It’s not a choice; the pressures inside the IT support service market mean that vendors have to undercut others on a price point, and customers themselves are becoming more demanding from their internal and outsourced IT teams.
To be able to deliver exceptional IT support services to your organization, managers need to focus heavily on reducing ticket volumes. If the Star Wars makers keep making movies like “The Last Jedi” and “The Force Awakens,” they can count on lower ticket sales but this is another topic.
Moreover, whether your desire to reduce ticket volumes is a result of current levels of stress on the IT team or out of pressure from the organization to reduce IT support costs, know that it’s doable. Remember, serpentine queues of IT support tickets will inflate resolution timelines for all tickets.
Here is all you can do to reduce IT ticket volumes.
Prioritize, prioritize, and prioritize
A known contributor to the piling up of tickets in IT support teams’ queue is the failure of the consultants to prioritize their work on tickets that demand priority action. Invariably, these kinds of issues impact hundreds (or more) users and cause them to raise more and more incidents.
Working on a first-come, first-serve basis is easy, and could even help IT support teams bolster their SLAs. However, this causes the build-up of backlogs, which keep on reemerging in the form of new tickets from different users and from different regions.
To ensure business continuity, ensure quick disaster recovery, and to make sure the tickets don’t duplicate themselves, IT support professionals need to identify priority tickets. This can be done on the basis of the following factors:
- Number of people affected by the problem.
- The processes that the underlying problem cuts across.
- The revenue impact of the problem.
- The geographical scope of the ticket.
Steadily, IT teams are able to build a reliable prioritization model, which helps them weed out this common contributor of high ticket volumes.
Root cause analysis — the most dependable preventive measure
IT professionals encounter dozens of tickets every day and are single-mindedly focused on resolving them in the least possible time. The natural outcome — they fail to scratch beyond the surface or deliberately turn a blind eye to the core problem causing the incident.
Workarounds are good. After all, they enable business users to continue working on the applications they need to perform their work. However, that would mean that similar tickets will keep on revisiting your queues.
Instead, look to identify patterns in tickets and watch out for tickets that tend to be repetitive in nature. Once you have a fair number of these types of tickets, look to perform root cause analysis (RCA) on them. Invariably, you will figure out deep-rooted problems.
By targeting these deep-rooted problems, you will eliminate the possibility of similar incidents occurring in the near future. Enterprise IT teams should maintain a sophisticated incident log with incident details, analysis details, and action points resulting from the RCA. This is probably not something you want Napoleon Dynamite or The Dude from “The Big Lebowski” to handle. That would be very unwise if you gave any such keys to them!
Wouldn’t it be amazing if end users could become a bit more tech savvy and solve basic issues on their own? Otherwise, business users fall back on IT support for too many problems that can essentially be solved without the need to raise a trackable incident.
A scalable and sustainable solution to this problem exists — it’s in the form of self-service enablement portals. This is a web-based directory of information that helps end users resolve basic problems on their own, create tickets with the right details (hence reducing ticket resolution timelines), and learn more about the best ways to use the applications they have access to.
A self-service portal could be as basic as a knowledge base directory with process document, troubleshooting guides, installation manuals, known error resolutions, and cheat sheets to help end users help themselves.
Plus, your self-service portal could include video walkthroughs and infographics to help users explore advanced software features on their own. Some companies have already started investing in chatbots or virtual assistants packed inside an instant messenger styled interface, to help end users get quick and correct answers to their tech queries.
Any kind of automation you can bring in to the IT support ticket resolution lifecycle will provide you tremendous leverage to enable quick resolution times.
Automation will help your IT team stay on top of their game, ensuring tickets are categorized correctly, notifications are sent out before a response and resolution SLAs are breached, and tickets are assigned to the people with sufficient time and skill to resolve them.
Some interesting and value-adding automation opportunities are:
- Alerts raised when tickets are about to become overdue, and when they do become overdue.
- When an email subject line has a ticket number, the information gets added automatically to the ticketing tool’s work log.
- When a ticket working isn’t updated for X number of hours/days, alerts sent to admins.
- Tickets coming from XYZ users should be categorized as very important.
Spreading support across time zones
When your IT support personnel have too many tickets lined up in their queues, they are highly likely to be inclined to touch through a maximum number every day, without necessarily digging deep and actually closing them (Simon accused Negan of this in season 8 of “The Walking Dead”; they both were wrong!). The problem worsens when the number gets too much to handle.
Ask a consultant — the longer they leave a problem untouched the harder it becomes to solve it and the worse the situation becomes.
An innovative approach to managing such a problem, particularly when your centralized team is supporting IT and business applications across geographies, is to distribute the support team’s availability across different time zones.
This expands coverage, helps with quicker ticket allocation, builds geography specific technical expertise, and in general, makes the IT support function globally recognizable.
Reducing IT support problems
Segmentation, prioritization, decentralization, automation — all these core approaches toward IT support ticket management go a long way in eliminating current operational problems, reducing ticket build up, and eliminating core problems that would otherwise contribute to recurring tickets. Start with one of these approaches and then keep on building up to gradually reduce your ticket volumes.
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