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Help desk ticket system approach: Should users file their own tickets?

While most help desk ticketing processes require end users to file their own tickets, there are benefits to shifting the burden back to your IT support staff.

IT ticketing and dispatching is regarded by some industry experts as one of the key pillars of IT service management....

It is often the first thing that comes to an end user's mind when a problem arises. Why? Because we, IT support personnel, have programmed end users to file a ticket when a problem crops up, rather than reach out to us directly to communicate the problem. I believe this approach is flawed.

To understand why this help desk ticket system approach is flawed, consider the position of an end user. When a problem occurs, the first feeling that typically emerges is frustration. Why doesn't this system just work? I don't have time for this. Next, anxiety builds up, as the user fears that they may have caused the problem.

At most companies, users know they need to file a help desk ticket, but the process is cumbersome. It requires information such as name, username, e-mail address, phone number, problem category, problem details, etc. Answering these questions adds to the frustrations that the user is experiencing.

My company has abandoned this traditional approach to supporting our customers. Instead, we encourage end users to contact us by phone or email, no matter how small the problem is, rather than filing a help desk ticket. Our approach to services is based on the idea that clients and end users are not here to serve us; rather, we are here to serve them. This approach has some tangible benefits. We have a high client retention rate (of some demanding clients), and our customers often refer new clients to us.

While end users don't interact with a ticketing system, we do have one.

If a user calls in a request, they are immediately greeted by a live person who is ready to get them to the right place. If our phone system doesn't recognize the number they're calling from, the client is asked which office they're from -- and that's the only question they have to answer before being connected to support. Each of our clients is serviced by a primary support technician (with another backup technician assigned to handle overflow if the primary technician is busy when the call comes in) rather than a random person at the help desk.

Because we need a ticketing system only for internal use, we have more flexibility in product choice than other IT services companies.

Email requests go to our general support queue. Based on pre-set rules, the help requests are routed to the assigned support technician, who then calls the end user to get the problem resolved.

At the end of the support session, the support technician creates the ticket, and the work is tracked like it is at other IT services companies. The only difference in process is that we've shifted the burden of filing the ticket from end users to my staff.

The software itself may also be different from that used by other MSPs. We use a free, standalone open source help desk ticket system called osTicket. Many remote monitoring and management (RMM) platforms include an integrated ticketing system, but I don't use an RMM tool because an all-in-one system has failed me before (and left me feeling pigeonholed), so those products' ticketing systems aren't available to me.

Because we need a ticketing system only for internal use, we have more flexibility in product choice than other IT services companies. If we needed to provide end user access to the ticketing system, the criteria for product selection would surely change.

OsTicket provides features such as generation of tickets via e-mail, auto-assign ticketing, ticket redirection, ticket filtering and dashboard reports. One drawback to this platform is the lack of automated billing integration. And, unlike RMM tools, the platform doesn't provide asset management.

The end user is your lifeline. Their needs hold priority over your own and you need to provide them with nothing short of a positive experience. Having a ticketing system is necessary for your own internal metrics, tracking your technicians and making sure that you are delivering to your clients. However, it shouldn't be a roadblock to the delivery of your services.

Stanley Louissaint is president of Fluid Designs Inc., a full service IT services provider in Union, N.J., as well as a member of The ASCII Group since 2014.

This was last published in December 2014

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Who do you think should file help desk tickets: end users or IT support team members?
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Since tickets are often just the first step in a conversation and require further clarification before any work can begin, I think a system where the submission process is replaced by an actual conversation would make sense. But in many cases, the helpdesk simply does not have enough resources to respond to every issue in real time. So I don't know how realistic it is. 

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If you have the time and staff for this, great! Most IT departments do not. While I like to have folks call the service desk for an incident, I strongly feel requests should come from a more passive form of submittal such as a service portal. This way we can capture all of the information we need from the end user before IT even sees the request, and save a bunch of time.
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It still should be a combination between end users and IT support but I think the key here is that end users need to give enough information on their problem so the IT team can come up with a quick and easy resolution. 
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It support team the cam track the ticket as developers work on it like file attachments labeling filtering categories the other one troubleshoot problems
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In our organization, we try to make it as easy as possible for our end users to report issues, but we then triage those to make sure we have a full understanding of the problem.many times, what the customer says is a problem can be traced back to poor understanding of the feature or how it was implemented, but that in and of itself often points to an issue (if a feature is so arcane or difficult to understand, then it rightfully should be treated as a bug, regardless of our protestations that "well, that's how it's designed" ;). 
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Although I don't work in the Support department, I find that an opportunity to talk directly to a person reporting a problem gives me a much needed chance to clarify information before it ends up in a formal tracking system. I don't know whether users who need help from Support would be prepared to categorize their requests or to diagnose the problems they encounter.
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I've only participated on a support team where end users directly
contacted support. This could occur via phone, direct email, email to a
queue, or a user forum on our website. The benefits I see in the direct
contact format are:

1) Immediate positive response from
customers - when customer heard the phone call picked up and immediately
heard a phone instead of a prompt, they would regularly comment on how
much they appreciated it.

2) Less wasted time for the
customer - Customers sometimes have trouble accurately stating the
problem they're having, either because describing a UI is challenging,
or because they're having trouble characterizing a problem. By reaching
us directly, we can immediately start addressing problems with all the
experience of having helped others with similar customers and knowing
about this customer's specific history via the CRM.

3) Less
wasted time for the support staff - Occasionally a customer's question
can be answered via a 'canned response'. However, working through a
support person directly means these 'canned responses' can be accurately
tailored to specific customers, avoiding a lot of potential 'back and
forth' from canned responses that have to be made generically (e.g.
options for different OS's, program versions, etc.) to suit an automated
system.
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I think it should file by end users to log the time line and report to him for the result.
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I am thinking help desk cause end users should file their own tickets and end users log on to the help desk automatic login protocol
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I think it should be a 2 step process. #1: the user submits the ticket for request. If any pertinent information is missing (we know users always forget something) the person screening the tickets can call to get the complete info. Then step 2: The help desk operator passes it on to the correct IT person. This way they can stay focused on fixing issues.
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Agreed, Todd - should be collaborative especially at the beginning. Though I'd prefer an email rather than a phone call :)
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Email is definitely the way to go for two reasons. User will not get a busy signal and that may keep them happy. Secondly you have a paper trail to fall back on if they deny anything or mislead us into chasing a non-existent problem.
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I agree and disagree.

I do think there should always be a live agent option for customers but, as a technical person, when I have a technical problem, most often I look for self support first.

If my problem was not tech related then that live agent is sounding pretty attractive.

I think your live agent only approach potentially alienates a percentage of your end users which can lead to lost customers.

I have been in customer service business for 23+ years. Customers like options. I can imagine some of your customers feel pigeonholed, like you did, with just a single option for support.

If you truly want to be there to serve your customers you need to provide every channel available and let customers choose what is right for them.

Tools such as iSupport and mySupport are so flexible in their ability to support custom interfaces, rules and self support portals you should have no problem finding a tool that meets the needs of everyone with out feeling like you have sacrificed or been pigeonholed.

I also find it interesting that while advocating the live agent support model for your company you chose software that is freeware and therefor offers no live agent support. I think that proves my point that everyone likes options and you must provide as many options as possible to really be providing world class support.
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Daren,

I too agree with you to a point. It is best to evaluate the customers that you want to work with and tailor your solutions for that particular segment. Our clients prefer to pick up the phone to call us when there is an issue and prefer the "white glove" type of service. Anything involving filling a form such as LiveChat is seen as an inconvenience to them. They prefer a more classic style of interacting. Each market segment has it's own unique approach and the solutions should be tailored accordingly.

- Stan
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