There’s a new term that’s popped up and worth investigation: going ticketless. It begs for some investigation, as it sounds like the days before help desks, when customer calls were jotted down on yellow pads or stickie notes, with no accountability. In reality, it’s almost the exact opposite of these archaic practices and is an innovative concept of support.
Going ticketless is the ability to fully support users without them having to call a service desk or log a ticket. This means all service interruptions are fixed without any customer interruption and that customers can get answers and how-to instructions from a knowledge base, all eliminating the need to call a service desk. If an organization could achieve this, it would be considered quite an achievement. But is it possible?
Today’s Typical Support Environment
Looking at changes in support over the years, internal IT organizations could learn a lot from service providers, who have a much higher bar when it comes to delivering support and for whom the ticketless concept pays off in increased customer satisfaction and retention. Even in internal IT however, increased satisfaction is tied to fewer service interruptions and less loss of productivity.
There are several new capabilities that best-of-breed service providers are starting to leverage:
Knowledge and Virtual Agents: Service providers often have extensive knowledge online; many now enable consumers to interface with this knowledge via chat bots and even live-chat to scale the ability to serve more people with fewer agents.
Communication: Many utility-style providers display known outages on their website, so if you want to know if a problem you’re experiencing is worth calling about, you can check the website to see if there are any known issues.
Monitoring: They know more about the consumer issues, often monitoring service down to the consumer device level (this is true of the cable-TV industry, for example).
When contrasted with many internal IT organizations, service providers are more mature in almost all of these areas and often offer one or two additional services that make it even easier for customers to avoid logging tickets:
- Genius bars/storefront repair: the ability to bring a device in for service while you wait, often with monitors to display wait times
- The ability to call in about an issue and follow menu options to execute a self-repair, based on what monitoring shows about the device (this is primarily a cable TV function)
All of these solutions demonstrate an innovative approach that virtually eliminates the need for a customer to log a ticket and wait for service, while most internally provided support is still centered around logging service desk tickets and waiting for service. Often it appears to be a result of resources—the funding for tools to perform these tasks and the time/commitment to implement the solutions. The traditional approach is not scalable, however, and with more and more technology at the center of business, a new approach is needed.
The Ticketless Approach
True ticketless support may never be possible for internal support as consumers will always seek some form of personalized support. (Software and app companies, on the other hand, have achieved 100% ticketless support, mainly by not offering telephone support at all. They monitor their SaaS environment heavily and offer only knowledge and chat bot support via websites. This is especially true of services offered for free or very low cost.) However, with a goal of going ticketless, an organization can shift from providing a majority of support via a service desk to delivering a high percentage of support through a service portal, having people use the service desk as a channel of last resort.
The initiative to go ticketless will drive development of support resources in several areas:
Service Portal: if it doesn’t already provide the features below, the portal will need a re-design to be more like external provider web sites:
Communication concerning known issues and outages in the operational environment, along with timeframes to restore service should be prominently displayed, driving consumers to look there first when encountering issues.
Knowledge and self-help are critical; every known issue should have a knowledge article providing a workaround.
Automated self-help capabilities should be added, supported with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities to enable an end-user to enter a serial number and issue for a networked device, then have logs analyzed and a fix offered on-line.
Chat bots make it easier for many people to make the transition to portal use, so including them is a great way to offer a more personal experience.
Monitoring: the organization needs to get serious about monitoring and CMDB development, to the degree that 100% of system issues are detected and displayed on the portal automatically, continuing to drive eyes to the portal to check for an issue before calling the service desk.
Application Development: Error-free code or a commitment to be aware of and communicate all known errors in an application release (via knowledge articles) needs to become part of the culture. Like system issues, consumers should not have to inform developers of application defects.
It should be noted that many of the options listed above do not mean no tickets. Monitoring systems will generate tickets to service management platforms to have services restored, and self-help tools should still log incidents for the issues people get fixed. Both of these support incident and problem management activities. The distinction is that even when a ticket is logged through automation, it’s not a consumer calling the service desk or logging a ticket through the portal.
What Can “Going Ticketless Achieve for You?
The work being done to go ticketless improves support in organizations even if the service desk is still receiving calls. It’s actually an outcome of a shift-left initiative when achieved. Conceptually, both ticketless and shift-left seek to put the end-user first and deliver support in the least expensive manner, through early detection and self-service.
Ticketless seeks to deliver support in the least expensive manner, through early detection and self-service.
- Lower cost per issue (use of the portal vs. use of level 1 support)
- Increased productivity through near-immediate resolution time
- Increased quality in software development
- Improved system performance through monitoring and proactive work
- Savings through reduction of downtime
- Ability to use staff resources for more advanced work
- Increased staff retention through satisfaction
You need to make an investment to achieve the areas called out. But these are investments with a valuable return, primarily in money saved and employee retention.
There’s also a qualitative benefit to doing this work. When business satisfaction with IT is high, IT begins to be looked at as a partner in the business and the business has confidence in IT’s abilities, opening up opportunities to do more with innovative technology at the business level.
Phyllis Drucker is an ITIL® certified consultant and information leader at Linium, a Ness Digital Engineering Company. Phyllis has more than 20 years of experience in the disciplines and frameworks of IT service management, as both a practitioner and consultant. She has served HDI since 1997 and itSMF USA since 2004 in a variety of capacities including speaker, writer, local group leader, board member, and operations director. Since 1997, Phyllis has helped to advance the profession of ITSM leaders and practitioners worldwide by providing her experience and insight on a wide variety of ITSM topics through presentations, whitepapers, and articles and now her new book on the service request catalog, Online Service Management: Creating a Successful Service Request Catalogue (International Best Practice). Follow Phyllis on Twitter @msitsm.