From Cherry Picking To Queue Crushing


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People instinctively avoid pain. Maybe that’s why some customer support agents are so good at avoiding terrible tickets. Instead, they find an easier how-to ticket. This selective choosing of tickets is called ‘’cherry picking’’. It’s an easy habit for agents to slip into, but it can have a big effect on your customer support team and customers.

The problem with cherry picking

Cherry picking affects 3 main groups: the selective agent, customer with complex problems and other team members.

1. Cherry picking agents look for the simplest ticket. This means no research, none new things learnt, no personal growth or improvement. When it comes to take on more challenging customers, they won’t have the necessary skills. Cherry picking holds back the agent.
2. For customer with complex tickets, cherry picking means they will have to wait longer. If all difficult tickets are skipped over because of cherry picking agents, you’ll see a big bottleneck at the top of the queue.

3. Finally, no one likes working on a team when some team members aren’t pulling their weight. Agents who get stuck with the leftover and hard problems will burn out. 

If left unchecked, cherry picking can led to poorly trained agents, frustrated customers and burnt out team members. That’s why you should keep an eye on cherry picking and reduce it.

When we should be selective

However, cherry picking can be a good thing sometimes. For example, training a new agent with limited experience or for agents who aren’t feeling 100% due to stress. This cherry picking can be an easy way to keep contributing to queue crushing. Cherry picking can be a great technique to get through periods of high volume. Instead of switching your brain between different types of questions, power through similar ones to save time.

Occasionally, cherry picking might be beneficial. But when business is running as usual, cherry picking will hold back the growth of your team and prevent customers from getting quicker replies. So how do you notice a cherry picker?

How to find the cherry pickers

Closed tickets
Cherry pickers will look like ticket crushers. With choosing only easy tickets, not spending time researching and troubleshooting, they will have a higher close rate than the average. It might look like a good thing but it could be a sign.

Time to First Reply
Some tickets look difficult at first glance, so agents skip over them. Instead of looking at the average first time reply, look at the distribution. If you see a big group of tickets that are outside your usual first time reply, it’s likely they are being skipped over.

Touches per ticket
Touches per Ticket measure the average number of agent replies per ticket. Usually, tickets with more back and forth touches are more complex. So, if you see an agent with constantly lower touches per ticket, it’s more likely they are picking up easy tickets.

First contact resolutions
Simple questions are a cherry picker’s dream because they can be closed with one reply. Compare each agent’s percentage of tickets to the average of the team to find outliers.

None of these metrics alone will tell you if there’s a cherry picker, but they can help. To truly find a cherry picker, you’ll need to spend more time looking into your agents’ replies.
Reduce unwanted cherry picking

Understand what’s driving cherry picking
Why do people cherry pick? Usually it’s due to a pressure to perform, caused by a ticket closing quota or a minimum customer satisfaction score. To boost their numbers, they’ll look for easy tickets. If you’re overly focusing on these metrics, you could be rewarding the wrong behavior. The first step to prevent cherry picking is to avoid making everything about the numbers. Reward learning.

Focus on First In First Out
Keep an eye on the queue to make sure tricky tickets are not left out. Also, by asking team members to pick up specific tough tickets, you make it harder to say no. Make sure the team knows that the oldest tickets get picked up next and soon it will just be a habit.

With spreading more difficult tickets around, have the senior team members work with the agent asking the question to find an answer. It’s an excellent training tool and the next time they’ll do it themselves.
If that’s not possible, encourage follow ups. Make it a habit to go back to read over the responses and that way learn from them.

Training Focus
The main cause of cherry picking is a lack of knowledge. Empower agents to respond to any question. Identify areas where tickets are frequently skipped and dive into them at your next team meeting. Every minute of training will pay off with better support.

Empowering a team of Queue Crushers
Cherry picking creates knowledge silos and slows down the replies to customers. Instead of developing a team of agents who focus on closing a set number of tickets, develop a team of empowered queue crushers. Every agent on your team will feel ready to tackle the hardest problems and your team will continue to grow and improve.

Jakub Slámka
Marketer and communicator with passion for digital marketing, graphic design and great storytelling. Always focused on delighting customers through every step of their journey.


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