The importance of IT ticket handling best practices is plainly on display as one of the most vital functions of an IT department. By optimizing the IT ticket handling process with the support of a software-based ticketing system, a company can realize sizable business benefits for customer service — specifically, by improving incident management and request fulfillment.  

IT service and support teams work closely with the IT organization's ticket-handling software to resolve support tickets in the shortest period possible, Typically, that’s by doing so within agreed target resolution times known as service-level agreements (SLAs).  

To support IT ticket handling best practices, IT support workers may also build and maintain a knowledge base. Its purpose: to collect information about known IT issues and help reduce resolution times for similar tickets. 

Why is IT ticket handling important? 

Businesses increasingly depend on IT infrastructure and services to support processes that drive revenue. IT ticket creation happens when users encounter an IT issue or require a service from the IT service desk.  

From there, IT support staff engage with the IT ticket management system to optimize the customer experience during the resolution process. At the same time, they’re managing critical ticket handling key performance indicators (KPIs) like ticket response time and resolution times.  

Inefficient ticket handling processes can lead to SLA breaches, where an unaddressed IT issue ends up causing unplanned service downtime that impacts customers of the business. Lost or mismanaged tickets and unnecessary escalations can also lead to excess costs. These obviously impact business profitability and the overall ROI of service desk operations.  

For these reasons, many IT organizations rely on an IT service desk solution that supports a streamlined and effective process built on IT ticket handling best practices.  

20 IT ticket handling best practices 

1. Avoid unnecessarily creating IT tickets for issues that have approved resolutions 

Unnecessary tickets lead to overworked IT service desk operators. When an IT issue presents itself repeatedly, IT operators should develop an approved resolution and document it within the IT organization's knowledge base.  

Users should be encouraged to self-service their IT issues using approved resolutions from the knowledge base or a customized self-service portal. ITSM software can connect users with approved resolutions before an unnecessary IT ticket is created.  

2. Determine which tickets get handled first 

Your IT service desk should determine how to organize and prioritize tickets. The optimal prioritization method is different for each company and depends on several factors. The most common models are: 

  • First in, first out (also called first-come, first-served), where tickets are handled in chronological order according to when the ticket was received. 
  • Pick and choose/VIP, where tickets are handled based on the urgency of the request.  

Your organization may choose to stick to one model, or to change models, when necessary, based on business requirements. The focus of IT ticket prioritization should be to provide the most effective customer support for end-users. 

3. Avoid needless waiting time for a change authorization 

IT organizations should implement ITSM software that automatically informs change managers when their authorization is required.  

This ensures timely communication and coordination between change management and the service desk, reducing resolution times for issues that require change implementation. This process acceleration is one of the most important benefits of software-supported IT ticket handling best practices. 

4. Always set and monitor ticket status 

Service desk staff are responsible for accurately setting and monitoring the status of each ticket to prevent duplicated effort and ensure that prioritization is conducted accurately. IT tickets should be categorized as one of the following: 

  • New/open. 
  • In progress. 
  • On hold. 
  • Closed. 

Team members at the service desk should develop consistent criteria for assigning each type of ticket status. 

5. Grade urgency based on ticket information 

IT service and support representatives should implement and enforce a standard ticket format. This includes contact information for the user, a description of the IT issue and assessing its impact on business processes.  

Service desk teams can use this information to assess the urgency of each IT ticket and respond to tickets based on their priority.  

Developing a standard method for assessing ticket urgency helps ensure service and support staff align their priorities with the needs of the business. That’s another of the big benefits of IT ticket handling best practices. 

6. Move a change forward when the assigned change manager is unavailable 

What happens when the assigned change manager for a given change goes on vacation? What if there’s a need to make an urgent change that requires approval from that person? IT organizations should avoid creating approval structures that grind to a halt when key personnel become temporarily unavailable.  

In situations where an assigned change manager may be unavailable, the IT organization should assign an alternative person who can take responsibility for approving selected changes.  

One of the benefits of IT ticket handling best practices like this one? It removes problems that often go unforeseen but end up giving your service desk’s reputation a black eye.  

7. Enable self-service 

The cost of resolving an IT ticket is proportional to the escalation level it reaches. Data from MetricNet indicates the following average costs for ticket resolutions by escalation level: 

  • Level 1 Ticket: $22 
  • Level 2 Ticket: $69 
  • Level 3 Ticket $104 
  • Field Support: $221 
  • Vendor Support: $599 

The same research found that resolving an IT ticket through customer self-service costs just two dollars! Enabling self-service is, therefore, one of the most important IT ticket handling best practices an IT department can take to reduce the overall burden on its ticketing system.  

8. Prevent junk emails getting into your IT helpdesk 

Manually filtering junk emails can be a major time sink for your IT helpdesk. In addition to eating away at their valuable productive time, excessive spam mail also increases the probability of overlooking actual tickets that require a timely response.  

To eliminate this task, IT managers should configure spam filters for the service desk inbox.  

9. Avoid costly IT mistakes arising from partially filled service requests 

IT service desks handle incident resolution along with fulfilling service requests from the business. Incomplete or partially complete service requests can result in service delivery inefficiency. That’s because support staff are left without the necessary information and details to accurately fulfill the request.  

The service desk should customize templates for various types of requests to ensure that adequate information is provided when the request is first made. When creating the templates, carefully consider which data is necessary to help the support staff quickly resolve the issue. 

Make these data fields mandatory.  An editor may also be assigned to review IT tickets and other service requests for completeness before they’re forwarded to IT support staff.  

10. Streamline IT service request validation 

Before fulfilling a service request, IT support staff must validate the request. Validation can have several components, including: 

  • Ensuring that the person who made the request was authorized to do so. 
  • Ensuring that the service requested is genuinely required by the intended recipient of the service. 

For some organizations, it may be advisable to have one or more persons in the role of approving and validating service requests before they reach IT support staff. Department heads may be held responsible for validating service requests that come from their departments. Streamlining IT ticket validation helps ensure that IT operators focus their efforts on servicing valid requests. 

11. Avoid long-winded email conversations in your service request fulfillment process 

The best way to avoid lengthy email exchanges with customers that lengthen the incident management and request fulfillment processes is to collect the necessary information the moment a ticket is created.  

Ticket management software can be used to set up request templates. These templates require users to answer the most important questions about each type of request before an IT ticket is created. Request templates should be customized as much as necessary to minimize back-and-forth conversations with customers. 

12. Promptly notify technicians of critical incidents 

When critical incidents occur after hours or during the holidays, technicians must be notified immediately to help prevent business outages that impact revenue.  

IT organizations should adopt a service desk solution that supports critical incident notification for technicians through appropriate channels during off-hours. One of the benefits of ITSM software is that it can work 24/7 to ensure major issues get prompt attention. 

13. Proactively avoid unnecessary escalations of tickets 

Escalating a ticket to a higher support level increases the total cost of resolution. So it's important to only escalate when necessary. Escalations may be triggered automatically when a ticket is approaching SLA violation, meaning IT support staff have taken too long to respond to or resolve the issue.  

IT managers can avoid unnecessary ticket escalations by configuring alerts for tickets that are approaching SLA violation. That way, they’re treated as a high priority before they result in an unnecessary escalation. This is especially useful when a ticket may have been overlooked or incorrectly assigned and is now approaching SLA violation. 

14. But don't be afraid to escalate tickets if needed 

With that said, escalations should be encouraged and welcomed in situations where they’re required. For instance, when an IT issue impacts critical revenue-generating business processes. IT support staff should willingly escalate tickets when additional support is required to support a positive business outcome or to avoid or mitigate a negative one. 

15. Set up a tiered support structure 

For larger IT organizations that deal with greater volumes of tickets, a tiered support structure ensures that the most qualified technicians are focused on the most demanding incident fixes. Lower-tier technicians will be assigned to simpler tasks like reviewing/approving/routing tickets and fulfilling basic requests.  

Establishing a tiered support structure optimizes how IT support staff use their time and reduces ticket management times —  and costs —  at each level. This improved efficiency is another benefit of IT ticket handling best practices. 

16. Create a support workflow (and enforce it) 

Systems produce predictable and consistent results. A support workflow is a system that describes, from a broad perspective, how IT support staff should manage new IT tickets as they enter the ticket-handling system.  

A support workflow directs IT support staff to follow a predictable set of steps when resolving a ticket. It also helps manage customer expectations about how support tickets will be handled.  When evaluating a ticket management software solution, verify that the solution includes pre-built workflow and workflow design tools for creating new or altering existing workflow. 

17. Segment your support tickets 

Larger IT service desk teams depend on accurately segmented IT support tickets to consistently meet SLAs. Segmenting support tickets ensures that incident reports or service requests that pertain to a particular technology or stage of the customer journey are routed to the most qualified person who can resolve the issue as quickly as possible.  

This could mean routing tickets differently depending on the problem device (printer, server, desktop, et cetera.), or based on the type of service inquiry (billing, shipping, returns, etc.). However you choose to segment, it’s clear that the ability to triage support requests efficiently with segmentation can decrease first response times and positively impact customer satisfaction.  

18. Empower your support staff 

IT agents need access to the right knowledge and tools to effectively resolve customer issues. This means ensuring they receive tickets with accurate and up-to-date information, correctly filled out by the customer. It also means maintaining a robust knowledge base where they can reference similar cases and make updates when they learn new information.  

The best way to empower support staff is with an IT ticket handling software system that helps them stay organized and reduces duplicated or misdirected effort. This reduction in costs and frustration is yet another of the tangible benefits of adopting IT ticket handling best practices. 

19. Provide a historical view 

As a ticket moves through the service desk and through escalations, it may be handled by many different people. To provide the best possible experience for service desk customers, it’s important that each new person handling a ticket can review the entire documented history of the ticket.  

This saves the customer from re-explaining the issue to several IT support workers throughout the ticket-handling process. And providing a better customer experience is definitely among the benefits of IT ticket handling best practices. 

20. Follow the data 

IT organizations striving for service excellence must “follow the data.” The first step toward improving IT ticket handling is accurately measuring critical service desk key performance indicators (KPIs).  Service desks should strongly consider measuring at least these KPIs: 

  • Average response time. 
  • Average resolution time.
  • Average overall ticket handling time. 
  • Ticket escalation rates. 
  • Self-service usage rates.
  • SLA attainment.

Expanding IT ticket handling best practices (and the role of IT) 

By adopting IT ticket handling best practices like the ones we’ve just covered, as well as by integrating new IT tools into its offerings, an IT department can expand and enhance its ability to serve every operation it touches across the organization.  This means that over time, the IT department will have greater input into the success and strategic direction of its business. 

This is why more IT organizations that realize the promise and importance of service management are adopting IT ticket handling best practices. They know better IT ticket handling is a key building block of ITSM and meeting the rapidly evolving needs of their businesses.