Blog  |  Business Operations,

12 Ticket Handling Best Practices for MSPs

For a Managed Service Provider (MSP), an ITSM ticketing system is essential for delivering top-notch services and customer support. Each client issue or scheduled task is represented by a ticket, and the efficiency with which the service desk prioritizes and resolves these tickets can determine the long-term success of an MSP. In this blog, we explore 12 practical ticket handling best practices that will help ensure that your MSP operates smoothly.

While we won’t be resolving the tickets for you (hint: it’s always DNS), these best practices will guide you in adopting a more efficient approach to ticket management.

Why is ticket handling important to MSPs?

Tickets are the cornerstone of client interactions. If something breaks, it’s a ticket. If a server needs patching, it’s a ticket. If the client has a question – you guessed it – that’s also a ticket. All of that to say, how MSPs handle tickets is critically important, as it’s an integral part of the overall client experience.

Poor ticket handling practices can lead to breached SLAs, (understandably) upset clients, and inefficient operations. Conversely, getting ticket handling right can improve client satisfaction, streamline operations, and boost your bottom line.

Now that the basics are out of the way, let’s dive into 12 ticket handling best practices you can (and should) use to improve operations and client service.

Take Your Ticketing to New Heights

Syncro’s integrated RMM, PSA and remote access platform offers customizable ticket workflows, templated worksheets, integrated billing and more.

Try Syncro Free

1. Make creating tickets painless for your clients

For you, tickets are a great way to prioritize and track work. For your customers, tickets are just a means to an end. Put simply, they want/need you to fix something, and the required “paperwork” to get that fix is just a nuisance. To that end, if the aforementioned nuisance creates too much work or friction, they’ll avoid it, which often leads to one of two outcomes:

1. No one creates tickets, and you do invisible work. You should avoid this case as much as possible. While it’s OK to let a 1-minute fix go untracked every once in a while, it is not advisable to let untracked work become the norm – it’s an MSP antipattern that will inevitably harm your overall performance and efficiency.

2. You create the tickets for clients, leading to unnecessary extra work. It’s perfectly fine to create tickets for clients from time to time. In fact, that’s often the best customer service move you can make when a client raises an issue outside of the standard tech support channels. However, you don’t want your helpdesk bogged down with too much manual ticket creation.

The solution to both of these problems is to make ticket creation as painless as possible for your clients. Some of the most practical methods to improve the ticket creation process include:

  • Creating tickets when a client emails the help desk.
  • Limit the fields in ticket creation forms.
  • Don’t fall into the habit of doing invisible work.

2. Define a prioritization strategy

Prioritization is one of the trickiest parts of triaging tickets. From the client’s perspective, most issues are a high priority. But you need a way to prioritize tickets to ensure the most urgent work gets done first.

Of course, the old adage “there’s no one-size-fits-all” applies here. There’s no single prioritization strategy that’s a universal fit – what works for one MSP might not work for yours.

Consider your customers, SLAs, and ticket category when crafting your strategy. The key is to take all these variables into consideration and define a prioritization strategy and process that works for your business. Ticketing systems that allow you to automatically update priority based on category or context can go a long way, but you still need to be purposeful with your approach.

What I’ve seen well in practice is a combination of first-in, first-out (FIFO), and business-specific prioritization criteria. For example, any network outages may be a high-priority ticket, but the high-priority queue itself is FIFO.

 

ticket handling best practices - prioritizing tickets

3. Use templates

Template responses — a.k.a. canned responses — are one of the best ways to save time handling tickets. If you take nothing else away from these tips, let it be this: invest time getting your canned responses right. Create and maintain templates for common solutions, questions, and instructions you send to your clients.

Canned responses to common issues help you:

  • Save time for you and your clients
  • Ensure uniformity in your messaging
  • Ask the right questions early in the troubleshooting process
  • Support automation workflows

However, to play Devil’s advocate, sometimes MSPs can do more harm than good with canned responses.

How? Usually because the MSP sends clients irrelevant or stale information, eventually falling into a negative feedback loop. Meaning, the client’s issue doesn’t get solved. The client feels like they weren’t taken seriously and therefore replies again. The helpdesk sends another template, and on and on the cycle repeats while KPIs and customer satisfaction continue to decline.

Fortunately, that cycle is easy to avoid if you keep template content up-to-date and allow support agents to use their discretion to modify canned responses.

ticket management system - canned templated ticket responses

 

4. Don’t be too noisy

Many ticketing systems send updates and auto-replies for activities like ticket creation and status changes. In the right context, that’s great. But it can also annoy or confuse users. If you’re leaving internal notes or making changes that don’t impact the client, ensure your system doesn’t flood them with emails.

ticket management system - editing a ticket

 

5. One ticket, one topic

Users often raise multiple issues under a single ticket. From their perspective, it’s efficient. From the service desk’s perspective, it’s more difficult to track what work needs to be done. Make an effort to keep tickets dedicated to a single topic.

It’s OK if that topic is something broad like “patch all the servers at site A,” but avoid mixing unrelated items like security patches, monitor upgrades, and switch installs on a single ticket. Being disciplined about ticket topics will help you understand the status of any given issue faster and use cleaner data for reporting.

6. Track high-value metrics

Service desk metrics help you track how well you’re handling tickets today and where you should focus improvement efforts. Of course, it’s easy to get lost in all the metrics you could track, it’s harder to know which ones you should track.

ticket handling best practices - tracking ticket metrics

 

Think about KPIs from the perspective of what questions you need to answer about your business. What is the service desk spending time on? How fast are we responding to tickets? Are we meeting our SLAs?

To help you get started, here are some key service desk performance metrics we recommend tracking.

ticket handling best practices - metrics to track

7. Set up support tiers

As your service desk grows, you’ll quickly realize not all tickets are created equally. Some are simple issues you can solve in a minute. Others are complex problems that require research and technical expertise. You don’t want technical experts wasting time on the simple stuff, just as you don’t want entry-level agents trying to resolve problems that are out of their depth.

The three-tier support system is a tried and true method for avoiding or solving this issue. The three tiers/levels, are:

  • Tier 1: Front-line support. Everything new goes to this team and gets escalated to another tier if necessary.
  • Tier 2: Tech support. This team has more specialized skills and can handle issues Tier 1 can’t.
  • Tier 3: Subject matter experts and senior support engineers. This team gets the most technical and complex issues the other tiers can’t handle.

8. Integrate ticketing with other systems

Tool sprawl is a major productivity killer for MSPs. Every new tool you add to your stack is not only yet another one you have to manage and maintain, but also another admin overhead cost. Additionally, data from one system might be relevant to another. Separate tools with siloed data lead to duplication and lower-quality reporting.

That’s why integrating your ticketing system with other core MSP tools like an RMM, wiki, billing, and asset management systems can be so powerful. With integrated systems, you have a one-stop shop with visibility into all of your relevant data and can create holistic workflows.

9. Group similar incidents for faster resolution

Often, a single event like a malware infection or power outage will lead to the creation of multiple similar tickets. When this happens, make sure to group or link the tickets so the technician that works one can complete them all at once.

Of course, if you’re using FIFO to manage queues, it can be difficult to know if an issue has generated multiple tickets until you’ve already handled them. In those cases, the key is for service desk agents to be diligent about recognizing a pattern early. Once you handle a few tickets with a similar pattern, stop and check the queues to see how widespread the problem is. Also, tracking the number of created tickets and their status can help you detect and investigate spikes caused by a single incident.

10. Automate, automate, automate

Without a doubt, one of the most important ticket handling best practices to adhere to is automation. Just think: So much of service desk work is repetitive. Which, in turn, means a lot of service desk work can be automated. Any time you notice that you’re regularly performing the same steps to resolve the same issue, look for a way to automate the task. You’re probably used to this way of thinking about RMMs, but it applies to tickets, too.

For instance, if a specific ticket subject like “virus detected” always leads to your service desk following the same steps, display your virus removal checklist every time. Similarly, if specific tickets need to be assigned to specific technicians, automate the assignment.

ticket handling best practices - automating tickets

 

11. Document concisely

Recording quality notes is one of the most essential ticket handling best practices. Good notes make it easier to explain work to a client, hand a ticket off to another engineer, and understand ticket history. Bad (or worse, missing) notes lead to confusion, finger pointing, and duplicative efforts.

Despite most MSPs being aware of this already, many still struggle with poor ticket notes. These tips can help ensure technicians take quality notes:

  • Be complete but concise: Technicians shouldn’t feel like they need to write a novel to complete a ticket. Encourage concise writing (e.g., bullet point summaries) that cover just enough to provide their work’s technical and business context.
  • Provide feedback: One of the reasons note quality can suffer is that they’re easy to overlook. Set aside time to review note quality in your ticketing management system, and provide feedback to your techs.
  • Make documentation part of the definition of “done”: Make sure your team knows notes are a requirement before closing a ticket.
  • Provide examples of good documentation: “Good” notes are subjective. To avoid ambiguity, provide technicians with examples that make expectations clear.

12. Track your time

Time is literally money to an MSP. That means, time spent working on a ticket is at least labor cost and often billable hours. Directly tracking your time on specific tickets allows you to track costs and bill your clients accurately.

This is where a tightly integrated ticketing management system and RMM can make a major difference. For example, with Syncro, technicians can simply start a timer on a ticket to track billable hours.

Ready to experience ticket management the Syncro way?

Syncro’s all-in-one PSA and RMM has everything you need for effective ticket management. Enjoy customizable ticket workflows, templated worksheets, integrated billing, and more.
Try Syncro for yourself—start a free trial today.

Jillian Ho-Lung