Does anybody honestly like support ticketing systems? Users across the board are often united in their antipathy: from the support agent handling the ticket to the customer submitting it. After all, support ticketing systems are slow, monolithic, and impersonal. They represent a bygone era of laborious communication; of faceless and inaccessible support. So, why do we still use them?
The fact is that users are increasingly accustomed to immediate assistance. Whether it be through smart self-help portals, the ready availability of instant messaging options, or intuitive in-app help, users have become inured to speedy support.
However, the traditional support ticketing system lingers on. It remains a fixture in support functions, with users still commonly required to create a ticket and wait to get the help they need. This begs the question: need today’s users really submit to ticket submission?
The Heady Heyday Of The Support Ticketing System
The original promise of the traditional support ticketing system was glorious. It created a streamlined, unified environment. All issues were together in the same queue, accessible by all support agents. This helped create a more collaborative environment than what had been achievable with email.
Additionally, support ticketing systems brought transparency. In them, support agents could see at a glance the volume and variety of work ahead. This made prioritising tasks easier than ever before.
Consider also the inbuilt features that made support ticketing systems so uniquely helpful. They could report, they could monitor, and they could automate certain workflows and responses. In all, the support ticketing system was a welcome technology when it first emerged into the scene.
What has changed since then?
The Turning Tide Of Opinion
Today, you would be hard-pushed to find support agents speaking with glee on the wondrous efficiency of support ticketing systems. Hundreds of online threads evidence the frustration that business-side users feel towards them.
As an illustration, here are just a few comments from everyday users:
- “I see [ticketing systems] like DVD remotes: there are 80 buttons, you only use 4 of them, and those 4 are difficult to find. They are clearly made by some engineer who thinks it makes perfect sense and it was never tested on someone who was already frustrated and impatient.” – Reddit user
- “No ticketing system’s UI is worth a ****.” – devRant user
- “Ticketing systems are something that I am a huge proponent of in theory, but are only ever a huge headache in practice thanks to a combination of software design and user failure.” – Twitter user
- “Users/customers insist on customizing any such [ticketing system] to death. Everybody seems to think that a ticketing system should embody their vaguely defined and ever-changing workflow, prioritization, approval, and release management system.” Hacker News user
- “It always seems like everyone hates (or is, at least, unhappy with) their ticketing system.” StackExchange user
Of course, this is a small sample of feedback, but it highlights the headaches that support agents encounter when navigating ticketing systems daily.
The Usability Headache For Support Agents
So, what makes support ticketing systems such a headache? There are many factors at work here, but they boil down to poor usability.
Most ticketing systems are overgrown, with a complex interface packed with bells and whistles. This inherent convolution impedes the simplicity they strive to create. There are too many functions; too much going on. You end up building rules and workflows that you do not need, existing because they can and not because they should. This only adds to the mess.
As David Kaneda writes: “[Support ticketing systems] are designed to do everything. And while the ability to do everything might sound excellent in theory, in practice, it makes doing anything – even simple tasks – much more complicated.” This overcomplication slows down both users and the software itself.
From the perspective of support agents, then, support ticketing systems are something of a poisoned chalice. While they promise productivity, their usability issues too-often present a blocker.
The User Experience Headache For Customers
At the other side of the ticketing system is the customer sending in their support need. Unfortunately, their experience is also somewhat lacking.
This is because the journey to resolution via ticketing is protracted, impersonal, and overly tiered. Rather than real-time help, they have to go through the gatekeeper that is the ticketing system. So, the customer files a support ticket. They then get a generic automated response and a ticket number for their efforts. While this may be important for triaging and tracking, it scarcely sets a warm, conversational context.
Next, the customer will have to wait for human support. They have only a loose estimate for when that support may arrive, with a vague promise of “within 24 hours”. (Or whatever timeframe the company works for.) In the meantime, the customer is left with their issue.
This creates a journey that feels unnecessarily lengthy and layered. The customer is a number, and their problem sent into the ether, their value coldly objectified into ‘CASE#053XA70D9FF’.
Users at both end of the spectrum, then, are disillusioned with the traditional support ticketing system. For support agents, the ticketing system is a nuisance to navigate. For customers, they impede direct help and reduce them to a chore to be checked off.
So, with ticketing technology no longer embodying an excellent user experience, what practices should we turn to instead? There is never one catch-all answer, but a great place to start is by reducing the dominion of the ticket. That is, to give customers a more accessible choice of support options, rather than forcing them down the support ticket route.
Some customers might feel comfortable with a classic support method. For those whose expectations are no longer compatible with old-school systems; however, brands must provide a better experience.
That might mean incorporating chatbots into your service desk, adding live chat availability, extending your telephone support, improving your online community help, or an omnichannel blend of all options.
The point is to empower the customer. The support ticket is inflexible as a standalone support option, but that is no reason to settle for an inflexible support journey.
Talking Trumps Ticketing
Reducing the dominion of the support ticket opens the way for a more natural way of talking. Ticketing establishes a robotic, jilted style of communication. It is hindered by delay, reliant on intricate rule engines, and marked by charming instances of “## Do not write below this line ##”.
Forcing user interactions down this route is a recipe for poor UX. As Ruairí Galavan puts it: “The days where slow, disconnected and impersonal communication with your customers was accepted as the norm have passed.” Companies strive to achieve fluidity in their products and designs, so why impose awkward disconnection on the support process?
This is why brands are starting to turn away from the notion of traditional ticketing, and towards talking. Ticketing is transactional; it creates a one-off interaction inside a closed loop. Conversations, on the other hand, are open. They can evolve. So, this means that conversations open the door to advocacy.
Just The Ticket
When it comes to smooth user experience, ticketing is no longer just the ticket. Not only are traditional support ticketing systems a usability black hole for business users, but they can also alienate and objectify customers.
So, stop forcing users into a ticket corner. Instead, focus on facilitating conversations.
Conversations flow back and forth quickly and smoothly. They are friendly, personal, and they flex around each customer to explain things in multiple ways. They are, in short, an often-overlooked aspect of great UX.
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