Why ticket quality is the cornerstone of Service Desk Performance – and how to ensure it

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For efficient Service Desk management, never underestimate the importance of an accurate and comprehensive “ticket”. This contains a record of all the things that occur when looking to resolve a particular user Incident or Request.  Each time a new Incident or Request occurs, a new ticket is raised.  When new information comes in or actions are taken to resolve an Incident or Request, these are recorded in the existing ticket.

Why is the ticketing system so important?

Bad ticketing practice can easily lead to lots of inefficiency, dissatisfaction and confusion.

On the reverse, an efficient and appropriately used ticketing system can have a positive impact for multiple aspects of your Service Desk management strategy:

  • Accountability. In short, the ticket records ‘who does what’ relating to specific incidents. By reviewing this information from all tickets raised, you can build up an accurate picture of the type of tasks your analysts and technicians are engaged in. All of this can help you assess performance, staffing levels and whether those staff are being deployed appropriately.
  • Communication. A comprehensively populated ticket facilitates smooth handover and communication when Incidents are passed from one analyst / sub-team to another.
  • Management information. Data deriving from tickets can be used to produce management information which can then be used to analyse trends, identify and address common and recurring issues.
  • Service. Information from tickets can be used to track metrics relating to service volumes and performance.
  • Customer satisfaction. Inconsistent and patchy responses to Incidents can be a major driver of customer dissatisfaction. Efficient ticketing practices can address this by promoting and enabling uniformity in responses.

The essential elements of high quality tickets

Like any process, a ticketing system can be open to misuse: not least, end users and IT staff can fall into bad practices – and may even attempt to bypass it completely. Great ticket design, user experience and policies in support can go a long way in promoting efficient and appropriate usage. As such, here’s what ‘quality’ looks like:

As mentioned, it starts with ensuring a ticket has been logged in the first place. If it’s not in the ticketing system, it didn’t happen. Typically we see around 90% of calls to the Service Desk being logged as tickets that account for the worked time on the Service Desk. Ratios do vary for each organisation, but call to ticket ratio is a useful metric to measure to ensure all relevant activity is being captured.

So tickets are being logged. Great. However a quality ticket will have a number of characteristics such as:

Ticket source. Depending on how the business operates, you are likely to find it practical to have multiple methods in plat for instigating a ticket. These may include telephone notification, email and walk-up to the Service Desk.

Categorisation. It should be possible to clearly tag the ticket to indicate the nature of the caller issue. The ticket should also accurately record all key information from the user regarding the Incident. From this, it should enable classification into the right Issue and Type category.

Prioritisation. The ticket should set the right level of priority (e.g. P1, P2, P3) in line with the organisation’s prioritisation definitions.

Action recording. The ticket should document all steps taken to resolve the Incident, including when they were taken and by whom.

Communication. The end user – and any other interested parties should be kept updated on progress towards resolution (ideally on a daily basis). The ticket should record these communications.

Resolution. Tickets should record how Incidents are resolved. Consideration should also be given as to whether this is potentially new and useful information and whether it ought to be added to your central knowledge base.

How to ensure quality

Knowing what good looks like is only part of the battle, maintaining quality is the real challenge. Achieving consistent ticket quality can involve a number of strategies. These include:

Templates

Ticketing templates should be tailored specifically to the organisation’s requirements and usage patterns. Examples of this include a coding system for classification of Incidents that matches the type of issues that most commonly occur.

Training

This includes mentoring for new starters so they quickly become familiar with how the ticketing system works. Some Service Desk tools incorporate test portals, enabling analysts to get to grips with ticketing within a dummy environment. Training with videos and screenshots increases effectiveness too.

Accessibility

It helps if Service Desk analysts have the ability to access and edit tickets on the move – thereby reducing the changes of team members forgetting to update a ticket later on.

Review

To ensure that it is dealt with, consider defining regular (e.g. monthly) ticket audits as a specific task – and define how many tickets should be reviewed. The purpose of this audit should be to ensure that your formal ticketing policy is being adhered to in the field – and to ensure that the tickets themselves continue to reflect the type of issues and incidents the organisation is experiencing.

There are a number of review strategies you can deploy – and sometimes a combination is better. The starting point is to decide who will do the review. You could conduct peer-to-peer reviews, team leader reviews, ticket self-review or assign a full-time person to ticket quality. The key thing is to do something regularly to check on quality.

Follow these steps and it increases the likelihood that your ticketing procedures enable smoother running of your IT support services, reflecting the needs of your end users and facilitating better knowledge management. 

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Pete Canavan
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