That’s one of the recommendations Doug Cornelius makes in various discussions around the blogosphere about poor communication between “geeks” and “users”. (Start here at 3 geeks and a Law Blog, which links to Jenn Steele’s original post and read the comments on both for the background.)
Doug’s claim that the problem with help desk tickets is that no one ever knows what happens and where they go, so opening it up so that he, as a user can log in and see what has been happening to resolve his issues, would solve the communication problem. I’m going to disagree.
Not because Doug’s idea is a bad one, in fact I think that should be a requirement of any ticketing system. It certainly would help ease some of that black hole feeling, but I don’t think it would put much of a dent in the real communication problem.
That’s because, in my view, the lack of communication has little to do with users not being able to follow up for themselves, and everything to do with the fact that geeks are not given any reason to really communicate with users. Think about it, IT heads and organization’s management teams demand those automated systems that allow a help desk tech to either fix the problem, or assign it to someone to fix, without ever leaving their desk. They connect remotely to a user’s machine, make a small change, disconnect and call the ticket closed. There’s no time spend building relationships with users, learning about what work they are trying to accomplish, talking to them about how they are working, looking for teachable moments where the tech could maybe help a user find a simpler way to do something etc. Those are the kinds of things that increase communication back and forth, not yet another piece of technology.
If you work at a help desk though, why woud you spend the time to do this? On one hand, you’re probably working short staffed due to cutbacks, supporting a couple of hundred users with 1 or 2 front line techs, and what are you being evaluated on? The quality of relationships you’ve built, the follow up calls/visits to a user to make sure a fix is working, or how much you understand what your users are trying to do and how they could use technology to be more efficient? No, you’re being evaluated on how many tickets you close.
Managers, remember you get the behavior you measure. If you measure closing tickets quickly and in large numbers, you’ll get tickets closed quickly and in great quantity. When that results in poor communication between techs and users who don’t know each other at all, I guess you better find a way to measure, and reward, behavior that improves those relationships. If you continue to only look at the bottom line expense of tech support, you’ll get the bottom of tech support.