Every professional knows that technology can malfunction at any time and in unexpected ways. When things go wrong, end users need a way to report the issue to a software company's IT or customer service department. This is where a ticket management system comes in handy. Instead of losing track of back-and-forth email threads, phone call transcripts or chat logs, tech teams can use specialized software to manage issues that pop up, either internally or externally. Here's what you need to know about how ticket management systems work, how they can be used, and some best practices to optimize your ticket flow.
What is ticket management?
Ticket management is how a team manages requests to address issues, such as technical difficulties. An efficient ticket management process is essential for teams that handle a steady flow of fixes, changes, and development requests, often from different types of users with varying priorities.
Dedicated ticket management software is used most frequently by tech teams that develop new software features or need to fix bugs. It may also be used by customer service teams that need to report and track customer problems.
Ultimately, ticket management helps teams deliver a better end-user experience, because it provides transparent insights into the status of a specific issue or request.
How does a ticket system work?
A ticket management system allows end users (customers or internal employees) to report any issues they are experiencing or request new features to be developed. Managing such a system requires the creation and updates of individual "tickets" that contain all relevant information about the problem or request.
Here's a step-by-step overview of how ticketing works:
1. The end user creates a ticket.
The person creating the ticket provides details about the issue or request. They may be able to assign tags or priority levels to their ticket so the receiving team has more context.
2. The ticket is assigned to a team member.
An internal point person may designate a specific team member to handle an issue based on their current workload and expertise, or team members may be able to claim new tickets as they come in.
3. The team member works on the issue or request and adds documentation.
The person working on an issue or request typically leaves notes or changes the status of the ticket to keep everyone with dashboard access up to date on the progress. Data and views may depend on whether the ticket is being viewed by an internal team member or an external user (a customer).
4. The team member closes the ticket when the issue is resolved.
Upon successful resolution of an issue or completion of a feature request, the ticket is closed and the person who reported it is notified. If the ticket is part of a development sprint, it will be closed when the sprint is complete. A ticket can be reopened if there are follow-up questions or requests, which will bump it back into the workflow for the same team member.
Why use a ticket management system?
The biggest benefit of ticket management systems is the ability to see all open issues at a glance. Instead of each team member manually tracking their progress on a shared spreadsheet or maintaining open issues in their individual inboxes, the entire team can look at the software dashboard to see exactly how many open issues there are, who's working on each one, and the status of each one.
This software isn't just for IT and customer service departments; you can use it across multiple areas of your business to keep projects organized and running smoothly.
The Lifetime Value Company, the organization behind data-driven consumer apps and web programs like BeenVerified, introduced Agile methodology to its operations in 2014. By investing in Atlassian's Jira ticket management system for every department, the whole staff – developers, content creators, customer service reps – was able to learn and use a common tool to streamline their Agile workflows.
"We knew that in order to support the success of Agile and the workflows and processes used to operate within that philosophy, we needed a robust and easily customizable tool to manage it at all," said Stefani Ribaudo, chief people officer of The Lifetime Value Company. "We evaluated many tools on the market, and we continue to regularly evaluate what's out there and feel that Jira serves us the best in this area."
Benefits of ticket management systems
Built into help desk software like SolarWinds, Jira Service Desk, Zendesk, and HappyFox, a ticket management system can provide multiple benefits to any department in your company. [In need of help desk software? Check out the options we recommend for small businesses.]
Open issues and requests are centrally located.
No need to worry about lost email threads or black holes of contact forms. All the details your team needs to address an issue or request – including any past attempts to resolve the issue – are at your fingertips, organized by priority, status, tag or assigned team member.
The system improves communication across departments.
When everyone on your team has access to a central ticketing system, anyone who creates a ticket can track its progress and see exactly where it is in the queue. This transparency and "self-help" approach means fewer miscommunications and follow-up emails for status updates, because all parties involved will automatically be on the same page.
Your team can move through issues faster.
Unlike with a shared email inbox, which is typically only seen by a handful of people, your entire team can quickly spot outstanding issues that haven't yet been claimed or addressed with a ticket management system. The more eyes there are on your ticket dashboard, the more likely it is that someone will be able to start working on a request right away.
Team members can play to their strengths.
With a ticket management system, you can assign specific issues to team members with the deep expertise necessary to resolve them.
You can spot patterns in requests.
As more tickets start coming in, you may begin to notice the same issues cropping up over and over again. This can help you develop a customer knowledge management system or self-help database, allowing you to address those frequent issues and reduce the likelihood of a user with these problems creating a new ticket.
You can use it for various areas of your business.
Because ticket systems are often based on Agile methodology, you can customize and adapt them to other areas of your business, such as internal content marketing requests and HR initiatives.
What to look for in a ticket management system
If you're in the market for a ticket management system, see if the solution you're considering offers the following features:
- A user-friendly dashboard. The program's user interface should be intuitive and easy to navigate. You should be able to find and access the ticket you need quickly.
- A good system for categorizing and prioritizing tickets. A ticket system is only as good as its ability to organize information in a way that makes sense to you and your team. How much can you customize the tags, priority levels and statuses of your tickets? Can you filter and organize tickets based on those labels?
- Tracking and reporting features. Ticket statistics can help you understand the efficiency and effectiveness of your customer service or IT team. Your software should tell you which team members are handling the most tickets, how long it typically takes to resolve them, and your ticket resolution rate.
- Automation. With strong automation features, you can create filters, rules and conditional actions to streamline your team's workflow.
Ticket management best practices
These are some of the best ways to handle your internal and external tickets.
Categorize, prioritize and update tickets properly.
The best thing about a ticket management system is its ability to organize and streamline your team's workflow. If you don't categorize and prioritize your tickets as they come in, you lose out on that main benefit.
Once tickets are in progress, make sure everyone follows a consistent process for updating the status and documentation of their work.
Communicate frequently with your team about workflows.
The best way to keep workflows organized is to constantly work on improving them, said Geoffrey Goldberg, senior project manager at The Lifetime Value Company. This entails active communication about your workflows.
"Think about all the different facets of work and the people who would be utilizing it, and trim or add anything to the workflow if needed," he said.
Automate as much of the process as you can.
Automatic notifications for things like ticket assignments, comments and closures take the burden of manual communication off your team's shoulders. They also assure the user who created the issue or request that their ticket is a priority to your team and will be resolved.
Customize the process to work for your team.
When you're setting up and using your ticket management system, it's important to make the process work for your team and not the other way around.
"Every task is going to be different," Goldberg said. "The goal should be to make the lives easier of the people performing these tasks, and others who want to stay in the know. We always try to balance having enough process so that there isn't chaos, but not too much process so that it stifles innovation and creativity."