Are you still using a shared inbox for the help desk or support function?
It’s common for businesses to implement a shared inbox during the early stages, especially while their operation is still small. Shared inboxes can work while you’re still small enough to manage volumes, but often start to fall apart as you get busier.
Is it time to trade in your shared inbox for a ticketing system? Here are some signs you need to upgrade:
Agent collision is, in our view, the biggest problem with shared inboxes. This happens when two people start answering the same case because the nature of the inbox system doesn’t alert them that someone else is already working on it.
Many small businesses start out with something like a shared Gmail account and devise a system of color-coded tags or folder structures to try and manage them. However, what happens when two people click on the same email around the same time? What happens if a tag or folder hasn’t yet been assigned?
The major issues with agent collision are that it’s inefficient use of your agents, and if more than one agent is responding to the customer it leaves the impression that your support function is disorganized. This impression can be further compounded if the customer gets two different answers from two different agents. They will definitely wonder what is up!
On the other hand, a ticketing system means that queries are converted to tickets and agents can easily see if someone else has already picked up the ticket because they can be “assigned.”
Arguably, you should start by automating anything you can in an agent’s workflow from the very beginning. If you’re constrained by resources, we understand why perhaps you need to grow into a more efficient system.
You’ll notice especially as you get busier that there are tasks that agents must do repeatedly - sometimes regarding the same issue. What happens if 150 people email you to say that X feature isn’t working? How do you handle responding to all of them with a consistent reply?
Shared inboxes aren’t great for automatically sorting and categorizing issues. They also tend to have relatively few features you can automate for the agent workflow. If you’re finding that agents are spending a lot of time doing the same thing repeatedly, it can be a good sign that you’ve outgrown the shared inbox and need to upgrade to the automated features of a ticketing system.
Ticketing systems offer automated features that a shared inbox cannot provide
Knowledge bases have become an essential part of operating a help desk efficiently. Self-help options can reduce the wait time for customers getting what they need as well as reduce the load on agents.
You might choose to develop a knowledge base separately, but then you’re still relying on manually finding relevant information to pass onto users who submit a ticket. With a shared inbox, that usually means you get an email, you search through the knowledge base to find the right link, insert the link into an email reply and send it.
There is a more efficient way with knowledge bases directly connected to your ticketing system. These can streamline your responses by automatically suggesting knowledge base material that should be sent in response to the ticket. JitBit has canned responses and automated suggestions, for example.
There’s an old saying in business: “what gets measured, gets managed.” It’s crucial to track your help desk metrics because these are how you understand whether you are meeting certain standards of performance or not.
The problem with shared inboxes is that they don’t have built-in analytics functions. There are some workarounds, but they are often complex to set up and you won’t always get the most accurate data.
The more tickets you handle, the more important it becomes to understand how well you’re handling them. It’s not as easy as doing a quick check on the inbox anymore! If you find that you can’t tell basic stats like ticket response time, resolution and completion rates, then it’s a good sign you need a ticketing system with inbuilt analytics.
It’s often not that they don’t want to take responsibility, but more that the shared inbox environment might lead people to assume that someone else has already done something about the email.
“Orphaned” emails happen when no one picks up the email to respond to it. Maybe they thought someone else would, or maybe for some reason, they don’t feel like answering that particular email. In short, no one is accountable for ensuring a response.
A ticketing system avoids this scenario by assigning tickets to agents. It makes it easy for them to see what is their responsibility and what needs to be urgently worked on. It also makes it much simpler to hold agents accountable for responding to the emails. There’s no more grey area where the ticket might have belonged to anyone.
A shared inbox is a very basic solution for providing support. It doesn’t assign priorities to emails and therefore agents can waste a lot of time sifting through the inbox and trying to decide which emails must be acted upon first.
This becomes especially evident as your email volumes increase. If agents are used to “cherry picking” emails, they’ll often miss important issues and customers with more complex needs might be left to wait for an unacceptable amount of time.
A ticketing system solves this issue by providing you with a way to easily prioritize. This means that the most critical issues get dealt with first and your help desk is kept on-track to meet key SLAs.
Have you ever been frustrated when you’ve felt you’re repeating yourself to a customer service rep? Or, have you ever wondered why they seem to have no background on an issue that you’ve raised before? A shared inbox can lead to this sort of situation for your customers because there’s no customer history or context shared – each email is a new conversation.
Under a shared inbox system, agents might also conduct a search looking for email history with the customer, but this is another inefficiency. It might take them quite some time to uncover the full history of conversations with the customer.
A ticketing system helps resolve this by giving agents visibility over the history with the customer. They can more easily respond having proper context on the customer’s background and any previous related conversations.
Sometimes your support requests need more than one person to get involved. This is more tricky with a shared inbox and tends to involve back and forth of CC’ed emails. Even then, notes might be incomplete between different team members.
A ticketing system helps with internal collaboration by ensuring people get a complete picture, including all associated notes. It makes for a smoother experience and more efficient service for the customer.
Have you outgrown your shared inbox system? If you’re having issues with anything highlighted here, there’s a good chance you’re ready to move onto a more robust ticketing system.
Trading in your shared inbox will bring you better oversight, more efficient customer service and detailed analytics for your help desk. It’s worth it - by improving the help desk experience for customers you may see better results in terms of churn and customer satisfaction. Don’t let your current system hold you back!
Katie is our writer who specializes in technology and travel. When she's not writing, you'll probably find her on a trail, taking photos.