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What's your approach to this help desk procedure issue?

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I built our help desk system from scratch based on know what we as a company wanted. I've worked there for almost 10 years so I have a fair idea. A user can phone our help desk or they can send an email. We usually find that they email if it is not urgent and phone when it is. From the phone calls most of them are classed as "completed on first contact" in other words the techie solved the problem on the phone.

Creating calls from emails works well and we us it extensively from our automated overnight processes. When they go wrong they send a coded email to the help desk to the email and that gets turned into an assignment that is automatically assigned to the right person. We have done this by implementing a system of "filters" that recognises pre-determined phrases in the emails. It works incredibly well and saves us hours of techie time by sparing them from trying to find out who to assign it to. By the way we are geographically dispersed.

As for access, only IT staff can create the calls but anyone can see them, the system is entirely open and we have nothing to hide. We want visibility about how long things take to fix and what are the things that consume the most time. For example we changed our email anti-spam system just on the basis of how many calls we had about blocked emails.

We did consider a web portal so users can click on options to either arrive at a solution themselves or at least create a meaningful call on the first go. In the end we found that that wasn't a problem that needed solving.

We use this system for everything that is IT related even assigning calls to external companies that we contract various services from.

If I was doing this exercise again I'd do it the same way as we get no complaints about the system itself. By allowing users to see their own calls they can see the progress themselves. My advice to anyone else would be to make it as open as possible and to not miss out on what you can achieve by automating the email process to create calls automatically.

Good Luck

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 ( 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!

I can tell you what we do at our (large) company if that helps.  The user has a toll-free number to call in to the help desk, a web form, or an email box.  All 3 go to the first level help desk.  Assuming the help desk can't fix the issue outright (they have some rights to fix certain regularly occurring simple fix items); they then generate a ticket based on the information.  If that isn't enough information, they call the user back to get the additional information needed.  Once that occurs, the desk-side support group (or networking or whatever other group is appropriate) takes the ticket and works on it from there.  It isn't a perfect system, but it works pretty good and meets the balance of user convenience, IT support convenience, issue tracking, and information gathering that the company expects out of the system.

Thanks for all the continued input. From what I can see, in general auto-generation is quite reasonable and commonly used, which was the main point of contention I had with some of the people I originally discussed the issue with. For them, there seemed to be an almost religious (or dogmatic, at least) belief that auto-generating tickets was always a bad thing and that a "real live person" should always be the first line of contact. While I'm not seriously invested in any particular approach, I am glad at least to see that my perspective is not particularly unusual or "non-standard". In the end what works for a given department may not work for others, every company has somewhat unique needs. Being open to all options and using a clear evaluation of needs and potential solutions is the obvious way to arrive at the best solution; I just find often people get blinded by what they've been taught or told is the "standard" or "best practice" without looking at alternatives or how technology and methodology evolves over time.

Thanks again everyone!

- Oshyan

For them, there seemed to be an almost religious (or dogmatic, at least) belief that auto-generating tickets was always a bad thing and that a "real live person" should always be the first line of contact.
-JavaJones (May 10, 2011, 02:32 PM)
--- End quote ---

That mindset is usually the result of them experiencing a help desk that didn't stay on top of user-generated requests. So for them the only reliable way of having someone respond in a timely manner was by getting a "body" on the phone.

If a user generated ticket system is handled properly, people soon learn to trust it. Once that happens, the support tech will sometimes have to play phone tag with a client rather than the other way around. Also don't be surprised if you start seeing requests that say: "No need to call. Just e-mail me and tell me what I need to do." Having a library of pre-written 'solutions' is worth it's weight in gold once that starts happening. Mouser's form letter gizmo could also work quite nicely for that.

One good thing a user initiated ticket system gives you is a bulletproof timestamp of when the request came in. That's good to have when some executive's administrative assistant dropped the ball on something and is looking for someone to put part of the blame on. Automatically having a system do some CYA is a wonderful thing.

Of course, it cuts both ways. If your helpdesk is in the habit of making people wait or losing requests it will all come out on the weekly management reports.


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