In IT environments, incidents happen all the time and it’s impossible to prevent all of them. Regardless of the available software solutions or the level of technical training of both users and developers, no organization is immune to incidents.
The increased dependence on IT infrastructure to provide core services means that any disruption in IT services can cause any organization significant financial and reputational harm. For example, IT service providers need to resolve customer support tickets following the service-level agreements (SLAs), and failing to do so makes them liable for breaching such agreements.
As digital transformation accelerates, it’s crucial to use automation to manage the growing number of incidents as manual solutions are unable to handle them adequately. Slow response times and insufficient resolutions leave customers in limbo and allow problems to intensify. This is where the incident ticketing system comes in.
An incident ticketing system is a software solution used to monitor, notify, track, and resolve all types of IT incidents. Ticketing systems enable parties like external vendors, organization employees, third-party contractors, and customers to initiate incident tickets. These solutions give you complete visibility over your reported incidents across your entire development lifecycle. Additionally, they can help you track the resolution process to avoid having a minor incident turn into a major one.
Despite the benefits of an incident ticketing system, it still has limitations. If there are too many simultaneous support tickets, you’ll overwhelm the system, causing it to lose its edge in resolving incidents quickly. The only way to prevent this is to reduce the number of tickets your system needs to process. This article discusses some best practices you can implement to provide a smoother customer experience by reducing the number of incident support tickets.
Best Practices to Reduce Incident Tickets
Avoid Creating Unnecessary Tickets
There’s no need to create a new ticket every time a known issue reoccurs, or when a previously raised issue has already been resolved. Creating these kinds of redundant tickets will bombard your system and your support team with unresolved tickets, shifting focus away from solving critical issues. Instead, you need a strategy that ensures that support tickets are only created when truly necessary.
For example, before a user creates a new ticket, the ticketing system should ask them about their problem and present different approved solutions to help them resolve the issue without raising a ticket. The system should then advise the user to open a ticket if the listed solutions don’t offer a sufficient resolution.
There are different ways to reduce the number of support tickets. As you’ll see later, developing an FAQ page and a knowledge base are effective strategies.
Improve Your Development Lifecycle
When your development team can build software projects efficiently and with adequate testing throughout the development lifecycle, there will be fewer incident support tickets. For instance, a robust software release management process can help ensure that future projects will finish on time and with a minimal number of defects.
You can enhance your software development lifecycle in several ways:
- Thoroughly understanding the requirements of your software projects
- Following the continuous integration (CI) philosophy, which requires daily integration and testing of each iteration until the software project is finished
- Using automated testing tools
- Using continuous deployment (CD) tools
Proactively Identify Trends
The best way to proactively prevent incidents is to pay attention to trends in incident ticketing.
Imagine that your organization receives 5,000 tickets each month, many of which are of identical or similar nature. To reduce the number of similar tickets, you can group all tickets related to a specific event and suggest a unified resolution. For instance, if a particular service goes offline after updating a specific server, the same solution could be applied to similar tickets.
Additionally, grouping similar tickets can help identify areas of your application or service that need refinement or repair.
Improve Self-Help Options
Some may think the best customer service approach means having a constantly available support staff to answer all incoming questions. However, this isn’t always true. Empowering customers to resolve issues is critical to lowering the number of support tickets and increasing customer satisfaction over time. You can do so through the following steps.
Encourage Customers to Use Online Reporting
Encourage your customers to raise their concerns using online portals rather than by phone or email. With all reports in a unified location, IT support staff can better understand issues before creating a new support ticket.
For example, if your organization is experiencing server downtime, hundreds—or even thousands—of customers may raise a ticket at nearly the same time. By encouraging customers to send their initial requests to an online portal, you can quickly identify the cause of these issues without overwhelming your incident support team with repetitive incident tickets.
Provide an FAQ Page
Providing an FAQ page empowers your customers to serve themselves and reduces the number of help tickets filed. You can create an extremely helpful FAQ page by following these tips:
- Organize your questions and answers into categories and ensure they are clear and easy to search. List the most frequently asked questions at the top of the page.
- Use visual explanations to describe how to resolve specific technical issues.
- Give clear, to-the-point answers. Be thorough without overwhelming readers with information.
- If customers fail to find the correct answer, make it easy for them to contact you through a Contact Us form, via email, or by phone.
Use Knowledge Base Articles
Knowledge base articles (KBAs) are curated by employees at the Service Desk. They’re a useful way of providing customers—and even staff—with a solid foundational understanding of your product or service.
Create KBAs and include screen captures that show how a particular service or system functionality works.
Implement ITIL Best Practices
The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) has published many best practice guides for improving IT service management, enabling organizations to deliver high-quality IT services. Some of these best practices include prioritizing risk management, continual improvement, and incident management. Following the xMatters guide to ITIL best practices will enhance your support service while minimizing the number of incoming tickets.
Improve Your Incident Response System
If a first-level IT support staff fails to resolve a ticket, they’ll escalate it to the next support tier, expending further resources to solve the issue. The first-level support staff should refrain from escalating tickets until they’re certain the ticket is beyond the scope of the resources or expertise they can provide.
For example, essential tickets can be recognized and redirected (or escalated) using two criteria:
- Incidents that affect the Service Level Agreement (SLA)
- Incidents that result in major disruption to an organization’s critical IT services
It’s worth noting that not all escalation should be directed to senior IT staff. For instance, major incidents may require hierarchical escalation, which means informing top-level management about the issue.
The following steps can reduce instances of unnecessarily escalating incidents to top levels.
Develop an Escalation Process
Develop an escalation policy to keep customers informed of every step in the resolution process. For instance, a customer may send an email and wait one day to receive a confirmation about the status of their request. It’s beneficial to stay in touch with the customer during the resolution process to ensure the same customer won’t make additional phone calls or raise new tickets to resolve the same incident.
Divide Your Incident Support Team
Divide your incident support team into specialized teams with dedicated members to handle customer tickets. For example, most organizations have dedicated groups to serve high-profile customers, prioritizing their incident responses over individual customers.
Review and Revise
Frequently assess your incident response system and strategy to better respond to future incidents. For instance, a root cause analysis or incident postmortem should be conducted after every major incident to understand why this incident occurred and avoid future recurrences.
Use Proper Tools
Using automated tools to monitor network performance and all aspects of the IT environment is critical to lowering the number of incidents and avoiding service downtime. For instance, using a network monitoring tool will help IT staff detect upcoming problems—such as performance issues—and solve them before they cause a service disruption.
Security information and event management (SIEM) tools can be used to collect log data and security events from various security solutions and networking appliances, such as routers, switches, firewalls, IDS or IPS, and anti-virus software. SIEM collects log files from all these solutions and devices and displays them on a unified dashboard, providing complete visibility over an organization’s IT environment and helping it respond to various events before they impact normal service flow.
xMatters for Incident Management
The incident ticketing system has become a critical component in handling the growing number of IT support tickets in modern organizations. However, misusing this system will create several support tickets, which may harm the business and create dissatisfied customers.
The xMatters solution to automating the incident management process can ensure faster incident resolution and enhance customer satisfaction, and consequently, retention. Learn more about incident response with xMatters to enhance your incident response approach and ease the burdens on your support team.