First-in, first-out rules don’t apply to helpdesk tickets. When your company is small and everyone knows each other, you can usually work out a first come first served system that seems fair to everyone but bends when it needs to.
But once your company is bigger, you need a system. Simple in and out rules won’t work. A flexible system of one person asking to get bumped up or fuzzy rules will just make everyone frustrated. Instead, create clear rules of prioritization and even clearer rules about when tickets can bump ahead.
Here are five types of tickets that should always be prioritized:
1. Helpdesk service SLA alerts
“Service Level Agreements” means different things depending on who you ask. In general tech terms, SLAs might be the rules governing the automated helpdesk ticket system. For example, if you have a website design company and one of your customers is struggling with one of the widgets, that might have a two- or three-day deadline, whereas a download that told the customer it was from your site but announces itself as ransomware needs to be looked at ASAP. These are pretty simple rules, but the whole organizational structure of timelines and what happens when deadlines are meant is a sort of an “SLA.”
If tickets don’t get resolved in time, they automatically need to bump on in importance. Widget malfunctions are just widget malfunctions, but if it’s been sitting for a couple of weeks, that’s bad customer service.
So set a clear schedule. Make sure every manager or department head is aware of the varying deadlines for different types of tickets, even if they don’t necessarily agree with them, and then post them on your website. If you set the expectations with your customers upfront, everyone has a better time of things.
2. Hierarchical escalations
It’s unfair, but it happens. Sometimes things get bumped out of order based on personal politics and who can throw around words like “enterprise customer,” “in the red,” and the CEO’s first name the most. When these escalations happen and are pushed your way, you have to get them done. If someone wants their ticket handled ASAP, sometimes all you can do is make it clear that you aren’t cherry-picking and have documentation of the problem.
Don’t let the ticket lag unsolved in order to push back against the system. Instead, build a system that doesn’t let manual emails and phone calls rule the day. Enable your helpdesk ticketing tool to let users edit their tickets (but maintain a history of the previous versions). Include an escalation feature that requires manager confirmation or attachments for authorization emails.
Any element of control lets the person at the helm of the helpdesk prioritize the escalations. It also minimizes the potential abuse of the system because a procedure that requires at least minimal departmental oversight is in place.
3. Communication systems that are down
Even when everything is a top priority, some problems are more of a top priority than others. System-wide issues or issues that impact company responsiveness are at the top of the list.
Build your company’s internal mechanisms to automatically pull out communications-based tickets and put them at the top of the queue. Train your system to look for words like “system,” “email server,” and “phones.” Plurals are a good indication that the problem is bigger. But you also need a ticket template that has categories so employees can quantitatively describe the issue and let the helpdesk ticket manager sort them automatically.
These tickets need to be prioritized because of the magnitude of their effect. Communication outages are bad for business, regardless of whether a long-term customer is getting frustrated or a potential customer gets a negative first impression from a 404 error.
4. The other type of SLA
In legal terms, Service Level Agreements are addendums to business contracts that your B2B company might sign with high-level clients. By default, your general terms of service will probably include a minimum level of service or set a maximum allowable downtime for the length of the contract. But individual corporate clients with a lot of weight and lots of business will demand something more strict. They’ll negotiate for service level agreements with even smaller allowable downtimes and penalties for your company’s failure to keep up.
In these circumstances, you need a helpdesk management tool that lets you build in SLA terms to the prioritization process. It also needs to be more nuanced than “Customer X always moves to the top of the list.” You need to be able to assign and automate importance based on factors like the degree of penalty, the total value of the contract, and the type of issue.
Even more importantly, find a tool that can autogenerate tickets. If your services are down and they’re reaching the maximum allowable failure in the terms of the SLA, you can’t wait for the customer to issue a ticket. Your own system needs to let you know when something is wrong.
4. Data or privacy violations
Just like with contractually binding SLAs, data and privacy violations are big deals. Some contracts will have specific provisions under which you need to warn customers about potential breaches within 72 hours. If your company does anything related to medical information or the health industry, the data you’re responsible for might be subject to HIPAA regulations.
No matter what data you have and what sort of problems are happening, you need to have your responses templatized and your response time shaved down to a minimum. Most laws start the clock on your responsiveness from when you were first made aware of the issue, but sometimes the clock starts ticking down based on when the potential issue happened. Either way, don’t let a manual prioritization system get your company into hot water.
5. Exceptions to the rules
Every company has different circumstances under which they need to break the prioritization rules. If your company promises responses to X type of issue in thirty hours (or thirty minutes!) or less in order to stand out from your competitors, you need to meet that SLA. If you have a customer that’s on the thin edge of cancelling, make sure you management tool lets you work in a custom exception to always bump that customer’s tickets up until the crisis has passed.
A smoothly running helpdesk system needs hard and soft rules. So look for management tools that can automate the process with clear hierarchies but can also be adjusted for rare circumstances. Browse our selection of tools here at Vision Helpdesk.