Tags in Your Ticketing System: How, Why, and When to Use Them


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In a world of social media, especially Instagram, I fear that we’ve fallen into a belief that more hashtags is better. Think about the last time you scrolled through the ‘gram and landed on a post that included a 100-character description followed by at least twice that character count in hashtags. 

I’m not sure I can really fault that person since hashtags are totally free. And perhaps in social media that’s OK since you’re trying to reach the people paying attention to those hashtags. But I still tend to be a “less is more” kind of guy.

Now looking at tagging within your ticketing system, more tags is not necessarily better. My team happens to use Zendesk — and like many systems for supporting customers, we have the ability to add relevant tags to tickets. The tags get added in a number of different ways, whether it’s by trigger, macro, or simply by manually adding them to a ticket one at a time. 

As I survey our own use of tags, I definitely think we’ve bordered on the excessive — and at times lost sight of the true purpose of tagging. In seeking to better connect with that purpose, I’ve landed on three key reasons for using them. In this article, I’ll share those reasons with you in hopes that your practice of tagging gains some much-needed intention and helps you improve your ability to support your customers and create a great customer experience.

A definition of ticket tags

Before we jump into the practical uses for tags, I want to answer a couple of key questions that undoubtedly arise when we talk about tagging.

What are tags?

What are ticket tags, you ask? Some systems might refer to them as labels or something similar. Zendesk defines tags as “Words, or combinations of words, you can use to add more context to tickets.”

How are tags created and added?

There are a couple of different places you can go in Zendesk to add tags. First, every ticket includes a tag field where these words can be added to a ticket. When you open or create a new ticket, the “Tags” field appears as follows:

You can enter any string of numbers and letters that you desire and a tag is created. If your tag contains more than one word, you can string them together with no spaces or use a hyphen or underscore to separate them. The latter is most certainly easier on the eyes. 

If you’ve used a particular tag in the past, Zendesk will populate that as a suggestion to help minimize the number of variations and misspellings for that same tag in the system. You can add many tags at once with no problem and remove any that are no longer needed at the same time.

In addition, when editing a user or organization of users, the same “Tags” field exists. Adding tags to a user profile means that when those users contact you and create tickets, their tickets will automatically have those tags applied.

Does tagging always have to be a manual process?

Absolutely not! And before we move on, it’s important to mention two ways you can automate, or semi-automate, your tagging. Tags can be added, removed, and overwritten both using triggers or macros (AKA canned responses or templates) in Zendesk.

When it comes to tagging, this is a game changer for a couple of reasons. First, it eliminates the potential that your agents will inevitably start inventing their own tags or misspelling existing ones — leading to billions of useless tags that only ever get used once.

Second, it eliminates the decision-making process for tagging by automating it. If a ticket matches a preset criteria, the trigger tags the ticket, taking your tagging practice to new levels of consistency. You’re not dependent on the agent to tag the ticket — and furthermore, you’re not adding yet another manual task for them to complete in the already-challenging process of solving the customer’s issue. 

3 best uses for tagging tickets within Zendesk

Now that you understand what tags are and how to add them to tickets, users and organizations, let’s look at how your ticket tagging practice can create maximum value in your customer support operation. Here are three very practical uses for and resulting benefits from our tagging practice in Zendesk. 

Use tags to help you find tickets

If you work in customer support and have ever reported a customer-impacting issue to a business leader or asked them for a new feature or bug fix, the inevitable first questions are almost always:

How many times have you encountered this issue and how many customers are impacted?

And how often do we come to that conversation unprepared, immediately having to dig through our support tools, searching and reading through customer interactions to find the data that supports our claim that there’s indeed an issue. Tagging can help and has helped me on numerous occasions. Let me give you a couple of examples.

In one case, we had a service-impacting issue — some may even call it an outage. Wanting to understand just how much the incident impacted our support volume, we created a macro or canned response that both communicated the pertinent information to the customer and applied a unique tag. This also works for common, long term issues and bugs that arise. Paired with our cost per contact, we can both see approximately how many customers contacted us and gain a rough estimate of the cost of supporting these customers.

In another case, our customers constantly ask for new features — and while I’d love to instantly grant all of their wishes, it’s just not practical. But I absolutely want to track that feedback so we know the things they most frequently ask for. Any time a customer makes such a request, our team members apply a tag to the ticket called “featurerequest” and our leadership team regularly reviews and tracks these. This has helped us contribute in meaningful ways to discussions around future improvements and enhancements to our products and services.

The bottom line: If you want to be able to find tickets about specific topics and quantify how often those topics arise, apply unique tags to those tickets.

Use tags to help you trigger certain actions

If you’ve worked in customer support for any stretch of time, you know that there are often menial tasks that eat up the time of your highly-skilled team — time much better spent helping actual customers. Right up there is the constant act of triaging support tickets to the correct person or department. The combination of tags and triggers in Zendesk can help. 

We have certain customers we refer to as VIPs, and we’ve tagged each customer accordingly in their user profile in Zendesk. We then created a trigger that automatically sends their tickets directly to our VIP group. This ensures that they consistently receive a high level of customer support from their dedicated account manager. 

The bottom line: Use tags and triggers to route your customers directly to the right person or group and eliminate their need to clear a bunch of hurdles to receive the support they deserve. 

Use tags to report based on specific conditions

Our team looks at our customer satisfaction (CSAT) percentage on a regular basis. We’re generally happy if it’s at your above 90% and get a little antsy when it dips below. Look at a score like that long enough and you realize that the number in and of itself is worthless without the insight to know which levers to pull to improve it. While we employ a bunch of strategies around CSAT, our tagging practice plays an important role.

As I mentioned earlier, we routinely tag tickets involving service issues, features requests, and various customer segments like our VIP customers. We tag tickets based on the support form topic the customer selected when completing a ticket. And we have also assigned unique tags to each of our macros in Zendesk.

The beautiful thing about all of these tags is that they are available to us when we build out our reports in Zendesk Explore, the Zendesk reporting platform. This means that we can slice and dice our other key metrics with our tags. 

One example we often use is pulling a report with a list of our macro tags and the CSAT for tickets using our various macros. This can sometimes indicate that a macro is either offputting, outdated, incomplete, or inaccurate. Or it might indicate that certain topics are causing more customer aggravation than other.

The bottom line: The availability of tags in reporting allows you to correlate them with your other key metrics when building reports — making it easier to identify focused actions that will improve your customer experience.

Develop your team’s ticket tagging strategy

As I conclude, I’m reminded of the words of Syndrome, the villain from Pixar’s The Incredibles when he says “And when everyone’s super, no one will be.”  Applied to tagging, add one tag to too many tickets or too many tags to one ticket severely diminishes this important super power for your operation.

Tagging in your ticketing system, when done well is indeed a super power, making it easier to find specific tickets and topics, creating time-saving automations, and providing valuable insight to improve your customer experience. Use it wisely and reap the rewards!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Jeremy Watkin
Jeremy Watkin is the Director of Customer Support and CX at NumberBarn. He has more than 20 years of experience as a contact center professional leading highly engaged customer service teams. Jeremy is frequently recognized as a thought leader for his writing and speaking on a variety of topics including quality management, outsourcing, customer experience, contact center technology, and more. When not working he's spending quality time with his wife Alicia and their three boys, running with his dog, or dreaming of native trout rising for a size 16 elk hair caddis.


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