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How to Close Stubborn MSP Help Desk, Service Desk Tickets

Back in my days on an IT help desk, I was the queen of the queue. When I would finally get fed up with all of the outstanding tickets piling up, I would get after it and get it all cleaned up. There is nothing more satisfying than a completely empty service desk queue. There are several different reasons that tickets get stuck, and there are some best practices you can implement that will make sure they don't stay stuck for long.

1. Customer Won't Respond

One of the most common reasons for a stuck ticket is that your customer doesn't respond to your inquiries, either to let you know that it's been fixed or to give further information for you to find the problem. This can be extremely frustrating when you are trying to close out a ticket. If only your customer would just let you know the status!

My Recommendation: A great rule of thumb I have used, when dealing with these kinds of tickets is to make three attempts. Each attempt at contacting should be through a different format. You can respond through the ticket itself, email the person, and finally, you call the person on the last attempt. If you are still unable to get a response after these three attempts, you can leave them a message stating that you will be closing the ticket, and they can feel free to reopen the ticket or create a new one if the situation occurs again.

2. Problem Repeats

Some tickets don't seem to go away because the problem keeps popping up every day/week/month. Either the customer keeps opening new tickets about the same issue, or they keep reopening the same old ticket. Either way, the problem is fixed for only a short period of time and continues to be an issue.

The main reason for a problem to keep happening is that it really wasn't fixed properly the first time. Either a band-aid has been placed on the issue, or while you treated the symptom, you really didn't cure the illness.

My Recommendation: Instead of doing the same thing to temporarily fix the reoccurring problem, dig deeper. Figure out why this problem keeps happening and resolve the issue permanently. It could be a symptom of a piece of hardware about to fail or an underlying virus that hasn't been discovered.

3. Training Issue

Similar to the tickets that don't go away because the problem keeps happening, training issues can cause tickets to keep popping up about the same thing too. While the ticket does get closed in a timely manner, for the most part, they keep coming back with the same thing, so they seem stubborn. These are tickets that ask you how to set the Out of Office on their email for the 100th time, or how to create an Excel formula. You have shown them how to do it several times, and yet they call every time they need to perform that task again.

There are a few reasons that people do this. First, they just don't care enough to retain the information. They know you will be there to do it for them whenever they need it, so they don't bother to learn when you show them. Second, they don't do those tasks often enough to have the muscle memory to complete that particular task. Sure it's something you do all the time, but they do it once a year. Third, it's just easier for them to call than it is to learn the task. They know you are there, and while it may take them 30 minutes to figure out how to do it again, it will take you 2 minutes. To save time and effort, they don't try to figure it out for themselves, they will just call.

My Recommendation: Obviously, this just requires better training when you show them how to do it the first time. Perhaps you could even do a screen recording of your session with them, and then sending it to them afterward can help them for next time. If you help them save the screen recording somewhere easy, it can be super easy for them to pull up the recording and do it themselves next time. You could also write down the steps for them, or create a macro in their program for them to run next time. Give them the tools to make it as easy for them to do, without having to remember how, and they won't have to open a ticket next time.

4. Needs More Data or Research

Definitely the most stubborn of all tickets are ones that require you to research a solution or wait for more data to come in. If the issue only occurred once, and you can't duplicate it, you need a little more data to figure out why the problem happened. It can take a while for the problem to pop up again if it does at all. This is usually true with a lot of email issues. You may need to wait on the customer to contact someone to send them the bounce message they received, or wait to see if the email ever gets delivered. The harder part of this situation, though, is if you aren't sure why the problem is occurring and you need

The harder part of this situation, though, is if you aren't sure why the problem is occurring and you need to perform some further research to figure out the solution. While techs typically have a lot of knowledge about issues that can arise, we are occasionally stumped. These tickets can hang out in the queue forever while you move on to easier tickets to knock out. It can take a good chunk of your day researching an issue and attempting solutions, so it can be tempting to grab some of the low hanging fruit in the queue before you try and tackle the beastly problem.

My Recommendation: The best way to finally clear these out is to bring in the big guns. At my most recent job, I could work on a ticket for days, until I finally got stuck to the point I needed to bring in some help. I would contact my boss, Scott, who was usually able to fix the issue that was plaguing me in about 5 minutes. While it was frustrating that he was so good at it, it was a relief to finally have the ticket off my plate. Whether the big guns is another person at your company or someone in your personal brain trust that is a friend of yours, it's good to have another pair of eyes look at the situation. When you become too close to the situation, you can get tunnel vision, and another person to take a quick look at the problem may just have the perspective you hadn't thought of yet.

If you have already escalated it, and you still aren't sure how to fix the problem, at some point you need to just dedicate the rest of the time to figure out the solution. Pass off some of your easier, low hanging fruit, to a colleague and concentrate all of your effort on the stubborn ticket until you have found a solution that works.

5. Customer Doesn't Have Time

The last reason a ticket just won't go away is that your customer never has time for you to try and troubleshoot solutions. They submitted the ticket about the problem, but every time you call or want to work on it, they are unable to.

My Recommendation: There are a couple ways to handle this situation as well. First, try to set up an appointment with their computer. Find out when the customer will be in a meeting or out to lunch, and schedule that time to hop on to check out the problem. You can also try to work around their schedule. If they work the same hours you do, maybe hand it off to someone on a different schedule, so they can work on it before the customer arrives at work, or after they leave. If you need the customer to work with you and show you how the problem occurs, try to set up an appointment with them. Find out which day of the week is their slowest, and work with them during that time frame.

Finally, if they are unable to come up with a time for you to work on the issue, or they keep canceling when the appointment time comes, give them 3 chances. Much like the 3 attempts rule listed above, if they miss 3 appointments to work on it, let them know that you will be closing the ticket, and when they have time to focus on resolving the issue they can call and open a new ticket at that time. The issue obviously isn't preventing them from getting their work done. When they are annoyed enough by the issue, they will contact you again. Let them take on the burden of when the issue will get resolved, since they won't let you try to resolve it yet.

The best advice when trying to get your service queue down to zero, is for the entire team to get on board. When everyone is pumped up and motivated to clear it out, it will get cleaned up.