The Value of Service Desk Ticket Aging Reports and Analysis

A woman wearing a headset sits at her desk working on her computer

Unlike a fine wine, open tickets do not get better with age. In fact the longer they remain open, the more likely they are to indicate a larger problem. That’s why developing customized reports that focus solely on ticket aging is the first step in solving ongoing problems. To that end, we recommend segmenting and comparing open incidents by individuals, IT groups, and incident classification (CTI). Specifically, segmenting aging reports by IT Directors and then by the support groups they manage helps to pinpoint areas for improvement.

At the service desk, the Team Lead constantly monitors open tickets and follows up with the client management to determine the ideal resolution strategy. Level 1 service desk agents typically will escalate incidents to Remote Level 2 technicians, if applicable, if they cannot resolve within a reasonable amount of time as agreed to by the client and the provider.  Likewise, those technicians only escalate incidents to the client’s internal IT group if they determine the issue requires an onsite presence or a Level 3 resource.   As a result, the vast majority of long open tickets tend to be complex, server-based, hands-on hardware related, or contingent on access and approval.  Assuming training, access, and documentation are available, tickets that remain open and within the service desk’s control to resolve are a rarity; however,   a mature service desk does not simply wash its hands of tickets that sit unresolved and assigned to the client’s internal IT team. True to the concept of “one IT”, the service desk shares the same private label identity and owns the same problems as the client’s on-site IT staff. The value-add resides in how ticket aging data is tracked, interpreted and solutions developed, in collaboration with both IT partners.

If the procurement department has an elongated process for provisioning mobile devices, for example, that process should be evaluated by the problem management team. Is the delay mostly caused by orders pending internal approval, vendor backorder, or economy shipment lead times?  For hardware repair tickets, are break-fix technicians dispatched to various locations or are they dedicated on site? Are these technicians sufficiently staffed or is there a backlog of open repair tickets? As far as the end users are concerned, are they available when agents call back to resolve incidents that required additional research or agent permissions and are therefore still at Level 1? Either way, ticket aging reports serve as a factual and, more importantly, unemotional prompts for such legitimate questions intended to spark constructive brainstorming in problem management as part of a Continual Service Improvement (CSI) strategy.

In some instances, open issues pending a problem management solution can contribute to ticket aging. For example, if an end user contacts the service desk because their Outlook doesn’t send or receive emails and the problem is determined to be an Exchange server failure, the client’s Level 3 or network support team would need to resolve this problem before the user’s Outlook will function again. In which case the incident the end-user submitted will stay open until the problem ticket has been closed. If a department is falling far behind with its workload as indicated in open tickets, understanding why is the obvious next step. To simply assume that high ticket aging volumes are the result of insufficient staffing can lead to unnecessary waste if the data is not analyzed completely and correctly.  Imagine in such instances increasing the salary overhead by employing additional Level 2 technicians to compensate for a process flaw related to ticket routing, hardware purchasing approvals, or ongoing problems that contribute to low utilization of current staff. By identifying specific teams where high aging is occurring, organizations can isolate the root cause by cross-referencing all priority levels or only specific priority levels and even narrow it down to specific tickets to determine the appropriate course of action. Ultimately, developing accurate and in-depth ticket aging reports and interpreting the findings constructively will improve team management and end-user satisfaction.

Originally posted on August 18, 2014.