How to get started with Ticket Deflection

21 May 2024

7.5 min read

If your customer service team is being overwhelmed with customer queries and tickets, then you might be looking into Ticket Deflection as a strategy. The idea is clear – the fewer customer cases your team has to handle, the better.

Reducing the number of tickets that hit your team inbox creates a virtuous circle. Fewer tickets means that your agents can get to customers faster, and they can also spend more time ensuring that problems are resolved, reducing tickets further.

It’s clearly a great idea, and ticket deflection is a popular concept. But be careful. As one of our customers recently told us:

"A Ticket Deflection strategy is not compatible with great customer experience.”

What does that mean? Well… if you do everything you can to deflect tickets, you could be putting lots of obstacles in your customers’ way that prevent them from getting their issues resolved. 

In short, you might be successful at deflecting tickets because customers, or potential customers, get so frustrated they leave your site and never come back. That's why we always advocate to push for ticket resolution.

But with that warning in mind, let’s talk about how to do Ticket Deflection effectively, and our Ticket Deflection Maturity model.

Preparing to deflect

Measure the before, so you can measure the after

In order to see if any deflection tactics are working, you have to set a benchmark. This is not going to be perfect because you will have natural fluctuations in ticket volumes, and if you are a growing business everything is likely to go up. But it’s important to have something to compare. 

Understand what customers are actually asking you

To have the biggest impact with any ticket deflection/reduction strategy, you need to look at what your customers are actually asking you. You can use AI tools to categorise these by intent (which is something we offer, incidentally), or you could just take a sample and start categorising them yourself.

Take the attitude that your customers are smart.

It’s tempting to assume your customers are lazy idiots, when it feels like you get the same question time and time again, and customers could find the information for themselves if they only tried. 

No doubt that is sometimes the case. But in most cases customers have at least tried to look up the answer before they’ve started bothering you.

The assumption of lazy stupidity is at the heart of some bad ticket deflection tactics we spoke about above. When a customer reaches out to speak to you, you instead assume that they did look on your website, they did search your help centre, and they did read all the articles connected to that keyword, then you are on a better footing.

After all, lazy people don’t want to wait 15 minutes for an agent to come online when they can spend 5 minutes looking it up themselves. 

The Ticket Deflection Maturity Model 

If customers are coming to you to answer a question then we have to assume they couldn’t Either they couldn’t find it because:

  • A) the answer wasn’t in any of your help articles or FAQs

  • B) The answer was in your help articles, but was really difficult to find, or was unclear

  • C) The answer could never be found in a help article because it is unique to that customer. 

Work out which is true for each case, and then we can start stepping up the maturity scale and see where we are.

Level 1: Make the information available on your website

If you never published shipping information, the chances are you would be getting plenty of questions about it. As soon as you put a page about your shipping policies with information about where you ship, who the carriers are, what the costs and timelines are, etc. then the number of tickets about those topics would drastically fall. 

That’s a positive form of deflection, but it’s one we tend to gloss over because it’s so simple. 

Take a look at what your customers are asking and for each one check if the information is available on your website somewhere. 

Level 2: Make information easy to find 

If the information is on your website, but people are still contacting you, then look at how easy it is to find that information. Does the snippet of information have its own page on your site? Can you search on your helpdesk and find it within a few clicks, or is it buried halfway down a thousand word article?

You should also send customers links to the relevant articles in confirmation emails and other communications if you think it’s information they’ll need later. 

Again, look at what customers are asking and if you are giving out the same answer word for word, then put it right at the top of your FAQs. After all, it is now a frequently asked question! 

Step 3: Provide self-service tools

In general if people can do something themselves in 5 minutes, they will do that rather than wait for someone to do it for them. 

Take returns for example. We don’t (yet) live in a world where having items picked up from your home is standard. If a customer is returning an item, it means he or she is packing it back up, taping it, printing a label, and dropping it off somewhere. This is where self-service widgets come in.

Allowing customers to use a widget on your site to enter their details, their order number, and then print off a return label is a great way to deflect tickets. These tickets are often about lost order numbers. 

Another example is order status. Providing a widget where customers can check on their order will reduce (or deflect) a lot of those “Where Is My Order” questions, and certainly the ones that can be answered by sharing a tracking link. 

Step 4: Use AI to automatically resolve queries

When we talked about issues where the answer could never be found in a help article because it is unique to that customer, we meant things like:

  • An order has got stuck in transit and hasn’t moved for several days

  • An order says it’s been delivered but the customer hasn’t received it

  • Part of an order has arrived but there is no information on the rest

In these cases, the customer is often coming to you BECAUSE they have checked their order status and seen that something has gone wrong. If your chatbot’s first answer is to ask them to check the tracking link then it’s being really annoying.

If instead, using AI and deep integrations with carriers and order management systems, the chatbot can check the order status, compare that with what the customer is saying then it can start to see a mismatch. For example if a package hasn’t moved for several days, it could follow a business logic that if it has not updated for 5 days, then a replacement could be automatically issued. 

When an order is supposed to have been delivered, then the AI can confirm that with the customer, and again issue a replacement. It could go a step further and authorise a refund if that’s what the customer wants, and at the same time compile the information to send to the carrier to claim compensation. 

This is exactly what DigitalGenius does for our customers, among many other things. It’s still a ticket in the system, but it has been “deflected” away from human agents by being handled by a bot. The bot is following the same logic that an agent would follow, and for these repetitive tasks it can achieve them faster. There are times when it will get stuck and an eventuality that hasn’t been foreseen will crop up, at which point the ticket can be passed to an agent. But the agent can see more context and information from the DigitalGenius platform and can solve the issue faster. 

Conclusion: start with why

As we’ve said, ticket deflection should be about allowing the customer to solve their issue faster on their own. If you set out to do that, and always place yourselves in the shoes of a customer, then you can do ticket deflection successfully. 

If, on the other hand, you set out just to reduce ticket volumes, then you can jeopardise the customer experience by making them jump through unnecessary and unhelpful hoops. 

But also work out which tickets you are trying to reduce and why. If you take a targeted approach and tackle a ticket type at a time, and measure the volumes, then you can start to see the impact of your initiatives. 

If you are ready to look to step 3 and 4 and start building tools that customers can use to resolve tickets themselves, then speak to our team today.