The Snowball Effect of Unanswered Customer Service Tickets

Email backlogs— especially during the holiday season — can be a breeding ground for customer neglect and missed revenue. What can companies do now to avoid getting buried in a backlog avalanche?

Customer service email backlogs are an unwelcome holiday tradition for many ecommerce businesses. Think: the stale fruitcake of CX. Seasonal surges always bring an increase in customer service tickets, but tack on global supply chain jams and shipping delays… then things start to pile up and get messy.

Here’s the kicker about customer service backlogs: left unchecked, they’ll get bigger. Much bigger. 

Simpr works with ecommerce brands year-round. We’ve had companies come to us with email backlogs that had grown SEVEN TIMES their original size within two weeks. 

In some cases, the amount of emails in a backlog outnumbers a company’s entire customer base. 

Though backlogs can build up quickly, the compounding effects may last for years

Unanswered tickets are a dark cloud that hangs over exhausted CX team members, who otherwise could be spending their time generating revenue and strengthening customer loyalty through pre-sale support.  

Worse yet, backlogs contribute heavily to customer neglect, which, for some brands, can amount to millions in lost revenue and gains for your competitors. 

How do customer service backlogs start to snowball?

High-growth and enterprise ecommerce brands are particularly likely to experience crippling email backlogs. Here’s why:

  1. Holiday volume is lasting longer than ever. Black Friday is no longer an actual day, but a month-long season unto itself. What was once a short flurry of activity is now an ongoing burn of remarkably high volume that’s getting harder and harder to keep under control.
  2. The NOW customer wants answers, well… now. The NOW customer expects rapid-fire responses to customer service questions. In fact, according to our most recent research study, brands with the most “exceptional” experiences answer emails in under 1 hour. And, according to Zendesk, 51% of consumers will contact the brand through an alternative channel if they have not received an email response after one hour. The longer a customer doesn’t hear back from you, the more tickets they’ll pour into your backlog and even then, they might just abandon you completely. While you’re digging out of your mountain of unanswered messages, that customer may be long gone.
  3. Perfect seasonal staffing is next to impossible. It’s difficult to forecast how much customer service support a business will need during the holidays (or other high-volume seasons). But ecommerce brands’ inability to strike the perfect balance can spell trouble. If the full holiday team cannot tackle a backlog right away, there’s no way they will be able to recover in a short period of time. The backlog won’t go anywhere, and the rate of tickets coming in will remain unchanged or increase. On the flip side, hiring more people to help could blow your budget entirely.

How to avoid the “snowball effect” of an unattended backlog

While backlogs may seem like an inevitable part of ecommerce, losing control of them doesn’t have to be. Here are some ways to avoid lasting damage that can come from a compounding backlog:

  1. Be transparent with your customers! The NOW customer loves authenticity as much as they love speed.  If your company is experiencing delays in responding to customers, this must be proactively communicated via all digital channels: homepage banner, text, email, and social media. When customers are in the loop, they’re less likely to (over)fill your backlog with more tickets.
  2. Opt for a flexible, on-demand staffing solution like Simplr. There’s a way to get outside “human power” without having to deal with a subpar call center or getting into the “hiring-and-firing” cycle of temp workers.  Companies like Princess Polly, Steve Madden, and Paula’s Choice use Simplr to prevent customer neglect and enable their internal CX teams to focus on creating amazing pre-sale customer experiences. (Learn more here.)
  3. Make smart decisions about automation and self-service options. Automation is a way to give customers quicker answers to their questions about returns and order statuses (without filling your inbox). However, proceed with caution: configuring a chatbot is more complicated than it seems, and would be a heavy lift for your already-strained internal team. Also, bots that aren’t backed by human agents put you at risk of  frustrating your customers, which may very well be worse than the neglect they’d experience from a backlog!

Don’t let your business (and your customers) get buried in a backlog

Backlogs can happen to anyone. Even some world-class brands with award-winning customer service have experienced detrimental backlogs at hands of the ever-demanding NOW customer.  

The financial risks of an out-of-control backlog are too big to ignore: customer neglect, employee burnout, damaged brand reputation, and, of course, the missed revenue that’s just sitting in a queue. 

With the right plan and solutions to support a “now” approach to CX, email backlogs don’t need to bury your business or leave your customers out in the cold .


If you’re interested in preventing backlogs altogether (or if you need help digging out right NOW), contact Simplr today. 

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