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Tickets! Get Your Tickets!

SO, we're officially rolling out the ticketing system at work. We've been using it for a little while now. It's great.

Why is it so great? Because if you don't measure something, you can't manage it.

Up until now the phrase people always used was "Emailing Helpdesk is a bit like a blackhole..."

It's terribly true.

Without any kind of tracking system, for example for packages... How would you know where your order is?  You placed the order... But where is it?  When is it being delivered?

I mean, that's just the start, there's so much more.

Some things that can be done when you start tracking things is... You can now tell how much resources you really need.

Here's an example... Before this ticketing system, I tracked everything in my Outlook tasks.  What was happening?  The number of open tasks just kept going up.

At the beginning of each month, I'd take a tally, and it would keep going up...

Now, those tasks are all going into the helpdesk software... Guess what's happening to the number of open tasks week by week?

That's right.  It's been steadily going up...

It's simple mathematics... The number of new requests, minus the number of requests closed.

In and out.

It's the same with money.  If you make more money than you spend, your savings goes up.  If you make less money than you spend... Your savings goes down.

I've been trying to get everyone to understand that the reason why our task number seems to be level is because we just have people who stop asking for help and find a workaround to their problem.  The problem was never solved... The ticket just kind of... Went into limbo, AKA the blackhole.

I've never liked it.

I feel as though we need another person on our team... It's similar to lines at a grocery store... When there are lots of people waiting in line, you gotta open another check out.

Right now, tickets come in faster than we can resolve them, it's been like that for years.

But we basically just try to prioritize and fix the immediate needs, and then let the others simmer.

One thing that people see now is there ticket number.  So, just by counting numbers up, or asking among coworkers... What ticket number are you?  You can get a general sense of volume.  If the last time you put in a ticket a month ago you were ticket number 100 and today you put in a ticket and you are number 200... That's 100 tickets in a month.

What I did though yesterday is, I put the number of open tickets at end of day on the dry erase board.  So that we can see our real number of open requests.

Why?  Well, because the dry erase board is directly located in front of the door at the back of our office.  SO when people come to our door, they see the board and see the number of requests.

Again why?

Because now, when someone comes to the door and they are super angry and want help immediately, they will see that number directly behind us in a big outlined box...

Hey, don't get me wrong, every request is important... But the reason you might not have been helped isn't because we don't like you or your request was purposely passed over...

It's because, just like you, there are so many other people who also need help, and the wording every person uses is... ASAP.

If you only have a handful of people and you have thousands of people who could possibly ask for help, it's mathematics... You can only help so many people so quickly.... Beyond that, you have to prioritize who gets help faster and who gets help slower.

If you have 100 patients coming into a hospital and only 2 or 3 doctors...

You take the worst cases first.

We'll still do that.  But instead of people waiting and wondering why we haven't gotten to them yet, they can now log in and check the status, and they can look at notes we've made...

In addition, knowing the open request number will hopefully help us to be motivated too... Although we're already pretty motivated, so perhaps, as the number climbs, it will help us to prove that we need to hire another person for the team.

There is an alternative to hiring another person though...

So, another use for the ticketing system is to be able to generate reports that can be analyzed.  Then, we can see on a more macro level what kind of requests happen over and over again.

If there's a way to minimize or reduce the repetitive requests, that can reduce the number of tickets coming in... and then we wouldn't need another hand on deck.

The phrase here is to work smarter, not harder.

For example, let's say people come to us a lot to get their gaming devices on our network... Which people do.  Right now, if you want to connect an Xbox you have to submit a MAC address to us, and we manually put it into a MAC filtered list for the wireless network.

So, one thing we could see from the tickets is the number of monthly or per semester requests that people are submitting the same request over and over again... I want my gaming console on the gaming network.

Instead... We can purchase some kind of software that lets the students self manage that.  They can log in, use their email address, type in the MAC address and add it to their list of devices.  They can add and delete devices as they please, without needing to contact helpdesk to do this.

This is a much better way to manage this, and it reduces the ticket load coming in.

Hire another person?  Or buy a small piece of software that reduces the manual labor.

I've mentioned this many times before and it's been nodded at, but nothing came of it.

But, as the months go by, we can spin out reports and see what tickets and questions are asked most often, and is there a way to reduce those questions.  That's what I'm really interested in, efficiency gains.  Making the day to day operations smoother.

It will be interesting to see that.

It will also be interesting to see what exactly happens as the requests coming in and now being officially tracked as every request has a specific ticket number and can no longer fall through the cracks.

With my previous system, I would follow up with people sometimes more than a year later, and they would still say the issue was unresolved.  I would then mention this to people, and they would respond "If it were really still a problem, that person would have emailed helpdesk again".

That's one way of doing it, the squeaky wheel gets the grease type of method... Personally, I think every request should be tagged and numbered and followed up with until there is confirmation that the issue is resolved.

Relying on the person to email multiple times if a request does fall through the "blackhole"... Is not a good way to manage things in my own personal opinion.

For example, we had students who had reported suboptimal wireless coverage in their residence halls.

They would report it, and for a good amount we could fix it by maybe adding additional access points, or changing the operating channels to account for interference...

But for a few students, they would report it... It wouldn't be addressed, and they would seek out alternative solutions...

One solution is to bring in their own router from home.  This now adds to the interference, and while it fixes the issue for the student, it adds channel noise and makes conditions worse for other students in nearby rooms.

Another solution?  They transfer.

So, a student who had asked to have the wireless signal in their room fixed... Didn't receive assistance from our department... And because the ticket was never tracked and followed up with, and was assume, "If they still had a problem, they would contact us..."

Well, they never contacted us... But it wasn't because the problem was resolved... It's because they transferred to another school.

I'm hoping that we can be more hardline on addressing these types of things instead of just saying "Hey, there's only so much we can do".

I don't like excuses in the workplace.  I like solutions.  If things aren't working the way they currently are, get smart and figure out better solutions to solve the problems...

But always... ALWAYS... Solve the problem.  Don't just assume it was solved because the person stopped responding.

After all you know what happens when you assume?

As my first boss at my first job said to me on the first day... "When you assume, you make an ass out of U and ME."

Track it, make reports, show the data... Discuss the data, analyze the data, interpret the data, come up with better solutions, then implement the new solutions, then take in new data... and analyses that new data, and then implement further changes based on that... And repeat.

The keyword there is data... So you need ticketing software to collect the data in order to review and make good data driven decisions based on that data that you've analyzed.

Otherwise?  You assume the problem is no longer an issue, think everything is great wonderful and grand, when the reality is the person just decided to leave your organization and go to another one where they will get the service they request instead of just having their request end up in a blackhole.


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