I actually work on a Helpdesk, and have been in the process of implementing a new software system to manage our support calls (we're using a hosted SAAS service of which there are plenty out there- including some great free/open source ones) so hopefully my experiences might be of use! (plus it's my first post
A ticketing system is really useful for tracking issues and making sure they don't disappear off of someone's radar- plus you can spot patterns as they occur, so you know when there's something "bigger going on" and responsibility can be shared easier (rather than everyone just forwarding emails around).
In terms of information capture- Email "scraping" is great for saving time- but it's actually a lot of hard work to process emails to create tickets and prevent duplication- nothing's worse than creating a new ticket when it's actually a follow up. The solution we use for our Helpdesk actually uses a third-party piece of software called Email2Db (www.email2db.com
) which adds a bit of intelligence to the puzzle, but it's still not perfect (largely because email and it's users aren't perfect either!).
I think forms are the BEST way as it gives you a chance, without too much effort, to ask important questions - I can't begin to count the number of times where if one extra bit of information was added to an email it would save hours- but because the person calling or emailing isn't asked that *particular* question, they never think about it. That said, I find people are unkeen to fill in forms (based on my experience at least) - and you either end up compromising on required bits of information to make sure that people use it. What we tend to say is that if you fill your form in better, we respond quicker (and it's true- as we know who best to give the call to).
Finally, there's no reason not to do a bit of everything- that way people who work mostly with email and are comfortable with email can log calls that, people who prefer a bit of hand holding and the personal touch can call in, and the technical guys who understand the benefits of providing information will use a web form!
Hope that helps!