Hints and Tips | | Published November 10, 2016

Prioritizing Support Tickets: Defining Priority & Severity

The definition of ticket severity comes in many flavors depending on opinions. Some help desk ticketing systems have so many severity types to choose from it's overwhelming. Or others are so vague no one really knows what they mean. Both of these are not only confusing to the customer, but also confusing to the support team. The job of a customer support provider is to make your customers' lives easier and to make support as efficient as possible. With that in mind, here are 5 tips on how to prioritize support tickets and define ticket severity:

1) Avoid confusing ticket severity definitions – Don’t use words such as “Urgent”, “High”, “Medium”, and “Low” to define ticket severity. For example, people define "Urgent" differently; one person may evaluate a ticket and deem it “Urgent”, while another may place a different level of severity on the ticket. At a minimum, constantly communicate to new and current employees your ticket severity definitions to make sure they are being applied correctly.

2) Make it customer friendly – Defining a ticket severity to a customer as “Level 2” is not helpful. Customers won’t have any idea what your support levels cover or how long they should wait for a response. If absolutely necessary, make ticket severity tiers accessible to customers online so they can review the information thoroughly on their own time. Establishing proper communication in B2B relationships is important in making sure customers feel like their issues are understood and addressed correctly.

3) Use easy to understand severity definitions – Utilize definitions that make sense and get to the point. For example, being specific like "business cannot operate" or "only one user affected" is very clear and lets the customer choose the most appropriate level of severity. The support team will also know exactly what the business impact of the issue is, so they can address it appropriately.

4) Use severity to set priority – Tickets with a higher level of severity such as those affecting operations should be assigned the highest priority while lower levels of severity such as simple questions about functionality can be given a lower priority. Customer support software can automatically route tickets based on their severity and send alert messages to team members based on severity type through ticket automation.

5) Answer high severity inquiries first – This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s surprising how many companies, especially in B2B, do not do this. Always answer top priority issues immediately – even if it's a simple "we've received your support request, we understand the severity of this issue and have our team working on it right now" response. This reassures customers that their message has been received and can reduce additional communication. Lower priority issues can likely be answered later, within 24 hours for example. Just remember that all customers are important and responding quickly can improve customer satisfaction.

In short, defining ticket severity means being very specific with your definitions on how severe an issue is. Let the customer select the severity based on very specific criteria, then assign the ticket appropriately through automation. Don’t forget to let the customer know you’ve received their ticket to reduce additional communication. With some planning, defining ticket severity correctly can save a company both time and money.