On the surface it may seem like every organization’s support services are very similar and follow the same steps and processes. In reality, there are various different setups that companies employ according to their team’s capabilities, services offered, and pricing structure. Another factor that comes into play is the customer base – some external IT companies dedicate their entire workforce to providing service to a single large client while others need to juggle their time and efforts across multiple clients of varying sizes and needs. For those in the latter group, it can be challenging ensuring time allocations are visible across all work and accounted for in according with the terms of their contracts.
One external IT firm came to us wanting a solution to help them manage their work across their various customers while still focusing on the support they provide. Sometimes their support requests can span long time periods, ranging from hours to weeks and even months. Although they are happy to provide support for all varying complexities of issues, they need to be especially careful about how their time is allocated across all of their customers’ requests. This factors directly into their contracts with customers and how they bill them. Having visibility into time spent on support tasks for each customer is key for them to make prioritization and resourcing decisions.
Managing different levels of support per customer
As an external IT firm, our client is especially concerned with ensuring they are providing the right amount of support for their customers. Their pricing model for support is divided into different tiers that define allocation of time and urgency. Since this is not a concept all organizations use, OneDesk does not have a concept of support levels out of the box, but through some straightforward customizations, our client is able to capture this quite easily in our system. First, a custom field can be created for all tickets where the particular support level can be noted. To streamline this for users, this field can be limited to a particular set of options or opened up to hold any numerical value. Once any tickets are logged with the support level filled out, our client can then set up a workflow automation to trigger. By using OneDesk’s concept of projects to denote different support levels, this workflow automation can then move the newly created ticket into the correct project. This makes it easy to see at a glance what outstanding tickets there are for each of the support levels. To get even more sophisticated, we recommended that our client set up a separate portfolio for each of their customers. In every OneDesk portfolio, multiple projects can be grouped and so the workflow automation to organize tickets can then be extended to move tickets into the correct portfolio for the customer and the correct project for the level of support. Because OneDesk automatically tracks customer information based on an organization’s e-mail domain, it becomes a simple exercise setting up this additional criteria for the workflow automation.
Tracking and reporting on support hours for each customer
One aspect of the different support tiers that our client offers is the concept of different time allocations per tier. For example, a customer’s contract may give them 20 support level 1 hours and 50 support level 2 hours every month. This information is key to our client’s billing, and so having these details in OneDesk where the actual work is being tracked would be ideal. By using custom fields once more, our client is able to define an attribute at the project level to hold the number of allowed support hours. Because each project represents a specific support level, this custom field will hold the support hours specific to that customer’s support level. This also makes it crucial for our client to track the time that they are spending on tickets in order to know if they are within their contract with the customer. In OneDesk, time tracking is available in two forms: through timesheets, or by using the in-application timer. These options allow people of different working styles to easily track their time, whether they want to do so in real-time or after the work is done. If there is extraneous work needed that might not directly contribute to addressing the ticket, OneDesk also has the concept of designating time entries as being billable or not. This data as well as those in the support hours custom field can easily be filtered on and displayed in reports, giving our client instant insight into where their team’s hours may be going. By creating a saved view with this data, our client can pull it up every time they need to without recreating it repeatedly.
Using subtasks to break down the work
For complicated tasks, it may make sense to assign the work to multiple people. Although this is possible in OneDesk, our recommendation was for our client to use our subtasks feature to better understand the smaller pieces needed to see a task through to completion. The use case our client described was having one support agent dedicated to communications with the client, while another executes on the actual ticket’s requirements. By creating subtasks to account for each of these work aspects, it becomes clear who is responsible for what role. In combination with time tracking, it also becomes very clear where time is being spent as some customers may require more direct communication time while others may not. This delineation of work allows team members to specialize and build expertise in their designated skillset.
Communicating with customers through multiple mediums
As our client is focused on providing high quality service, communications are a large part of that. Historically our client’s customers have only used e-mail to communicate with them about work requests. This workflow smoothly integrates with the OneDesk system where every ticket type has its own intake e-mail address that will automatically turn any e-mails sent to it into tickets. Entire e-mail threads are then captured as conversations on the ticket, making it easy to read in one central spot. On the ticket, new conversations can be started with customers as well, manifesting as e-mails that go directly into customers’ inboxes without requiring them to have access to OneDesk. Beyond e-mails, we also have a messenger application that can be embedded onto our client’s website. This allows customers to directly chat with our client in real-time, and from these conversations, new tickets can be logged without losing any of the details of the chat. Because our client’s customers are all after sales, this messenger widget can require the customers’ contact information and allow them to follow-up even if the user has already exited the messenger.
Walking through OneDesk’s customizability and full feature set, it became clear to our client that our tooling was robust enough to account for all their needs. From being able to replicate and represent their support levels, to reporting on hours tracked for every individual task, our ticketing application is flexible and easy to use. Beyond ticket tracking and management, our communication tools streamline conversations and the process of taking in new work. Whether it is through e-mail, our messenger application, or our customer portal product, our client can give their customers several ways to raise support issues while keeping the underlying ticket system unified no matter the intake process. On top of all that, our client also voiced a need to use OneDesk in a non-English language. Although this feature is still in beta, our client is able to simply change the language across the product, allowing their team to work effectively in their native language. This combination of features empowers them to provide the best service possible without surrendering the processes they have developed and grown accustomed to.