Balanced assignment deep dive
Beth-Ann Sher avatar
Written by Beth-Ann Sher
Updated over a week ago

Balanced assignment is our recommended assignment method for support teams. It provides you with the controls you need to automatically route conversations to the most available and relevant teammate as quickly as possible so you can meet your customers expectations at scale.

In this article we'll cover:

  • How balance assignment decides which teammate to assign a conversation to.

  • How to define your teammates assignment limit to ensure they are not overloaded and can send high quality replies.

  • How to set your conversations prioritization logic to ensure that the most critical conversations are assigned to teammates first.

To get started, navigate to your workspace Settings > Teams & roles and click on team inboxes to modify their assignment method:

Matching conversations with teammates

When balanced assignment is enabled, conversations wait in the team inbox, until an eligible teammate is available to receive more conversations. Eligible teammates meet all of the following criteria:

  • They are member of the team inbox in question.

  • Their status is set to active.

  • Their open conversations are less than the teammates’ assignment limit.

When there are multiple eligible teammates for the same team inbox, conversations are assigned to the teammate with the fewest open conversations.

When multiple eligible teammates have the same number of open conversations, the teammate who didn’t get assigned a conversation for the longest time receives a conversation first.

If capacity is set to 3 and 'Teammate A' has 3 conversations and 'Teammate B' has 1, 'Teammate B' will get 2 conversations before 'Teammate A' gets 1.

You can define teammates membership in team inboxes from Settings > Help Desk > Workload management and then click on the "Teammates" tab.

Secondary team inboxes

For each teammate you can define their primary and secondary team inboxes. When all primary team inboxes are empty, the teammate starts receiving conversations from their secondary team inboxes.

For example, Bob is a teammate who speaks Italian and English. Bob’s primary focus is Italian team inboxes. Sometimes the flow of conversations in Italian team inboxes isn’t high. When this happens, Bob can start supporting the English team inboxes.

If teammate has more than one inbox set as Primary, we will pool all conversations in these inboxes together, when determining which conversation to assign next through balanced assignment. Conversations will be assigned based on the following criteria 👇

  • Conversations marked as priority will be assigned first.

  • Next, conversations that are closest to hitting the SLA will be assigned.

  • Finally, the longest waiting conversation will be assigned.

Defining teammates assignment limit

When balanced assignment is enabled, conversations are automatically assigned to teammates up to their assignment limit. Teammates with open conversations equal or above their assignment limit don’t receive more conversations.

Assignment limits treat all conversations the same, regardless of the channel they were created through (Chat, Email, Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram, SMS). This means that if the assignment limit is 10, one teammate can get 5 emails and 5 conversations, while another teammate can get 10 conversations.

In Settings > Help Desk > Workload management, you can define a workspace level assignment limit that applies to all teammates.

Override the workspace limit by defining an assignment limit for individual teammates under the "Teammates" tab. This helps ensure each teammate’s workload matches their skills, seniority, and complexity of conversations they work on.

For example, if you’re onboarding new teammates, we encourage you to give them a relatively lower limit during their first few weeks.


  • If all teammates are at capacity, the "Send us a message" button will no longer appear in your Messenger

  • Your customers will still be able to reply to their past conversations (unless the prevent replies feature is turned on)

  • Assignment limit doesn’t prevent manually assigning conversations to teammates even if they’re at their limit.

Defining conversations prioritization

Imagine a teammate becomes available, they have the capacity to handle one conversation. This teammate belongs to multiple team inboxes where there are several conversations waiting to be assigned. You need to ensure that the most critical and time sensitive conversation gets assigned to them.

In Settings > Help Desk > Workload management, you can define how conversations are prioritized before Intercom assigns the top one to available teammates. You can add or remove attributes. And reorder attributes to change their precedence.

You can rely on one or many of the following attributes:

  • Conversation priority: Conversations marked as priority are sorted first.

  • SLA: Conversations are sorted by their SLA breach time. Conversations that have already breached their SLA are sorted before the ones that have yet to breach. Conversations without an SLA are sorted last and rely on the next attribute on your list to sort them against each other.

  • Waiting since: Conversations where the user has been waiting longest are sorted first. Waiting time is calculated based on the oldest unanswered user reply. Conversations where the last reply is from a teammate (not waiting) are sorted last and rely on the next attribute on your list to sort them against each other.

  • Started at: Conversations with the oldest first user reply are sorted first.

  • Team inboxes priority: Conversations are sorted based on their team inboxes’ priority order defined in the workload management page.

Using the conversation sorting shown in the screenshot above (Priority, SLA, then Waiting since), here’s an example:

Conversations 2, 3, 4, and 5 are all marked as priority. Conversation 3 is assigned first because it breached its SLA furthest in the past. Then, conversation 5 is assigned as it is the closest to breach its SLA. Both conversation 2 and 4 don’t have an SLA, but conversation 4 is assigned first as it has been waiting for longer. Conversation 1 is assigned last because it is not marked as priority.

“Pull conversation” button

When enabled in your workspace, teammates see a button in your inbox that they can use when they're ready to get assigned an additional conversation. Intercom assigns the top conversation across all balanced assignment team inboxes the teammate is member of. It sorts conversations according to the prioritization attributes defined on the workspace level.

This option is useful, when you want to provide your teammates with ownership over when they get assigned a conversation, but you still want to leverage the automatic prioritization and avoid cherry picking.

You can enable this button directly from Settings > Help Desk > Workload management.

The “Pull conversation” button doesn’t account for the assignment limit. It assigns conversations even if teammates are at their limit.

Include/exclude tickets in balanced assignment

Control if you want to include or exclude tickets in balanced assignment. You'll find a toggle in the Workload management Help Desk settings page.

This allows you to include or exclude tickets from assignment for teams using balanced assignment.


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