How To Log a Good Incident Helpdesk Ticket

This post is more of a medicinal rant than anything, but could be edited to be less offensive and actually be useful information for a user.

Just for the record I don’t have a personal vendetta against people logging awful tickets, I just think that some people need to be less lazy and have some common sense. Also I don’t look down on these people even though it looks that way. We all have different skills and gifts, and for a lot of people technology isn’t something their gifted with (however, you should try to get better at it (come as you are, but don’t stay as you are). It’s not going away). Often when awful tickets are logged I politely request further more information and educate them with full respect for them as people.

Also it’s a team effort when it comes to solving incidents and improving the efficiency of people to do their job. An IT technician can’t do this for a business and their staff without the help of the staff.

Now that the disclaimer is done, here’s how to log a good helpdesk ticket…

Before Logging the ticket

1. Have a go at solving the issue yourself

Solving your own issue can help you stay sharp, give you new skills, and help you do your job better. If your helpdesk has howto guides available, see if you can find one related to your issue. If you receive error messages, try googling the exact text of them (with quotation marks (“”)). Don’t spend too long on the issue though since your boss probably wants you to do some useful work!

2. Ask others if they’re having the same issue

Maybe somebody else has solved the issue before and can help you. This information can be very helpful in diagnosing issues and will likely raise the priority of the ticket since more people are having the same problem.

3. Write down the exact text of error messages, not your interpretation of the error message (if any)

I’ve had user log a ticket recently saying “I’m getting an error message that I can’t login”. The exact error message was “There are currently no logon servers available to service the logon request” after putting in a username and password. Although it appeared the message was stating “you can’t login, the end”, what it acually meant was that “the computer can’t communicate over the network and find an active directory login server to login to and therefore can’t log you in, and also you don’t have a cached profile on the computer”. Having the exact error message in this case would have led the user and myself to be more productive and solve the issue quicker.

4. Make problem devices easy to identify and find

This can be as simple as describing where the device is and marking it. An example: “the laptop is on my desk in room 1 on the second floor. It has a yellow post-it on it with the text ‘The faulty laptop’ on it. My number is 1337 1337, call me if you can’t find it”. If you know if your device has a name and you know how to find it, record it in the ticket.

5. Provide screenshots or videos

Take screenshots on a computer, or a photo or video using a camera phone and attach it to your ticket (there’s an app for that). Remember: pictures tell 1000 words! (and videos tell 1000 pictures?)

Now, to logging the actual ticket!

1. Explain your troubleshooting steps if you tried to solve the issue yourself

This can narrow down the possibilities of what’s causing the issue and allow us to possibly find a better way of assisting you (since we can judge (in a good way) a little about your technical competency and provide help that’s better catered to you). This allows us to solve issues better and quicker.

2. Don’t use terms you don’t fully understand

A user recently logged a ticket saying that they “don’t have an IP address and can’t access emails”. The user was actually having an issue opening outlook since they couldn’t find the shortcut on the desktop and had no issues related to networking or IP addresses. Along with a plethora of other sins that came with this ticket, the user was using terms they didn’t understand and it was very misleading.

3. Don’t just include your conclusion, diagnosis, assumption,  or guess on an issue. Explain how you got there

If the user in the last point did have an IP address issue and had continued on with the sentence saying “I think I don’t have an IP address because I opened up a command prompt and typed in ‘ipconfig’ and the message that appeared was ‘media disconnected…'” I could have had something to work with. It’s ok to predict what the issue likely is if you have something to back it up with (and you include the backing up info in the ticket).

4. Include some background information and context. Paint a picture on what’s going on. Go step-by-step through what’s happening.

The user in point two (poor guy being picked on) could have provided the following information to explain what he meant even though he wasn’t very technically minded: “I have just logged into my computer with my username and password successfully. I now want to open up my email program, but I can’t find the thing I usually double-click on to open it”

5. Info on Priority and Urgency, Impact on work, Suggest a good time to fix the issue, and provide Contact information

My favourite user could have also added something like this: “I need to open this email program urgently otherwise I can’t do my job properly today. Please help me with my issue as soon as you can. I’m in room 1 on the second floor at the back. My name is Mr Favorite User and my phone number is 1337 1337”

If I got this ticket in it’s whole, I would have rung the user straight away and solved their issue very quickly. I would have also had a heap of other avenues available to solve their issue. I could also implement something to prevent the issue from happening again if it were available.

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