Does anyone have simple paper-based technical support ticket they could share?
December 2, 2011 9:22 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have simple paper-based technical support ticket they could share? I've become the default tech support person and the interruptions are making it difficult to get my own work done. A Word or Excel document I could edit would be great.

I work in a very small office, where I'm the most tech-savvy person on staff. I'm not an IT pro by a long shot, but I've become the resident tech support by default. This has the unfortunate consequence of frequent interruptions, even though the issues aren't usually emergencies or even especially timely. I get flagged down as questions come up.

I'm here to help people, but I also have my own work to get done. We definitely don't need a software- or web-based ticketing system, but having a paper form would help people capture the issue with (hopefully) minimal work on their part. And I'll be able to do a bunch of issues at once.

If anyone has examples to post, I'd be glad to modify it into something that suits our situation. Anything to keep me from starting absolutely from scratch would be a huge help
posted by fishpatrol to Work & Money (7 answers total)
The first thing that springs to mind is to have it done via email - set up a mailbox specifically for this purpose, give your colleagues a few brief pointers about what kind of length/information is required or appropriate and roll with that. Doesn't require any specialist software, it would be much more flexible than a spreadsheet (you could create subfolders to sort by priority/completion etc) and it means people don't have to get up from their desk for any problem that doesn't prevent them from using their mail client.

This is based on the assumption that you don't need anything more complicated because the environment and requirements are relatively small.
posted by fearnothing at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2011

"OK, Bob, can you send me an email saying what you just told me? I'll totally forget otherwise."
posted by rhizome at 10:28 AM on December 2, 2011

I'm not an IT pro by a long shot, but I've become the resident tech support by default.

Having been there: Don't do this with paper. Paper is bullshit. Email, shared calendars, a ticketing system, traceability, transparency. You say that the problem is interruptions, but that's incorrect: the problem is "unmanaged interactions", and the interruptions are a symptom of the fact that you don't have a formal process.

Get people an email address they can send support requests to. Establish a process by which those requests are prioritized and triaged. Give people a way of looking up their ticket, to say "this was solved", "this wasn't", "this is in the queue", whatever. Stick to that process.

This gives you the sort of traceability and transparency you'll need when you have to go do your boss and say, I need resources because I get fifty of these requests per week (or day) as you can see here. They'll help you organize stuff, and you'll be able to create stock responses to common questions that you can cut-and-paste into replies and eventually put in a FAQ or wiki.

Issue-tracking and change management are the two absolute, bedrock must-haves of any IT operation at any scale. If you don't have them, you are deaf, blind and functionally powerless, unable to see trends, evaluate what resources need to be allocated where or even understand what you're doing that morning. Even if it's just an email account called "IT-requests@work" and spreadsheet your users can see on Google Docs, you must have this.

Yes, for sure, this is more work up-front, but if you don't have this in place, you are 100% doomed going forward.

Don't use paper. For real.
posted by mhoye at 10:51 AM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]

What kind of email system do you use there? If you have exchange, you can set up PFHelpdesk in the public folders with minimal fuss. I agree with mhoye, don't do this with paper.
posted by 8dot3 at 11:18 AM on December 2, 2011

I can see how a document visible to all (3) of us would be helpful. If a request goes into a box, whether real or virtual, a person might forget (or "forget") if or what they'd already asked. Letting people see/edit requests would be very helpful, as would tracking/scheduling activities.

We have an IMAP server for email--no Exchange available. I could build a form in Google Docs and share the back-end spreadsheet. That might be good enough for collecting info, but not sure how to address scheduling/resolution part.

Anyone have examples of questions I should ask (text, screenshot, anything)?
posted by fishpatrol at 12:28 PM on December 2, 2011

Questions to ask? I think it would depend on the issue, but I would suggest it may be okay to let the requester describe as he can on the initial submission. However you need to clarify "information that is helpful to me". With that they can eventually get used to providing the initial details you need to look into something. I find most people attach screenshots if they know how or can.

For example, you may want to ask them to preface subjects with a category of issue. Like EMAIL, SAP, WEB, COMPUTER, etc. From there since this is a small office you can probably deduce things such as the person's email, the persons status for access, his computer assignment (what sort of hardware it is). Now in response to them would be the request for details, error text, maybe screenshots that show the error or problem in context.

My company uses a modified older version of the Numara Footprints web-email based ticket system. There is a live demo here of Numara's newest release if you are curious what some default details and organizing you could possibly use for your solution. No need to consider the software, just the types of details each work order could possibly contain.
posted by Bodrik at 3:01 PM on December 2, 2011

In my experience, just allowing people to send emails to an address reserved for that purpose works more sustainably than any formal system especially if most of your users are non-technical. It does mean that it's on you to fill in your own forms instead of having your users do it, but you are almost sure to find that the ones who have most of the problems are also the ones who are going to screw up filling in the forms more often than not.

having a paper form would help people capture the issue with (hopefully) minimal work on their part.

Nope. There will be people who waste all the time they have with you by whining about how inconvenient their issue of the day is, and how much time it's cost them, and how they can't get their work done because of it and how frustrating or embarrassing it is when all you need to fix it is a simple description of what's going wrong. But no kind of form system is going to make those people any less ready to burden themselves with unnecessary work.

The only way you can train the clueless to capture issues properly is by repeatedly forcing them to suffer the pain of having their issues drag out as you do a back-and-forth conversation to nail them down.

Sometimes you will have to be quite blunt about it: I had to tell one of my users in so many words that I fully understand how frustrating it is when stuff doesn't work, and I am every bit as keen to make the school IT equipment work properly all the time, but sometimes things just do go wrong and the only way I've got any hope of fixing them is if you tell me what you were trying to do, what you expected should happen, what happened instead, which computer your were using, and who you were logged on to Windows as; I can't do it by telepathy, and "my computer went crazy" is not a problem report.
posted by flabdablet at 7:55 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

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