Support

How to prevent “Single Ticket Blindness”

I have a tremendous amount of respect for IT support teams. A good IT support team has a rhythm, a heartbeat lub-dubbing to the sound of ringing telephone’s, clicking keyboards, whirring CPU fans and user’s issues. A good IT support team focuses on the user above all things, and recognizes that technology is there to serve the customer, not the other way around. A good IT support team has a mantra: IS THE SYSTEM WORKING TO THE SATISFACTION OF THE CLIENT?

In the context of IT, a ticket is almost always the representation of an issue as it moves through the workflow of an organization. The issue tracking system is a minimal requirement for any support team – without it things get lost. Those lost things can run the gamut of topics; whether it’s the return phone call the customer never receives, or the fact that Jeremy claims he’s working 15 hours a day, but you’re pretty sure he’s just playing Minecraft, to items not so important to the customer, but vitally interesting to you, like it takes an average of 200 days to resolve issues that involve your wombat detector code version 1, but only 2 days with version 2. Tickets track issues, and help make sure those issues aren’t lost via the normal organizational entropy or because everything has lost its mind, and it’s an all-hands bail-out party.

Bad technical support is so prevalent that it’s become almost a cliché.

It is completely reasonable for a business to have other priorities. A business MUST have other priorities, like building good product, staying profitable, avoiding liability – all those things that allow a business to stay afloat. There are plenty of examples in the history of IT where those priorities had nothing to do with the satisfaction of the client. In fact, it is part of the common gestalt mythology of IT that rebooting your computer will solve most problems. There may be a kernel of truth in that tradition, but most IT professionals will tell you that this frequently cited solution is no solution at all – in fact, when pressed, they would likely agree that it was poor technical support that promulgated this myth. Having you reboot your computer is the quickest way to get you off the phone and has a pretty good chance of resetting your environment to a point where you aren’t having a problem, RIGHT NOW. It’s very likely you will have the problem again – but now you’ve been trained to “fix it” by rebooting.

What is “Single Ticket Blindness?” Single ticket blindness is when support policy prevents support personnel from operating on more than one ticket at a time for a customer. Single ticket blindness is a myopic focus on detail to the exclusion of the holistic experience of the customer. Single ticket blindness is usually caused by focusing too heavily on “the stats.” Single ticket blindness is the result of the best of intentions, and a pathological belief that closing tickets means solving problems. It does not. Solving the problem solves the problem, and then you get to close the ticket. The ticket is not the problem, and closing the ticket is not solving the problem. There is a simple, but often overlooked, method for clarifying the difference.

That method is NOT after-the-fact customer satisfaction surveys. These are often perceived as a burden, and have no immediate impact on whether or not the customer gets their problem solved. They reinforce the focus on stats, and are really a tool for management, not for providing solutions. The solution is: ASK THE CUSTOMER, right then, while they’re on the phone or via email or chat or whatever. Keep it simple, and make sure everyone on the support team understands that the person on-point and interfacing with the customer is mandated to ask this question, and will be expected to act accordingly. The action to be taken if the customer isn’t satisfied with the solution is to FIND ANOTHER SOLUTION. In the world of tickets, this means you must allow your support staff to work on more than one ticket per support call.

Every support experience should be informed by the “ASK IF THE THE CUSTOMER IS SATISFIED” mantra. Support personnel should be asking the client if the system is working to their satisfaction… and if the answer is NO, then the support personnel should make it their mission to find out what isn’t working to satisfaction, and run that issue down and pummel it into submission so that the client is satisfied. This means that sometimes the support person will have to address more than one issue during the course of an engagement.

Simply put, if you have a business, you have customers, and if you have customers, you generally want them to be satisfied. Customer perception is more important than a technically good product. This has been argued over and over in the hallowed halls of geekdom, and regardless of the brilliance of the rhetoric, if a business has lots of happy customers, that business is going to do well. If the business has lots of unhappy customers, then it’s either a hated monopoly and the customers have no choice, or it’s going out of business because someone else is going to come along take those unhappy customers and make them happy somewhere else.

2 thoughts on “How to prevent “Single Ticket Blindness”

  1. Having opened my 4th ticket to get all of my passwords synchronized…
    While this is admittedly not a difficult problem to solve – it was impossible for our outsourced help desk. Solving difficult problems, if not impossible, needs to be dealt with in this blog too.
    Password sync – the exact procedure was “lost” if ever communicated precisely to the help desk people. The missing step requires a particular user action for two key reasons – 1) the new local password had not been routed for sync with the intranet login (this is the root cause) and 2) changing the intranet password to a second new password still does not sync with the first new password at the local PC. With this clear insight into the problem, the sync task amounts to simply having the user change the intranet password to the local password *** NOT changing *** the local password.
    So it seems that cheaper outsourced help people may not grasp solutions offered by the real IT people. This does not even get into the topic of whether the IT people understand why the band-aide, I mean, “solution” works.
    My fifth and sixth tickets will be on fixing the 5 crashed TSR program pop-ups on power down and, having to renter a great deal of authentication detail on every login (this could be simply auto-history erase in explorer). These problems were caused by the help desk people stomping through my PC setup in an effort to “make” something happen with password resync. So for a third topic suggestion, we can get into handling and generating clues, conducting controlled experiments and reaching proper cause and effect conclusions. It is not out on a limb to suggest that the outsourced help desks might be far under qualified or too far out of the loop to engage with customers on root cause adventures.

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    • A fundamental skill that all technicians need is troubleshooting. This is the foundation of all other efforts, and without it more problems are created than are solved. And it IS a skill – it can be taught, and requires practice.

      So, as a list of possible topics, how does this look?

      1. Dealing with difficult problems.
      2. Band-aide vs “Solution” – or how to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
      3. The Scientific method in troubleshooting problems.

      Like

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