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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.

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