Article | 8 min read

A guide to issue trackers (+3 best issue tracking software)

An issue tracker is the all-in-one solution for streamlining your customer service experience.

By Court Bishop, Contributing Writer

Published August 16, 2019
Last updated March 16, 2022

There’s no such thing as a software release that’s free of problems—a stubborn fact of life that development teams face every day. Software development is complicated, and even the most highly skilled software engineers in the world write code that has bugs. While challenging, fixing software issues becomes much easier when companies use an issue tracker.

What is an issue tracking system?

An issue tracker records all the problems customers experience with a software product or app. It enables support agents, engineers, and managers to monitor those issues until they’ve been resolved successfully.

Sometimes referred to as a bug tracking system, an issue tracking system helps product development and support teams compile, manage, and maintain customer tickets. It allows them to address consumer complaints efficiently and provide users with updates. By working with cloud-based issue tracking systems, team members are also able to resolve issues remotely.

Why is an issue tracker important?

Issue trackers are most commonly used for resolving software bugs. But consumers will often reach out when they have a feature request or a question about how to use the product.

Regardless of the inquiry, an issue tracker like Zendesk benefits both agents and customers alike. Agents can easily organize, monitor, analyze, and respond to numerous support tickets—boosting their productivity and performance. Meanwhile, users can follow a ticket in real-time. They can see when any activity occurs and who’s working to resolve their issue.

The transparency and efficiency enabled by issue trackers help to build customer trust, improve customer satisfaction, and enhance the overall customer experience.

How does an issue tracker work?

Say a user attempts to perform an action in a software product, such as logging in, exporting data, or creating a dashboard for analytics. They can’t complete the task, so they contact the company’s customer support team via email, live chat, social media, or another channel.

At this point, the issue tracker creates a support ticket and assigns it to an agent. In some cases, the agent might actively choose the ticket rather than receive it as an assignment. It depends on how the team’s workflows are set up.

A good issue tracker will allow support agents to search for similar tickets—past or present—to either find a solution or identify a recurring trend. To solve an issue they’ve seen before, the agent can provide the user with the information directly or send the customer to a knowledge base article. If the issue is new, the agent can flag the ticket for the software development team.

In a typical issue tracking system, an agent can also assign a priority level to a ticket—a process called ticket escalation. For example, an agent may use level P1 for the most severe of issues and P4 for the least. A development team’s project managers will often adjust priorities as needed. According to Issuetrak, tickets are of more significance “when an issue has time sensitivity, has relevance to business success, or may incur consequences if left for too long.”

Once the issue has a known solution, the agent can fix the problem and then close the ticket. On rare occasions, agents will close a ticket if the issue cannot be resolved or isn’t related to the product in question.

What are the main features of an issue tracking system?

Every issue tracker should, first and foremost, provide a clear picture of a support ticket’s road to resolution. Beyond that high-level purpose, there are a few features to look out for when choosing a tracking system.

  • Omnichannel view

    Customers will report bugs or request new features via their preferred channel, whether that’s email, phone, chat, or social media. An issue tracker should centralize these conversations while enabling them to move from channel to channel seamlessly. For example, a customer who reaches out about an issue through email should be able to follow up over the phone without having to repeat themselves. Pick an omnichannel issue tracker that provides end-to-end visibility of customer issues and requests.

  • Time tracking

    A robust issue tracker will measure how long it takes to resolve a problem. Time tracking is especially important for project managers, who need to oversee their team members and update planned sprints to reflect which bug fixes or requested features will be included in upcoming releases.

  • Integrations

    Software engineers and support agents must be able to communicate clearly across platforms when using the issue tracking system. So, choose an issue tracker that will integrate with your existing project management tools. If you use Jira, for instance, the issue tracking system should allow team members to attach Jira tickets to a customer’s request or bug report. Adding all relevant information to a ticket makes it easier to search for related issues and keeps everyone in the loop.

    It’s also critical for your issue tracker to integrate with other useful third-party tools. Slack, for example, can help your team prioritize tickets in a #triage channel or track new issues within the communication platform.

  • Analytics and reporting

    Look for issue tracking software that generates detailed reports so you can identify trends—such as whether test cases are successful or if issues marked as resolved have resurfaced. These reports can help teams see how resources are being used for software projects and ultimately lead to product roadmap updates.

    Managers can also use an issue tracker to set up automated reports that will get delivered to their email inboxes. They can even create dashboards that track key performance indicators (KPIs) like first-reply time, ticket volume, and more.

  • SLAs, automation, and workflow customization

    When choosing an issue tracker, consider how it might impact workflows. For example:

    Can it be configured to allow an agent to reopen a closed ticket?

    Can anyone change the priority level of an issue or request, or can it be limited to a single group?

    For many businesses, the service-level agreement (SLA)—a written contract that promises a certain level of service—plays a big role in how they respond to support requests. If your company is a vendor for another business and your customer expects inquiries to be answered (or resolved) within an agreed-upon time frame, you’ll need tools that flag high-priority tickets.

    Issue tracking systems should also allow administrators to automate routine tasks—whether that’s the way in which tickets are assigned or the closing of tickets after a specific time frame. With automation, customers can get the help they need faster.

  • Build a best-in-class customer self-service experience

    This free guide is designed to help you create the right practices internally and build the best self-service experience you can for your customers.

  • Customer feedback

    Issue tracking isn’t complete without the means to elicit customer feedback. Tracking software should enable agents to automatically reach out to a user after an issue is resolved to gauge how well they’ve done—and what they can do better. Common tools agents can use to gather this feedback include customer satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score® (NPS) surveys.

  • Scalability

    For SMBs, issue tracking software is especially critical when it comes to managing resources—whether that’s optimizing productivity for a small support team or giving customers self-service options so they can resolve basic issues on their own. As your business grows, so does the complexity and number of tickets. Your issue tracker must contain tools that empower it to scale along with your company so customers continue receiving excellent service.

    For instance, artificial intelligence tools like chatbots can handle straightforward tickets and questions, allowing your human agents to focus on solving more complex issues. This helps ensure customer tickets don’t slip through the cracks or take excessively long to resolve.

Top issue tracking software

It’s important to purchase an issue tracker that provides solutions for your particular company. Although there are several key features most issue tracking software solutions offer (like the ones mentioned above), some boast unique capabilities that better support certain types of businesses.

1. Zendesk

issue tracker

Zendesk’s issue tracking system sends all customer tickets and inquiries to a shared inbox. Regardless of the communication channel—email, phone, chat, social media, or messaging app—your agents gain a comprehensive, unified view of customers and their issues. This makes it much easier to manage tickets and provide an omnichannel customer experience.

Key features

  • Automated responses promptly address customer inquiries and requests
  • Analytics and reporting provide important customer insights
  • Live chat, messaging, and self-service options deliver 24/7 customer support

Pricing

  • Suite Team: $49 per agent, per month
  • Suite Growth: $79 per agent, per month
  • Suite Professional: $99 per agent, per month

2. ClickUp

issue tracker

Image source

For fans of project management tools, ClickUp is an ideal option for tracking issues. The software is fully cloud-based and allows teams to collaborate efficiently, set alerts, and more. ClickUp’s system includes an activity stream that displays tickets and tasks in real-time, which greatly simplifies issue tracking.

Key features*

  • More than 20 real-time dashboard views
  • Automatic notifications when tickets are linked to tasks within the system
  • Single sign-on (SSO) capability makes it easy to log in and get to work

*Features listed represent the “Business” plan.

Pricing

  • Unlimited: $5 per user, per month
  • Business: $9 per user, per month
  • Business Plus: $19 per user, per month

3. GitHub

issue tracker

Image source

GitHub is a favorite project management choice among developers, partly because of its issue tracking features. The software lets agents break down issues into actionable tasks and customize how they tackle customer tickets.

Key features*

  • Unlimited public and private code repositories make finding and writing code feasible for everyone
  • Boards and tables help teams visualize large projects from beginning to end
  • Custom issue fields allow for tracking data like iterations and priority

*Features listed represent the “Team” plan.

Pricing

  • Team: $40 per user, per month
  • Enterprise: $210 per user, per month

Tackle tickets and bugs with an issue tracker

Give your customer service team more ways to serve your buyers by adding issue tracking software to your tech stack. Integrate Zendesk’s issue tracker with existing systems to extend your reach into places where issues may arise—like ecommerce sites or within project management software—and efficiently resolve problems. Our solution makes it simple to monitor customer issues and track every inquiry with valuable key metrics.

Build a best-in-class customer self-service experience

This free guide is designed to help you create the right practices internally and build the best self-service experience you can for your customers.

Build a best-in-class customer self-service experience

This free guide is designed to help you create the right practices internally and build the best self-service experience you can for your customers.

Get the guide