Friday, June 03, 2011

SOP Friday: Service Ticket Updates

SOP stands for Standard Operating Procedures. Those are the handy little processes that you can put in place to make everything in your company work better . . . if they're followed.

- - - - -

- Overview -

When you get a new service request (service ticket), there are several key pieces of information that will make you life easier. Some of these are the absolute basics of a service ticket (see the last SOP post on Working in Real Time).

Aside from a time entry itself, the service ticket needs to have some key information so that you can make your operation run more smoothly. Remember the old adage "garbage in/garbage out." You can't run any reports on data you don't collect! You can't take actions on data you don't put into the system. And, in this case, you will lose money if you don't have all the data you need.

Data you absolutely need to collect for each service ticket includes:

- Client Name / Contact Name
- Ticket / Job Title
- Desktop / User
* Priority of the Service Request (high, medium, low)
- Due Date
- Issue type (e.g., add/move/change or managed service)
- Issue Sub-Type (e.g., desktop, server, printer)
- Work Type (e.g., remote maintenance)
* Estimated Time to Complete Job
- Work Queue or service board

Data that's nice to collect and may be useful includes:

- The Source of the service ticket (phone, email, tech talked to client, etc.)
- Is this a recurring issue?

If you have a PSA system such as Autotask, ConnectWise, or Tiger Paw, then you are probably collecting most or all of this information. Certainly, you could be collecting it. If you have your own home-grown system, then you should try to make a point to collect this info.

But more importantly, every person who touches a service ticket should make sure this info is correct. Here's what I mean:

The most common ways that a service ticket enters our system are:

1) The client enters a service ticket through the client portal

2) The client sends us an email and Email2AT parses it into a service ticket

3) A client calls on the phone and our office manager enters a service ticket

4) A client talks to a tech and the tech enters a service ticket

In each case, it is likely that the office manager and a technician will open and look at a service ticket before the service manager. The service manager will eventually open the service ticket if it hasn't already been worked and closed by the time he goes to sort through the service board.

- Implementation Notes -

Each person who touches the service ticket is responsible for entering information into the "required" fields above. The two items most likely to be skipped are marked with an asterisk - Setting the priority and setting the time estimate. Oddly enough, these are two of the most important fields.

We work all jobs based on their priority. Therefore, each service ticket must have a priority! You cannot work jobs in the right order if the most important variable for sorting is missing! The time estimate is critical to estimating your backlog and for scheduling. We ask our office manager to simply enter one hour into this field if it is blank or she has no information to go on. That is normally a high estimate, but it's better than a zero!

Because the service manager massages the service board at least once a day (see a future SOP), he will always check the time estimate on every service ticket he touches. So the time estimate will become accurate in short order.

- Benefits -

Eventually you will want to run reports to tell you whether a specific client is profitable, whether a specific piece of client equipment is troublesome, the average close time for a service ticket, the number of "Priority One" tickets in the system, and so forth. With a PSA system you have an amazing amount of information about your own business. But you have to put the information in if you plan to get it out.

One of the key pieces of information is your backlog: How many hours of labor do you have in the system? Backlog is determined by the total hours remaining on all the service tickets. You also need to track the billability of your technicians (see last week's SOP on tracking time with your PSA). The calculation looks like this:

Backlog = hours to be worked x billability of techs

Let's say your average tech is 60% billable (in a 40 hour week, they put in 24 hours of billable labor). And let's say you have 240 hours of estimated labor in your service board. Therefore, you need to plan having 400 hours of labor available in order to finish that work.

These calculations will tell you whether your backlog is likely to shrink or grow over time, based on the labor you have available. These can help you decide whether to cut hours or hire a new tech.

- Forms -

If you have a PSA, the "forms" you need to implement this SOP are built in. Otherwise, you'll need to create a tracking system of some kind that includes the key variables above.

Implementing this policy is pretty simple. Just have everyone who touches a service ticket go through the key fields and adjust as needed. You might even take a screen shot of the "New Ticket" screen and highlight the fields that you require. Give each tech, and the office manager, a copy.

Your Comments Welcome.


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  1. Karl - great post, thanks for sharing!

    How do you deal with engineers who push-back when asked to capture the information you mentioned. They often argue that it slows them down when trying to help a client.

  2. My primary response is: This IS your job. This is what you're getting paid to do!

    Information like accurate time estimates and job priority can make all the difference when it's time to evaluate profitability. These are key to business success - and the reason you bought a PSA in the first place.

    Technicians who can do this need to go work for the competition.

  3. Karl - agreed! Loving the new SOP Friday blog posts, keep 'em coming! :-)


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