Your ticket system needs more monitoring

Often enough, they have one rather common problem: they do not track actual business processes.

Take my case, for example.

On 2014-07-01, I used an online form to order some internets from NetCologne to my new abode in Cologne. I got an email confirmation a few minutes later, informing me that I’ll probably get my line connected on 2014-07-24, and I’d receive further instructions via snail mail.

The late connection date is due to the line being operated by the Deutsche Telekom, where one of their techs has to be requested to do the actual measuring of quality and hooking it up to the local ISP. (Yes, really, but that’s a rather different affair.)

I sent out the SEPA mandate a bit late because I kind of forgot it was supposed to be sent out.

Fast forward to 2014-07-21, I haven’t received any kind of information yet. I call the hotline. They tell me that “Despite what we say, 4-6 weeks can happen.” without any further kind of comment on my situation.

Fast forward to 2014-08-11. I call again to ask what the hell is happening; somebody told me they see that there’s a problem with my account and that they’d be happy to help and they’d do everything necessary.

2014-08-21. I again call, rather chilled and relaxed from a short vacation, and ask if they’d kindly supply me with some kind of information. “There’s been a technical problem”, they say. “You should be receiving info soon!”

2014-08-28. Call to the hotline. Get forwarded to L2. “Yeah, I found your ticket here. Says so that the Telekom tech checked the line on 2014-07-24 (!) and said it was okay. The system got stuck in a weird state. You’ll just have to go to a store and get your device.”

Cue me being slightly flabberghasted. It was after business closing times for the stores, so I couldn’t go to them just now. I remembered that I forgot to ask for my credentials – I never got something from NetCologne other than the entry receipt of my order.

Call to the hotline again. “Yes, I can see here that due to a system error, your order confirmation never got sent out. I asked some people here to speed up the whole process, you should have Internet really soon now!”.

Next day, I visit the store. Pick up a router. Unpack it, notice that the splitter for the DSL line was not in the box, try to connect the box, connection doesn’t work. Borrow a splitter from a friend, connect it again, still nothing.

2014-09-01. I call the hotline to kindly inquire as to why my modem isn’t getting a DSL sync.

“Well, I see here that your line is supposed to be hooked up on 2014-09-22.” “Uhm, you told me last week it was hooked up and I just needed to get my box?” “I’m just the tech guy, and it says here your line will be hooked up on 2014-09-22.” Redial, ask for accounts, inquire as to wtf happened. “Yes, we had to order a new connection because of reasons, and the Telekom technician delay is the usual three weeks.” Cue mildly irritated questioning from my side. “I’m sorry, I can only escalate this to conflict management to see if we can speed up the process.” Do so, hang up.

So, what went wrong? One sample scenario:

  1. NetCologne receives a ticket, autoresponder acknowledges reception.
  2. Employee works on ticket, maybe notices the lack of a mandate, and pushes it back for follow-up.
  3. Employee leaves on vacation, someone else possibly processes document scan of the mandate, ticket system has the ticket locked or similar, preventing an update for “information received”.
  4. External callback from the Telekom, line is okay. Noted somewhere in the ticket system.
  5. Returns to work, ticket does not appear actionable.
  6. User starts enquiring particularly loudly, someone looks up the ticket and notices the confirmation wasn’t even sent.
  7. Slight crapping of pants.
  8. Escalate ticket to techies to check connection.
  9. Techies think $something is wrong with the line, issue external call to Telekom.
  10. Customer pissed.

That’s just one sample scenario, mind, but something along those lines will most likely have happened.

Why did this even happen? Because there’s no externally controlled process management.

Following steps should happen:

  1. New customer gets accepted, spawns a checklist, containing things like “order confirmation”, “line check”, “connection delegation”, “provisioning configuration” etc.
  2. Checklist should be able to be viewed by anyone and acked while referring to tickets that ack them.
  3. Checklist should escalate when actions exceed usual timeframes or nobody is working on them.

It shouldn’t be particularly hard to implement a system like this or similar, probably even with some OTRS or RT magics for the low-end variant. For detached ticket-based companies, it’s an absolute must that some sort of control exists to ensure processes actually get handled.

Else you have “customers” you fail to convert into money for over two months who are increasingly pissed for no better reason than “Sorry, we forgot about you” – even though they’ve regularly been saying hi.