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A huge ticket backlog can be an intimidating prospect for any customer service team. Whether it has built up over time or a sudden event caused your inbox to explode overnight, it’s a major test that all agents will face at one time or another in customer service.

But don’t worry, we’re here to help. Our advocates have shared a few tips and methods (and the right kind of attitudes) for handling a landslide of customer inquiries.

First off, it’s a good thing to have a bit of a backlog

“Having a ticket queue of zero isn’t exactly healthy”, says Collin Murray, an Advocacy Manager from our Madison office. It’s important for customers to engage with your product or service in different ways, which should encourage them to be asking questions.

“Some sort of backlog is to be expected,” he says. “Once established, helping your team understand the differences in what is ‘healthy vs unhealthy’ from a low or high perspective is essential.” Having a ticket backlog helps the team learn how to approach it in a variety of situations, like when it’s time to grind through the tickets versus spending more time on complex and challenging tasks.

Picking which tickets take priority

When there’s a whole lot of tickets to get through, a smart strategy is to break them down into groups by what should be prioritized. Zendesk Advocate Madison Davis, a Team Lead for Product Support, shared her preferred method: first, knock out any tickets that require more information from the requester, then go at the ones that are awaiting action from her. That way, she can focus on other tickets while waiting on the necessary info for others.

She also recommends paying close attention to reply time: if a ticket has been sitting in the queue for a long time without a response, it could be worth it to prioritize it to mitigate the requester’s waiting period. “We sort tickets by the impact the customer’s issue has on their ability to interact with their customers (i.e. “I can’t log in” has a higher business impact than “How do I create this report?”),” Madison says. “But sometimes even low-impact questions have a deadline from the customer’s perspective.”

Set up scheduled, automated responses for pending tickets

What about those pending tickets where the customer seems like they’ve gone AWOL? It can take a lot of effort to ping all of them and add some heft to a ticket backlog. That’s where automated responses and triggers come in.

Zendesk agents use a method called Bump Bump Solve to automatically remind customers with a “bump” if they don’t respond. It’s a configuration that sends an information request on a pending ticket with an automated prompt after a few days. It sends two of these reminders (hence the “Bump Bump”), giving the customer an ample opportunity to resolve their issue.

Automations and triggers help to take pending tickets off of the agents’ plates so they can focus on more immediate and challenging tickets. You can learn more about Bump Bump Solve and how to configure it here.

Pick a time and a place for a “Ticket Smash”

If your team’s ticket backlog balloons to a ridiculous size, then you might need an “all-hands-on-deck” approach. Block off a few hours and grab a spot with some food to crush those tickets together.

Agents at Zendesk call it a “Ticket Smash”. They collaborate to break down the workload and figure out great responses for the backlogged tickets. Throwing a Ticket Smash might have to be after hours or during a weekly team meeting, so make an event out of it by ordering food and putting on some relaxing music. Whatever you choose, the group mindset will provide a great atmosphere for moving through all of your tickets.

Don’t forget: a good attitude goes a long way

According to our own Advocacy team that handles Zendesk customer support, winning the battle against a messy ticket backlog means learning to see the positives in it. Bryan Flaherty, a Technical Support Engineer at Zendesk, says that he “loves having a large ticket backlog”, especially with a good mix of ticket types. He gives himself permission to bounce to a different ticket if he gets stuck. “Notching a win or two and then coming back to a tricky issue often leads to breakthroughs were previously I am stuck,” he says. “The key is to keep momentum!”