Why Zero should be your Daily Ticket Goal

If you have read through some of my favorite sayings, one might stand out to you: “Our Daily Ticket Goal is Zero”.

This usually raises eyebrows. Often instead you’ll hear ‘goals’ of “less tickets”, or “let’s reduce tickets in half”.

Recall that goals should be S.M.A.R.T: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.

When it comes to Help Desks, allow me to demonstrate that Zero is the only reasonable goal to put in place. So, let’s leave “achievable” for last.


Goals like “less tickets” are not specific. While “reduce tickets in half” is specific, I’m going to argue that Zero is our ultimate specific goal. Whatever your number, it must be a number. And it should be changing to a lower number every quarter.

You can argue that Support departments are just victims of 9-1-1 calls and can’t control the chaos out in the free world; sometimes it’s up, sometimes it’s down. I disagree. Support departments, and the company as a whole, are in almost complete control of their ticket volume. Post for another time, perhaps, but it starts with taking some ownership of the situation and making a determination to set a numerical goal.


Here is where many support operations struggle. You can’t set a numerical goal of any business value if you don’t know what your current situation is. Also, you can’t simply measure only inbound ticket volume, solved cases, or even basic metrics like FCR and Handle Time. You have to have the whole picture on hand.

That includes more elusive data like Cost Per Ticket, CSAT (per agent and overall), Customer Acquisition Costs and Churn, Customer Effort Score, and TTR (Time to Resolution). Determining some of that may require integrating Support tools with Revenue Operations or a CRM and “360º View of the Customer” tools.

No matter how much you may feel that you need to reduce ticket volume, or how painful your spiraling support costs may be, you must have measurable metrics to not only be aware of the present facts, but to track progress over time. In smaller organizations, this setup would fall to the Support Manager or a support operations consultant. In larger organizations, your CRM administrator or Chief Customer Officer may be heavily involved in measuring some of these metrics also.


This one goes mostly without saying. Of course support tickets cost the company money. It deducts from profits made by sales. Many companies initially underestimate the support costs of a sale (and I’ve known a few that have never even tracked it or don’t know how). All the high-fives and bonus wheels in the sales room are meaningless if we are losing money on support costs. We have to know our real-world costs, including Customer Acquisition Cost, to determine whether a win is really a win, or to see how big a win really is. So, the whole discussion of support costs are incredibly relevant to a company’s profitability and its future.


Like any goal, when we set a goal in Support, it must be something we can either celebrate, or bemoan its (our) failure. To do that, we have to attach a deadline by which to meet it.

Nowhere is this more true than in Support. Often, medium and long-term projects are pushed aside while we tackle the fires on hand. Many support departments function in the “tyranny of the urgent”. It takes strong leadership and vision to rise above that, to pushback against outside forces and carve out needed resources to effect long-lasting change. Set solid deadlines and hold the team — and the company — to them. Getting executive buy-in is very helpful here.


Here is where some throw up their hands at the number Zero. It’s simply not achievable, they say.

I’ll divulge a secret here: I agree. Zero is achievable only with a perfect product, a perfect onboarding system, perfect documentation and in-product help, perfect internet connections (especially for SaaS businesses), perfect deployment practices, perfect financial systems (credit card processing, etc.), perfect security practices, and… wait for it… perfect customers! Maybe a few perfect turtle doves and a perfect partridge in a perfect pear tree, too.

“A-ha!”, you say, “I knew it! Simply not achievable on our planet!”.

Correct. And Wrong. More on why in a minute.

But first ask yourself, what number is achievable? Let’s take an example from my favorite company, Lawrence’s Giraffe Ladles (LGL). They make ladles that are shaped like giraffes — perfect for your everyday cook who wants his kitchen tools to represent his love of savannah wildlife.

LGL currently gets 100 tickets a day in Support. Everything from “My giraffe ladle never arrived” and “I feel guilty ladling my soup by an animal’s head”, to feature requests like “Can you also make an ostrich version? They have long necks too and I’m more into fowl than hooves!”, as well as the usual password resets on the company’s popular discussion board called “Ladle Life”.

After the Support team hears about the Zero Ticket Goal, they begin to wonder how they could ever slurp their way to such a low number. The ticket volume has generally risen with sales and they certainly don’t want sales to fall and leave a lot of people without quality giraffe ladles, forcing them to use boring lifeless ladles again.

While there are many avenues to pursue “less tickets” (to be discussed in other posts), what number should the LGL team put as their goal? If they had to whiteboard a number, what should it be?

What about 50? Seems reasonable we could get there. After all, most would agree that 50 is an achievable number. Well then, what about 25? Harder, but with a lot of effort and tenacity, it’s not impossible to think that the Customer Support team could eventually average that.

Why not 12 then? I mean, if we already reduced our ticket volume to 1/4 of its previous average, surely we could knock it in half again.

And so forth. We could further stipulate, as in the study of limits in calculus, that we are ‘approaching zero’ and therefore can, at some point, equate our efforts to zero. But let’s set that aside.

I am also not advocating for the kind of humorously circular logic one finds in the Unexpected Hanging, but I do think this constant refinement toward zero is one reasonable way of looking at it.

But let’s look at it another way. Let’s play devil’s advocate and assume a goal of 1 ticket per day at LGL. Surely that is more ‘achievable’ than 0, right? Perhaps only madmen and purists would insist upon 0 and we can therefore determine that between two Support Managers at LGL, the one who settles upon a goal of 1 is more balanced, more reasonable, than the tight-fisted scrooge who insists upon 0, correct?

In the name of human decency and a fallen world, we could maybe accept a goal of 1.

But what are we also saying by defining our goal as 1 support ticket per day?

We are saying the following:

  • it’s okay that a customer experienced a pain point today
  • it’s acceptable that our documentation once again didn’t help a customer
  • it’s fine that a customer couldn’t figure out our ladle
  • it’s normal for our shipping department to ship late (nothing worse than a late ladle!)
  • it’s reasonable to live in a world where our discussion board software makes it tricky to reset a password
  • it’s par for the course that our ladles sometimes melt and turn soups into spotted broth
  • it’s adequate business practice to over-charge a customer
  • it’s satisfactory that our website is down for maintenance during peak shopping seasons (which is not Christmas for LGL, but World Giraffe Day on June 21).

Is this starting to make sense now? When you posit a goal of 1 ticket per day, you are saying all of that is just fine and dandy with you. You are claiming that you are happy to run a business that impacts 365 needed customer support interactions per year. In the next dozen years, you’ll negatively impact over 4,000 customer “moments of truth” because you stated, from the outset, that you thought it was good to do so.

It is therefore my opinion, that the only reasonable goal is zero. It is not just the Support Team that must buy-in to this — they can only do so much — but everyone in all departments: product development, shipping, accounting, marketing, IT, and of course sales.

Not Good Enough

Disclaimer: I’m not a fanatic (except about giraffes), so the above is somewhat written tongue-in-cheek to make a point. Like Dorothy, tap your heels and say three times, “We can always do better. We can always do better. We can always do better”.

Keep striving. Don’t accept mediocre goals when it comes to Support. Push yourself. What else can you do today to drop that goal another few points? If you need help finding areas to focus on, contact me for a quick call about your Support Department. I’m always happy to help.

Meanwhile, as the head of LGL’s design team, I’m trying to see if we can start a sister product for elephant lovers that, due to its inherent weight, is also a workout tool. Imagine getting a solid workout while ladling soup! That’s innovation we aren’t seeing in America anymore.