For managed services providers (MSPs) and a wide variety of other organizations, staying on top of support services is critical for retaining customers and ensuring continued satisfaction. Typically, the task of the service team begins with a request from an end user. The request generates a support ticket and its details pass through the IT workflow until someone resolves the issue. Designing a clear ticket management system and implementing help desk best practices are both vital to ensuring the smooth execution of support tickets.
Since most organizations have to cope with a regular influx of IT service requests, maintaining a well-run ticket management system is crucial to keeping your support services up and running. Ticket management systems centralize communication from end users and streamline the work of desk representatives. An excellent ticket management system can drive seamless problem-solving and improve customer satisfaction.
Luckily, if you’re looking to enhance your support services, there are many easy-to-implement practices you can adopt today. This article examines how to manage help desk tickets and offers proven ways to improve your service desk performance.
How do you prioritize support tickets?
As we know, support tickets are service requests sent by end users and received by ticket management systems. It’s crucial every ticket is answered promptly and accurately—but when large volumes of IT support requests flood in, this can be a challenge. Do you take tickets on a first-come, first-served basis, or do you pick and choose based on the urgency of the request? What if it takes longer than expected to find a solution?
Here are eight best practices to keep in mind when managing support ticket queues:
- Decide how you’ll prioritize tickets. Listed below are two ways to prioritize your tickets.First in, First Out. The first-in, first-out method addresses support requests in the order they’re received. A chronological method can help optimize workflow and prevent backlog.
Prioritize tickets based on urgency. Most ticket management systems can take an email and generate necessary contact information, details about the issue, and how the problem is impacting the customer. This information will allow your team to pick and choose which tickets to address first based on the type of problems your customers are facing.
- Categorize every support ticket based on urgency. This step is especially important if you’re prioritizing tickets based on urgency, but it’s a crucial identifier regardless. This categorization enables support representatives to identify and make time for the most pressing problems. This type of time management can make all the difference when you have a large influx of tickets calling for quick turn-arounds.
- Categorize your customers. Ideally, you should treat all customers equally and resolve all their problems quickly. However, if you have a small team handling a large volume of requests, you should consider prioritizing customers in higher payment tiers. and fast-tracking their requests. If needed, create a VIP category within a first-in, first-out system to ensure key accounts receive top-notch service.
- Track and monitor ticket statuses. To expedite workflow, make sure each ticket is assigned a status—for instance, you might use the tags “Open,” “In-Progress,” “Pending,” or “Closed.” Ticket management software should help you track the status of each ticket and easily view any new updates on a central dashboard. This way, you can follow each ticket’s progress and prevent requests from getting lost or neglected.
- Monitor and automate your workflows. You can automate your workflow by setting alerts for important customers or particularly time-sensitive tickets. You can also set alerts for idle and overdue tickets. By minimizing the room for human error, you can ensure your key customers are receiving immediate support and no requests remain unresolved for long. When a representative receives an alert for a problem the representative can’t solve, automate the reassignment process by using keyword tags such as “system crashed” to alert other team members who have more experience in solving this specific type of problem. Such tags expedite workflow and prevent tricky tickets from falling through the cracks.
- Keep customers informed. Automate first responses to customers and include an estimated resolution time. Send proper notifications when problems are officially resolved or if it’s taking longer than usual to arrive at a solution. Even if you don’t have an estimated timeline prepared, the customer will appreciate the continuous communication and reassurance you’re assessing their problem.
- Draft template messages when possible. It’s time-consuming and impractical to draft individual responses for each client. Template messages can alert your clients you’ve received their request, offer them an estimated wait time, assure them you’re addressing their problem, or notify them you’ve resolved the problem. Although customers won’t expect individualized responses, you can easily make canned communications less generic by designing a template that recognizes each customer’s specific problem.
- Encourage self-service. Often, common problems will come up again and again. Answering the same questions repeatedly wastes time and effort—and waiting for responses to recurring problems can be frustrating for your customer. Often, customers prefer to help themselves when possible. Empower your customers to address easy-to-solve problems by constructing peer-support portals or a searchable database of IT knowledge. Enlist your team to write and publish answers to commonly asked questions—saving them time and effort in the long run.
How do you manage a service desk?
Beyond prioritizing tickets, there are several other ways to optimize your IT team and ensure your customers are receiving the support they need. Managing a service desk involves juggling multiple metrics, defining your objectives, and keeping your employees happy. Here are a few best practices to ensure your team is reaching their full potential.
- Assemble a top team and incorporate their feedback. Any IT service team is only as good as the sum of its team members, their experience, and their skill sets. Training inexperienced personnel can be risky, since they may opt to leave for a higher paying position once they gain experience. Hiring experienced IT personnel may mean higher salaries, but it eliminates costly and lengthy training processes. It also helps you retain existing customers and increase customer satisfaction. Ensure your team is satisfied and performing to their full potential by checking they have the tools they need and asking them regularly for feedback.
- Ensure your team isn’t overloaded. An excess of backlogged tickets is sometimes an indication the ticket management system needs improvement. Sometimes, you may be able to decrease the backlog by further automating the ticketing process. Other times, backlog is a sign your IT team isn’t big enough to tackle the workload, and you may need to expand your team. Recognizing these signs will go a long way in improving employee satisfaction and, by extension, customer satisfaction.
- Incorporate service-level agreements. Most companies will utilize service-level agreements (SLAs) to measure problems and improvements in IT service. SLAs establish the basic conditions of your support services . They lay out an agreement between you and your customers—for example, designating the maximum amount of wait time that is acceptable to be considered good quality of service. It is important to remember SLAs differ from the key performance indicators (KPIs) which are used to track performance. Deriving and implementing SLAs requires soliciting constructive feedback from customers and analyzing ways to improve customer satisfaction.
- Improve customer experience. As we know, customer retention depends on more than just solving customer problems effectively—it also depends on the quality of service and the customer experience. Figuring out how to track customer experience can be tricky, especially when customer concerns don’t align with your SLAs. Analyze your data to understand what separates a good customer experience from a bad one. These distinctions can range from poor communications with individual agents to long wait times. In addition to examining existing data, you can track customer experience by asking them directly. Have an easily accessible customer portal and encourage customers to submit feedback on their experiences.
- Keep an eye on data—but focus on actionable insights. Tracking KPIs is essential to ensuring your help desks are running smoothly. But the sheer number of metrics available can be overwhelming. The volume of tickets you receive, the response rate, customer satisfaction with service—all these factors provide insight into the efficacy of your system and how well your service representatives are performing. Comparing team performances against SLAs can be difficult, but you can start by establishing a baseline and looking for fluctuations. Examine factors that may cause increased wait times or dips in customer satisfaction and take preventative measures where possible.
- Track and celebrate your progress. Set clear performance goals for what you’d like your team to achieve and share these goals with them. Make sure they know you’re monitoring their performance. When your team meets a defined target, let them celebrate this progress as a group. Keeping everyone informed will ensure service representatives are aware of their performance. Once that’s the case, they’ll likely start thinking about achieving team objectives proactively.
Running a support services desk that provides top-level service requires constant monitoring and regular adjustments. SolarWinds® MSP Manager is a superior management system that can help your organization automate the ticket management process and ensure IT service representatives have the support they need. With MSP Manager, you can generate support tickets from email details, track KPIs like time spent on individual tickets, and visualize updates and alerts with an easy-to-use dashboard. MSP Manager also provides tools for tracking customer information and designing an intuitive customer portal—empowering organizations to transform customer experience.
Interested in learning more about ticket management? Explore our product suite to see how you can cut down on resolution times.