How to set up a frustration monitoring mechanism in your online helpdesk

If you think about it, most of the time, customer frustration has little to do with the actual issue and everything to do with the way the issue is handled.

No, really. Think about it. How else can you explain all those stories about how some support reps managed to defuse the situation and turn around the issue without breaking a sweat?

Like the story of a Starbucks support rep who made a customer’s day by deciding that he shouldn’t stop with just a refund.

Nothing short of fantastic

When Jason decided to stop at a Starbucks along the Jersey Turnpike, he didn’t realize that his 10% Starbucks gold card discount wouldn’t be honored by the franchise store (the cards were valid only at corporate-owned locations). Jason asked to cancel his order but Starbucks had already brewed his drink so he had no choice but to hand over his $6. After drinking his hot coffee, Jason called up Starbucks’ helpline to ask them to put up a sign, explaining the difference between a corporate-owned location and a franchise store so that other people wouldn’t end up in a similar situation. The support rep who answered Jason’s call was so understanding and sympathetic, Jason recalls, that he decided to “make him whole and give him an experience nothing short of fantastic”. He mailed him a $50 gift card that allowed Jason to transfer the credits onto his card.

Starbucks technically wasn’t in the wrong here. Their card’s T&Cs clearly outline where it can be used and where it can’t. But the rep was quick to accept their mistake and rectify it, quick to realize what it meant to the customer and seize the opportunity to make their day. That’s why the story lives on as an example of a brand that cares about its customers.

It all comes down to how the support rep reacts when things go south. A quick, empathetic response earns you brownie points. Anything else falls short of the mark, and the best reps know this.

That’s why support teams spend so much time on strategy, on making sure that support reps are able to handle customer frustration as deftly as possible. But what really puts a bee in my bonnet is why do support teams stop with just putting together a strategy to deal with the situation after the customer is frustrated? Especially when you can put together mechanisms to monitor and identify customer frustration even as they’re getting frustrated.

Most of the methods I name below, like monitoring number of requester interactions in open tickets, are not possible without the help of a customer support software like Freshdesk. You could have someone sort through tickets to rank them on a frustration scale but that would just be a waste of your resources, especially when a customer support software can do it for you in a far more efficient manner.

1)  Before it happens: monitor social media for warning signs

In the good old days, if you were frustrated with your service provider, you ranted a bit to your family, kicked a log, wrote an angry letter and basically got over it. Those good old days are long gone. Now, with social media providing you with a readymade network of influencers, forget your community – you can tell the whole world (more or less) the story of how the business you trusted let you down. In fact, some customers don’t even wait to get in touch with the business to take to social media.

So, irrespective of whether you’re a small, medium or large business, you have a reputation to protect. You need to make sure that any and all issues that crop up on social media are dealt with asap and that the frustrated customer’s problem is solved at the speed of light.

Using Freshdesk’s Social tab, you can set up streams to proactively monitor Twitter for keywords. These keywords can be generic – such as “Nike”, for example – for a wide net or you can make the stream more specific by searching for “Nike sucks”, “Nike awful” and so on. The multiple filter/search techniques make sure that relevant tweets don’t slip through the cracks while you filter out the noise. You can also set up a rule to have Freshdesk automatically convert all your @mentions – the tweets that directly mention you – into tickets for your team to process.

Frustration monitoring: social media

The process can be speeded up even more by setting up faster SLAs for your social media tickets to make sure high-wire issues get resolved in the blink of an eye.

2) When it knocks on your door: prioritize tickets based on certain keywords in the subject/description

Track all your incoming support requests with Freshdesk’s Dispatch’r and watch out for specific triggers in requests – swear words, keywords like “annoyed”, “angry”, “disappointed” and outright compliments like “you suck” to figure out where your customers rank on the frustrated scale (0 is the Dude and 5 is Anger from Inside Out).

Frustration monitoring: Dispatch'r

If a request trips the wire, you can perform a number of actions subsequently based on your support process – you could assign the request a higher priority, you can assign it to specific groups, you can add the supervisor as a Watcher to the ticket to ensure that the customer is receiving the best possible care…anything your heart desires.

3) As it builds: keep an eye on customer frustration with the Supervisor

A lot of the time, unless it’s a serious bug, the customer ranks very low on the frustration scale when he reports the problem. It’s when the interaction drags out beyond the customer’s expectations and the problem remains unsolved, that the real trouble begins. With the Supervisor, Freshdesk’s time- and event-based trigger automation, you can monitor for customer frustration by checking on the number of requester interactions in your tickets.

If the number of requester interactions goes above a specific number (say 3), the ticket can be escalated to a supervisor or assigned to another agent.

Frustration monitoring: Supervisor

You can also set up rules for more specific use-cases by including multiple conditional clauses such as:

  1. If the ticket has been assigned to the agent for over 72 hours and the number of agent interactions are over 5, escalate to supervisor for monitoring.
  2. If the number of requester interactions are over 3 and the issue is high priority, mark it ‘urgent’ and assign it to your supervisor.
  3. If it’s been 24 hours since the ticket was assigned to an agent and there’s been no response from the agent, assign it to another agent or the supervisor.

4) Aftermath: set up an Observer trigger to track unhappy satisfaction ratings

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, a support interaction goes awry and your customer leaves the exchange unhappy. Leverage the situation and have your manager swoop in and save the day with a handy little Observer rule. All you have to do is create a rule that sends an escalation email to the support manager every time negative feedback is received. This way, you’ll be able to make sure that no unhappy customer escapes your notice and you’ll get genuine feedback from your customers, feedback that you can use to improve your support process and make it more seamless.

To summarize: constant vigilance!

The truth is, you can monitor tickets, you can set up automations and have a net in place to catch all the obvious fish. But you can’t teach your helpdesk to understand nuance and figure out the warning signs. That’s where experience comes into play – when empathetic reps read the warning signs, predict frustration and do everything they can to make it right for the customer where helpdesks fail. That’s why so many support managers prize empathy above all else while looking for a support rep – it’s the built-in frustration monitor that helps reps save the day, every day.

However, we’ll be the first to admit that no one can achieve complete mastery over an art and that we’ve probably missed out on a couple of in-your-face pointers that can really help when you’re on deck. If you can spot one, drop us a note in the comments down below and we’ll add it to our kbase.