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Help Desk and Ticketing Management System Primer

Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins

Businesses of any size can benefit from the features and functionality of a good help desk ticketing system.

If your customer service representatives, IT support team or other employees are having difficulty keeping track of issues, it may be time to consider help desk software. Companies that regularly handle internal or external support requests may find that a help desk ticketing system streamlines their workload. This guide will help you understand what a help desk ticketing system is, how it might benefit your company and what to look for when selecting a help desk ticketing system.

What is a help desk ticketing system?

A help desk ticketing system is a software-based hub for your employees to help organize problems into a more manageable workflow. As situations arise, a ticket can be assigned and cataloged in the help desk system. Each ticket can contain a range of relevant information on issues at hand, including who made the request, how they can be reached, what the request entails, what was done to address the issue and whether a follow-up is needed.

A help desk ticketing system can let your support agents assign levels of importance to each help desk request as it comes in, allowing your team to prioritize the issues. Some of the more advanced help desk ticketing systems can completely automate that process. Over time, a good help desk ticketing system will streamline the customer support process, resulting in quicker response times and a better customer experience.

How does a help desk ticketing system work?

When an issue comes in, either through a web form or a monitored email address, a support request – or ticket – is created in the system. Tickets are created as soon as a message comes in, regardless of whether it's a question, comment or complaint. Each subsequent message is also stored within that ticket to help support agents track the issue's chain of events in the future. In many instances, a help desk ticketing system provides ways to set automation rules so that tickets are immediately sorted, transferred to the right agent and prioritized.

Once that ticket is received, the system notifies a member of your company's support team, who accepts the ticket and begins interacting with the person who submitted it. Depending on how the help desk ticketing system functions, this can be done in several ways, including live chat, email or phone. Each interaction and its result are logged within the ticket, giving future support agents dealing with the same issue some important context and background.

After the ticket is resolved, the agent marks it as such, at which point they can move on to the next pressing matter. If the issue is widespread enough or keeps coming up, the ticket can be used as the basis for other customer service features, such as a knowledgebase article or a frequently asked question (FAQ) on the company's website.

What are the benefits of help desk ticketing systems?

Help desk ticketing systems can have both immediate and long-term benefits for your company and its employees. Here are some ways help desk ticketing systems can improve your business and workflow:

Streamline operations

Even if you have the best customer service and IT support people on your team, there still can be serious bottlenecks if problems come in faster than the team can resolve them. The right help desk ticketing system can automate most of the process, thus streamlining a major part of your support staff's responsibilities. With each ticket automatically sent to the best support representative for the task based on its urgency, the team can spend more time responding to tickets, thus increasing efficiency. And the more quickly you resolve issues, the sooner your employees can get back to work or your customers can continue to interact with your product or service.

Reduce resolution times and ticket backlog

Because problem resolution becomes significantly more efficient with the implementation of a help desk ticketing system, your problems are less likely to be left languishing in a queue. Each submitted ticket is automatically sent to a member of your support staff, so it immediately gets placed in front of someone who can address the issue. With all of the relevant information already included in the support ticket, that member of the team can quickly assess the situation, reach out to that individual and begin working on the task at hand.

Establish a personal connection

When someone is dealing with a problem they want to be resolved as soon as possible, they want to feel like their issue is important. By collecting that person's name, phone number, location and other personal information to be cataloged in the corresponding ticket, a help desk ticketing system lets your support team focus directly on the issue. By immediately addressing the requester by name, the help desk software allows you to instantly build a rapport with that person, creating a more personable atmosphere.

"I personally think that leaving your customers to back out at any cost because of a bad experience will destroy your brand reputation and customer loyalty," said Mark Condon, CEO of Shotkit. "Help desk ticketing systems help in providing your customers with a positive experience and even allow them to navigate through all platforms easily."

When users know that you're working to resolve their issues, they feel heard and thus are more likely to have a positive response to your customer service.

Improve ticket organization

Most businesses today get service requests from several channels – such as phone, email, live chat and various social media platforms – and good ticket-management practices can help ensure nothing gets lost. Most modern customer service and business tools have some form of ticket management built in by default. By organizing each ticket by specific criteria, your customer service team can easily locate a previous issue and find out what was done to address the problem.

Help to create other forms of customer service

As more tickets begin to come in through the help desk software, your support team will likely be able to spot common threads among the issues that crop up. Armed with that information, you can help develop other ways for people to find the answers they need, such as a knowledgebase or an FAQ.

What are the features to look for in help desk ticketing systems?

There are many help desk ticketing systems to choose from, and it's important to select one that best aligns with your needs; for example, what may work for a small contracting team may not be appropriate for an entirely online retail operation.

"It's good to have a versatile system you can customize as you need," said Rex Freiberger, CEO of Gadget Review. "It also needs to be very easy to use across different departments, since most of your workers should be accessing it."

Here are some other key features to consider when choosing a help desk ticketing system:

Intuitive interface

No matter how comprehensive a help desk ticketing system is, if employees can't follow the "paper trail" within a ticket, then it's going to gum up the process and create more possibilities for user error. A ticketing system should be immediately understandable, from the dashboard to the individual ticket item, with all major functionality just a few clicks away. Remember, the objective of help desk ticketing is to get IT or customer issues addressed as quickly and efficiently as possible, so you should try to eliminate hurdles.

Email-to-ticket conversion

Though customer service requests can come from a number of communication methods, email is still a major source. One way a help desk ticketing system can automate the ticketing process is by monitoring a specific help-related email inbox and converting messages into tickets. Once the system converts the request, it sends an email or other notification to your IT team, letting them know a new ticket was received, thus resulting in faster response times.

Automatic ticket assignment

In many instances, you can set automation rules that send certain support tickets directly to the person who's best suited to address it, such as someone who specializes in billing or a certain kind of tech support. By automatically handing the ticket to the right individual, you increase the chances that the issue will be handled quickly and accurately.

Live chat and social media integration

Sometimes, people don't want to talk over the phone or wait for an email response. If you find that your customers prefer the immediacy of live chat or the emojis and hashtags of social media, you can cater to them in your help desk ticketing system. Much like email-to-ticket conversion, some systems can monitor certain social media handles and live chat platforms to sniff out potential support tickets and convert them as such.

What are the best practices for utilizing help desk systems?

Though help desk ticketing systems have some automation built into them, that doesn't necessarily mean they are "set and forget" software. Most of the automated functionality needs to be taught, and rules have to be created to ensure the right actions are being taken without your input. To help you get the most out of your system, here are some best practices to follow:

Categorize each ticket.

While no two tickets are the same, many can fit within a certain category. If you keep getting the same types of tickets over time, your team can create categories that reflect those tickets. Once you categorize a ticket, you can locate and reference it quickly and easily.

Prioritize tickets.

Some problems are more important than others. If your company isn't going to tackle tickets in chronological order, it's essential to prioritize them based on urgency or other criteria. Prioritizing the tickets that matter most to your company's continued success will allow your team to put out the biggest fires before quelling the smaller embers.

Track your ticket status.

As a ticket moves through the system, it will likely be assigned a ticket status, like new, open, in progress or closed. When your team members can quickly see the status of a ticket, they can keep tabs on issues and make sure they don't fall by the wayside.

Automate responses.

While your team is addressing an issue, you don't want customers or internal employees to feel like the problem isn't a priority. By creating an automated first response or a message at each step of a ticket's trail through the system, you can give people updates on the status of their ticket. If it's taking a while to solve the problem, you can even set the system to send a message after a certain amount of inactivity. Communication is key.

Rely on message templates.

In theory, it would be great to respond personally to each ticket submission, but the reality is that it's an unrealistic expectation. Many help desk systems allow you to set prewritten messages that let people know you're addressing the problem. Canned responses, not unlike the ones found in live chat software, can at least let people know how long it will take to get a response from a team member or when the problem might be resolved.

There are many help desk ticketing systems available today. Here are some of the most popular solutions:

SolarWinds Service Desk

SolarWinds' IT-centric service desk offers a streamlined and easy-to-use system that can help your teams manage issues that crop up. Packed with features such as automated workflows, the ability to link tickets to known issues and an IT asset management system, SolarWinds is one of the more popular solutions.

Jira Service Desk

Created by Atlassian, Jira Service Desk helps IT support teams troubleshoot efficiently. With an intuitive system, Jira comes with automation features, access to service-level agreements and in-depth reporting.

Zendesk

Zendesk is a customizable solution that tracks interactions with your team. With support for multiple communication methods and an extensive integration list, it's easy to see why so many people rely on this system.

HappyFox

As a cloud-based help desk system, HappyFox comes with a range of built-in features, including canned responses, ticket templates and real-time data. With a slight emphasis on automation, HappyFox can help streamline the support ticketing process.

Image Credit: tommaso79 / Getty Images
Andrew Martins
Andrew Martins,
business.com Writer
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I am a former newspaper editor who has transitioned to strictly cover the business world for business.com and Business News Daily. I am a four-time New Jersey Press Award winner and prior to joining my current team, I was the editor of six weekly newspapers that covered multiple counties in the state.