their work. These can be updated and expanded as your agents acquire new skills, abilities, and responsibilities on the team.

When configuring a view, be sure to establish how the tickets should be sorted so it’s set automatically when viewing the tickets. This ensures that your FIFO approach we mentioned earlier is followed.

A great feature within views is the “Play” button, allowing the team to press play and be guided to the next ticket in their queue. This ensures that agents don’t cherry pick the tickets they want to work. Unless you’re on the Enterprise plan, they can still potentially skip tickets in play mode so keep an eye on reporting to see how often that happens.

Practice #4: Use custom fields instead of tags

Both tags and custom fields have their place in Zendesk for adding additional data points to your tickets, but for most cases, we recommend using custom fields. A big reason for this is that custom fields become their own field in Zendesk reporting whereas tags all get lumped together in one single field.

Where might you use custom fields? A common use is for creating an issue type for a ticket and these can be selected manually by customers when submitting tickets, manually by agents while working tickets, or automatically set when macros are applied. The ability to correlate certain custom fields to metrics like customer satisfaction or response time among others can give powerful business insights.

Practice #5: Measure CSAT after solve and reopen on dissatisfaction

Zendesk offers a simple, out of the box survey for measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT). It’s one thing to measure CSAT and another to do something with those results. We already mentioned that CSAT can be tied to your other metrics from a reporting standpoint.

It’s also a good idea to think through a couple triggers when it comes to these surveys. First of all, the CSAT survey is by default sent to customers 24 hours after a ticket is solved. As you analyze your survey comments, you may find customers complaining that their issue isn’t actually solved yet and this could be a good indicator that the survey shouldn’t be sent until 48 or 72 hours have passed.

Another good practice with surveys is to create a trigger so that if a dissatisfied survey is received, that ticket is reopened for your team to respond. If you do this, be sure to equip your agents with some actions they can take to try to turn around a dissatisfied customer.

Practice #6: Use Guide to boost self-help

Zendesk continues to innovate their self-service tools and we recommend taking full advantage. The first step here is to build out your knowledge base and keep it up to date. What better way to accomplish this than to use their Knowledge Capture App paired with a Knowledge Centered Service (KCS) process that involves the entire team? Furthermore tools like Solvvy, AnswerDash, and Zendesk Answer Bot can help put your knowledge content right where your customers are looking, significantly boosting your self-solve rates.

In conclusion, those are six practices we’ve gleaned from working extensively with our clients to successfully implement and use Zendesk. As you work with Zendesk, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have questions or additional best practices you’d like to share.

Travis Wild
Project Manager
Travis Wild works as a Project Manager at FCR and is responsible for guiding clients through the implementation process among many other things. With more than 10 years of contact center operations and management experience, and many more as a technology enthusiast, Travis uses his expertise with Zendesk and other systems to instill operational and technological best practices on our programs.
Jeremy Watkin
Director of Customer Experience

Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Experience for FCR. He has more than 18 years of experience as a customer service, customer experience, and contact center professional.  He is also the co-founder and regular contributor on Customer Service Life.  Jeremy has been recognized many times for his thought leadership.  Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn for more awesome customer service and experience insights.

3 Comments. Leave new

Kai Altenfelder
06/19/2019 10:53 pm

Great article and I do second all you recommendations! Please note though, since 2016 the methodology is called Knowledge-Centered Service. It has evolved above and beyond just tech support and now is getting used in other corporate functions like HR, Legal etc. as well.

Jeremy Watkin
06/27/2019 3:03 pm

Kai, thank you for sharing this important detail! I have edited this article to reflect Knowledge-Centered Service. Now to say it correctly every time.

6 Best Practices For Optimizing Zendesk - Customer Service Life
08/20/2019 9:07 pm

[…] published on the FCR blog in partnership with my colleague, Travis Wild on June 18, 2019. Click here to read the original post. One of the cool things about working in outsourced customer service […]


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>