While everyone would love to get immediate help for every technology problem and question, few educational IT departments have the personnel to attempt this level of service. What can be offered is the ability to request timely assistance for non-emergency issues. As stated before, users must be informed as to what qualifies as an emergency. For all other requests, establish a means for users to communicate with the department and provide some idea as to when help will be forthcoming. Establishing and maintaining a reliable system will encourage everyone to use it and cut down on unnecessary calls to the IT department.
The design of such a system depends on the needs and resources of each institution. If cost is an issue, a self-designed system might rely on a common email address. A better solution involves use of an online form with request data shared among the IT staff via an online spreadsheet. Information about the request would thus be readily available to technicians and the status of requests could be monitored. Monitoring is key—there needs to be someone in charge of keeping track of all incoming requests and ensuring that none get missed or sit idle for too long.
The sample form to the left was created using Google Forms; Microsoft One Drive has a similar application. While the example is fairly simple, it is possible to add as many fields as you would find helpful. Google Forms link to a spreadsheet (below) that provides a date/time stamp and information from all fields on the form, as well as the sender’s email if so desired.
Additional fields can be added to the response spreadsheet and that sheet shared with members of the department. This is just one, inexpensive way to keep track of user requests and how they are resolved.
There are a number of web-based ticketing systems available offering a variety of features at varying costs. These systems allow the IT department to keep track of all incoming, in process, and completed requests. They are useful for monitoring trends and catching issues before they escalate into bigger problems. Issues can be easily moved from one technician to the next since all information about the problem and steps taken thus far are contained in each ticket. Users can check the status of requests, and techs and users can add notes and communicate with each other during the resolution process. Most ticketing systems allow you to integrate with your inventory system and tie assets to clients, as well as track parts inventory, repairs, and costs. For a busy technology department serving many users and overseeing many devices, a good ticketing system is worth the investment.
The key to any successful ticketing system—whether an in-house design or a fancy purchased system—is convincing people to utilize it. Acknowledge your users: a quick, personal note best assures clients that the tickets just submitted will actually result in their problems being addressed. Adding a note to a ticket or sending a brief email reassures users that the wheels are in motion. After that, be sure someone monitors ticket statuses to keep all on track toward final resolution. If a particular problem will take some time, let the client know and send occasional updates. When people see submitting a ticket gets results, they will get with the program.
Next time the blog will begin to address ways we can help our users help themselves. As always, your comments, suggestions, and questions are welcomed!
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