The evolving philosophy behind ticketing systems at Intercom

At Intercom, we believe customer service is changing fundamentally, and we’re building a product that fits the landscape of modern support.

This means reimagining the way things have always been done, and reshaping familiar support tools to suit a world where every business is an online business. That’s exactly what we aimed to do with our new tickets product – taking a new perspective on the long-established ticketing system.

What are tickets?

A ticketing system collects every customer support interaction, whether it comes via a messenger, email, or other channel. The system labels the interaction with an identifying number, issues that ticket ID to the customer, and keeps track of the ticket as it works its way through the behind-the-scenes resolution process, which might require the involvement of multiple teammates.

Our ticketing system philosophy has evolved

We’ve always believed in messenger-first communication. Intercom’s Messenger and Inbox combine to make the most personal, powerful support tool on the market and can support any type of query, whether straightforward or complicated.

In the past, we thought of ticketing systems as handling complex queries – and we knew we didn’t need another system to handle these types of queries. Our Messenger, along with features like Resolution Bot and Inbox, could ensure that customers were supported personally and efficiently.

“While our Messenger and Inbox can handle complex queries, we began to realize that tickets are something different – they represent customer requests

As time went on, we came to understand that there was something our customers were missing. While our Messenger and Inbox can handle complex queries, we began to realize that tickets are something different – they represent customer requests.

What are tickets for?

A query is fundamentally different from a request – with a query, the customer is seeking information from a business and it can be handled in the moment. A request requires the business to go away and do something for the customer. We had been looking at ticketing as a system to handle more complex queries – which our Messenger and Inbox could easily handle – but it wasn’t about complexity at all. Tickets have a fundamentally different job to do; they provide a way for businesses and their customers to track the “behind the scenes” work that needs to be done to action a customer’s request.

After a lot of conversations with customers, our teammates, and other customer service experts, we realized that the job our customers needed tickets to do was to “help us gather the info we need to handle a customer’s request asynchronously, keep track of all those requests internally and give our customers a way to follow up whilst they are waiting.”

Building a ticketing system the Intercom way

We realized we needed a ticketing system to handle customer requests, but we were determined to build it the Intercom way. We weren’t prepared to follow the familiar ticket format: a standard form that prompts an auto-generated email receipt. As with everything at Intercom, we wanted to make tickets personal, conversational, contextual, and delightful for customers to use. 

We went back to consider this problem from first principles. The term ‘ticket’ comes from the physical world where, for example, you take your dress to the dry cleaners, have a personal conversation with the shop keeper, and they hang up your dress with a ticket attached so they can identify and keep track of it among other peoples’ clothes as it makes it way through the cleaning process at the back of the shop. You receive a counterfoil of the ticket so you can check progress over the phone or in the shop, and eventually collect the right dress when it’s ready.

“When tickets became digital, delivered through email-based helpdesks, we believe that personal experience took a backward step

When tickets became digital, delivered through email-based helpdesks, we believe that personal experience took a backward step and missed opportunities to deliver a better customer experience:

  • Email ticketing and web forms eliminated that human, personal touch you get from talking to the shopkeeper.
  • Web ticketing systems failed to take advantage of the benefits of the internet. Email helpdesks, while addressing the problem at a fundamental level, are neither smart nor connected – and do nothing to make the customer experience better at internet scale.

So we asked ourselves, if we were to design a ticketing system to fulfill Intercom’s mission of making internet business personal at scale, what would it look like? We focused on three core attributes of a next generation ticketing system:

  • It should preserve the human, conversational, and personal touch of the shop assistant by taking advantage of messaging and chat.
  • It should make the request easier to track and resolve – for both the business and the customer – by being contextual to the service, order, or account that it relates to.
  • It should attempt to automate resolution of the customer’s request wherever possible.

Bringing back personal, conversational customer experiences

Old way: Requests are submitted via email and the customer gets an impersonal, automated response.

Intercom’s way: The customer starts a messenger conversation with a teammate. If the customer raises a request that the support agent can’t resolve in real-time, they create a ticket on behalf of the customer and assign it to a specialist team, the conversation then moves from a real-time chat to asynchronous communication while the specialist team works on the request behind the scenes.

Tickets team collaboration

Making it contextual to the service, order, or account that it relates to

Old way: Support teams correspond with customers asynchronously over email to gather all the information needed to address their request.

Intercom’s way: Requests are submitted at the end of a bot path within the Messenger which gathers all relevant information upfront so the agent is ready to start working on the request as soon as it lands in the Inbox. Customers can then track and follow up on their requests via the messenger in the context of the product or service the request relates to.

Automating resolution of the customer’s request

Old way: Every request lands in an agent’s backlog to work through one by one.

Intercom’s way: A bot determines that a customer’s request can be solved automatically, in real-time, without a human needing to get involved. The bot resolves the request instantly by connecting to external data and systems, creating a better experience for the customer and saving the business time and money. 

[Find out more about how customer requests can be resolved automatically without the need for a ticket using custom actions and objects in bots.]

Delivery slot change tickets custom bot

Our ticketing philosophy is still evolving

We’re very proud of the product we’ve built, and the ways it will help our customers offer a gold-standard user experience – but we’re not finished yet. We want to take our ticketing system even further, to: 

  • Enable agents and bots to resolve more requests, faster.
  • Prevent end users repeatedly contacting agents for updates on their tickets.
  • Automate proactive communication of status updates.
  • Allow you to offer your customers an in-product location to monitor progress on their requests.

We’re excited to continue working to create the ultimate next generation ticketing system that will deal with customer requests in a personal, contextual way – at scale. 

Create a better experience for your customers and support team – learn more about Intercom’s support solution.

Intercom Support