FAQ: How do you prioritize service requests?

Ring Binder with inscription High Priority on Background of Working Table with Office Supplies, Glasses, Reports. Toned Illustration. Business Concept on Blurred Background..jpeg

Ring Binder with inscription High Priority on Background of Working Table with Office Supplies, Glasses, Reports. Toned Illustration. Business Concept on Blurred Background..jpegOn average, we receive about 40 new service requests (we call them ‘tickets’) a day. Some days that number can be much higher. Tickets can be anything from a password reset for a user to printer issues for a department to a server outage affecting an entire company.

Managing and prioritizing these tickets is a job in itself. Our dispatcher and service team leadership have to decide in what order these tickets are worked on (hint: it’s not first come, first serve) and who will work on them. We use a few different criteria, the main being client agreement and issue severity.

Client Agreement

One of the factors impacting how quickly we address a ticket is the type of agreement the client is in. We offer a few different levels of agreements for our IT support clients, which affect priority:

  • All You Can Eat – This is our full retainer agreement. Customers in these agreements have the highest priority.
  • Block Time – In this agreement, customers pay a set fee for a block of hours towards IT support. They have the second highest priority.
  • Time & Material – Customers in this agreement just pay for the hours they use each month. These agreements have third priority.

When our clients sign an agreement, it includes a Service Level Agree (SLA) that outlines how quickly we will respond to their tickets. For the highest priority customers, the following table is a reasonable representation of our response times (these are maxiumums - internally, we shoot for much faster times!):

  • Critical – 1 hour
  • Severe – 2-4 hours
  • Normal – 4-8 hours
  • Request – 8-12 hours

Please note, this is how quickly we will start working on the ticket. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee how long it will take to solve an issue (we wish we could!).

Since our agreements are month-to-month, it’s possible for a customer to change agreement types if they need a faster response time.

Issue Severity

The other factor impacting how quickly we address a ticket is the issue severity. We look at the urgency and impact of an issue on a simple scale of Low, Medium, High. We use a 3x3 matrix to help identify the severity, which is then classified in one of four categories:

  • Request: This is typically something that is more of an annoyance than a work stoppage, like a single user is unable to print.
  • Normal: This is more severe than a request and may be causing a work slowdown for a few people but typically doesn’t involve a full outage. An example would be several people having trouble with the desktop version of a program, but the web version is working fine.
  • Severe: This is generally something that prevents a user (or a small group of users) from working, but doesn’t affect the whole company, like an accounting user that cannot get into Quickbooks.
  • Critical: This is the highest level of severity and will get the highest priority. This is a major issue affecting most or all of the company like a server down or an internet outage. 

Assigning Priority

Once we take these criteria into consideration, we determine which ticket gets assigned next. While our response time goals are set the by the SLA, both severity and agreement are considered.

So, let’s look at a few examples. In these examples, Company A has an All You Can Eat Agreement and Company B has a Block Time Agreement.

Both companies put in a ticket for a severe issue, affecting roughly the same number of people at both companies. Company A’s ticket is going to take priority.

Company A puts in a normal ticket and Company B puts in a critical ticket. In this case, Company B’s ticket is going to take priority.

We know that when you’re having technology problems, waiting around for someone else to fix it is annoying at best. If it’s keeping you from working, and you don’t have any idea how long it will take to even be addressed, it’s more than a little frustrating. We do our best to get to tickets as quickly as we can – but as quickly as we can may be a few hours after you put in the ticket.

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