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Chasing colleagues: Support ticket requests

"Sorry to be a pain..."
--Employee

One Support Ticket, Many Uncertainties

Dana was a new member of the customer support team at a financial services startup. She was handling a support ticket from a high value client who had been locked out of their account for 24 hours. Dana had messaged the project manager of the engineering team twice with the following message, "Can I have an update on the ticket request number 1305? The client is quite upset.", and heard nothing back. She was receiving angry emails from the client and didn't know what to do. Five days later, the project manager responded saying the issue had been resolved. However, the client had left a bad review and closed their account 2 days later.

Shortly after, Dana received a snappy email from the project manager saying that she had been "unclear about urgency of the support ticket and please be more ‘on the ball’".

The communication gap

When we spoke to Dana, we found there were many uncertainties that led to this communication break down. First, Dana hadn't known the proper way to communicate the urgency of the situation. Furthermore, Dana wasn't sure about the urgency of the situation in the first place. Finally, Dana was uncertain about how to chase without becoming too annoying. The most effective conversation would be to seek clarification on all of these points.

Solution

We suggested Dana address the following in a conversation with the project manager:

I’d like to have more clarity on how to convey urgency. Could we go over some example client ticket requests and their corresponding urgencies for me to have a better picture?
Alternatively, can we discuss what information I should include in my ticket update requests that could help the engineering team to assess the priority of the support ticket?
Can we discuss best practices for following-up on requests? For example, how often I should send reminders?

Outcomes

The project manager appreciated Dana's proactive method of addressing what happened. The following was agreed with the wider support team: A rubric would be made with guidelines for how to assign numeric values to urgencies for customer tickets. Additionally, details of the client value and problem would be included with each update request. This was because other priorities could be taking up the engineering team's bandwidth and the support team wouldn't necessarily be aware of this information. Finally, it was agreed that unless otherwise specified, the support team would follow up with reminders once a day. These new protocols increased the efficiency of handling support tickets and made the process much less stressful for the team.

Take-Home lessons

Get clear about what's unclear. At first glance, based on the project manager's initial response, Dana's situation seemed to be about not having chased enough. However, further analysis revealed there were many layers of uncertainty that led to this communication failure including the process for assessing urgency, how to communicate it, as well as the appropriate rate of following up on requests. Understanding the many aspects of uncertainty that are present in a workflow or process will help teams build more systematic approaches to handling such situations.


*Due to the sensitive nature of our case studies, names and details have been changed to be anonymous.

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