How to prioritise 1st line support tickets like a pro!

All 1st line support tickets are a priority! At least to the user who’s generated the ticket. Whether it’s a minor technical hitch, a request for a password reset or a more major IT incident, every ticket is a top priority for the user.

Of course, your IT team is going to have a different opinion on what’s a priority and what’s not. Naturally a major incident that’s threatening the organisation’s bottom line is going to be top of the list. But thankfully these kinds of incidents are not everyday occurrences and most 1st line support tickets are much less serious.

However, they still have an impact on business and on the individuals effected. Collectively they have a greater effect, which is why if your IT team regularly has a backlog of unresolved tickets it may be time to outsource 1st line IT support to a service desk provider.

Learn more about driving IT service desk efficiencies and improving service levels here >

How do you prioritise 1st line support tickets when everything is a priority?

Even when you outsource your IT service desk, you still need to prioritise support tickets to meet the needs of your users and business. If you feel that you’re getting a poor service from your IT support it could be because tickets are not being prioritised effectively, or aligned with your business needs.

Most organisations will prioritise tickets in a similar way, for example an issue effecting the sales team that has a direct impact on the bottom line will be given a higher priority than a comparable issue effecting an HR department.

However, there may be factors that are unique to your business that mean your tickets will need to be prioritised in a different way to other organisations. There can also be some tricky decisions to make about how users are prioritised: are issues effecting production more important than those effecting distribution or sales? Should a ticket raised by the MD be prioritised over other senior managers?

Obviously, different issues or incidents need to be prioritised too, and the nature of the problem might override a ticket from a high priority department or user. For example, if the email server is down across the whole organisation that’s going to be a higher priority than the CFO getting locked out of the finance system.

To develop an effective process for prioritising support tickets, we recommend the following:

  1. Establish priority levels for different IT problems by users, departments or groups
  2. Introduce Service Level Agreements with rules for closing tickets

The first step is to consider all commonly occurring IT issues and occasional technical glitches, as well as more infrequent major incidents, and their impact on different user groups. IT teams or service desk analysts use this as the basis for prioritising tickets.

If you have very low volumes of IT support tickets this can be enough to ensure that the business is not adversely effected by any IT issues. However, a common scenario for many businesses is that as high priority tickets come in, lower priority tickets start to stack up and don’t get resolved. It becomes more and more difficult to clear the back log and user satisfaction levels plummet.

By introducing Service Level Agreements (SLA) that define rules for closing tickets this problem can be resolved. Different types of tickets are assigned a resolution time that might vary from 30 minutes for a critical issue to 1 day for a low priority ticket, helping the IT support team manage their time and tickets more effectively. Low priority tickets are escalated as the SLA targets become more pressing. This can also improve user satisfaction levels as it helps to manage expectations.

Finally, one important step to ensure that tickets are prioritised effectively is training.  While your IT team may have priority level guidelines to help them and SLA targets to meet, training will help them make better judgements on the priority of different support tickets and improve the experience for users.

Asking the right questions is fundamental to this. With the right information service desk teams are in the best position to understand the urgency of a problem and the impact on the business. It’s not rocket science! Basic questions such as ‘how many users are affected?’ and ‘what services are affected?’ provide a clearer picture of the impact of an issue, but are often not asked.

1st line support key takeaway

If your IT support team or service desk is not delivering the service you expect, review the way tickets are prioritised to identify any issues that can be easily rectified.

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