Internal Tickets Create Misery
“Open a ticket.” How often have you heard that phrase at work? When working with freelancers and other companies, creating a ticket is the beginning of something great. When opening a ticket with another department at your company, everyone is headed for a bad time. What makes internal ticket systems so painful? How can they be fixed?
There are many reasons that companies utilize internal tickets systems, where salaried employees take tickets from a queue and complete them as quickly as possible.
The reasons for internal ticket systems actually make good sense:
- Standardization of incoming work requests
- Easy to prioritize requested work
- Enable work parallelization
- Provide tracibility for employee contributions
However, there are some major problems:
- Many tickets are needed only because of business workflow problems
- Requester satisfaction is not relevant to fulfillers
- Typically, work requests cannot be rejected
- Requesters feel entitled to quick and flawless ticket fulfillment
We will walk through some of the features that make external ticket system so empowering, and then we’ll look more in-depth at some of the problems of internal ticket systems. Come and explore some of the possible solutions I’ve thought of, and add your own in the comments. Let’s do what we can to fix the internal ticket systems at the companies we work!
External Ticket Systems
For a system comparison, consider the process of requested work from freelancers or other service providers.
The chief advantage of an external ticket system is its reward structure. When you are working with a freelancer, they receive payments, build long-term business relationships, and generates future referrals, in addition to receiving direct and immediate feedback based on how well they performed a task. The fulfiller is rewarded for good performance, and highly rewarded for excellent performance.
If the fulfiller doesn’t fully deliver the required work, he doesn’t receive his final payout. On some platforms there are additional sanctions or reputation penalties for non-fulfillment. This is a well-structured natural reward structure which inherently rewards and reinforces good behavior, and punishes poor performance.
Similarly, there is more process formality imposed on work requesters, which is beneficial for the work fulfillers. If requirements are incomplete, then the work request can be rejected or sent back to the requester for clarification. If they remain unclear, the freelancer is under no obligation. This protects freelancers from unreasonable clients, since they can ultimately choose whom to work with.
The responsbility for the project is correctly left to the requester. The requester can work with a freelancer in a way that is mutually agreeable, or they can solve the problem themselves. It’s not the fulfiller’s problem. This realistically prevents unreasonable requests, insanely scoped requests, and some of the shockingly stupid requests that flood internal tickets systems daily.
Fundamentally, external work request systems are incredibly highly-functioning. They establish symbiotic win-win relationships. The freelancer chooses which requests to accept, which to charge more for, and which to reject. All work requests are mutually agreed upon. Clients have the freedom to solve their problems themselves, or choose which freelancers they want to do business with. Often long-term business relationships are formed, and they are based on mutual respect and mutual benefit. The inherent natural reward structure behaviorally reinforces healthy interactions on both sides.
Internal Ticket Systems
Internal ticket systems create a very different set of experiences. The first major barrier is that many tickets are required because many companies have highly policed environments which are based on preventing employee behaviors instead of empowering employees.
1. Lack of Trust Creates Workflow Problems
Perhaps there are IT policies that prevent employees from installing tools they need to do their jobs, and so an IT Ticket is required for the employee to fulfill his job. This ticket is required because of an artificial barrier. Whenever tickets are required because of artificial barriers created by lack of trust, misery will always be the result. The employee would have been happier to install the software himself, so it’s an imposed inconvenience to need to open a ticket at all.
There is no joy in having IT do something that is necessary. Any time from when the ticket is opened until when the ticket is closed is business dead time. For productive employees, these workflow-barrier tickets are soul killing. For ticket fulfillers, they are burdened with these tickets solely due to non-essential business policies.
- Empower your employees to directly fulfill their own job responsibilities
- Remove barriers that prevent people from directly fulfilling their responsibilities
- Never hire an employee you don’t trust
- Remove the need for workflow-required internal tickets
2. Work Fulfillers Are Indentured Slaves
The next core problem is the treatment of internal ticket fulfillers. The reward structure is structured to give all rewards to the company, and some small punishments to the fulfillers. This realistically removes all incentive for ticket fulfillers to aim for greatness. When they are paid by the hour and expected to close a minimum number of tickets, then client happiness doesn’t factor into the equation. There is no bonus compensation for fulfillers who close tickets faster, make clients happy, or prevent the need for tickets. A fulfiller isn’t allowed to leave the office once he closes his minimum number of tickets. This creates misery.
- Use an incentive structure to directly and immediately reward high performers
- Establish client satisfaction as the primary value factor for internal tickets
- Give high-performing fulfillers freedom and leverage to improve the system
- Enable requesters to choose which fulfillers they wish to work with
3. Ticket Quality Is Often Poor
Another common occurrence is that tickets are opened without sufficient context, without sufficient detail, improperly dispatched, or for things that the requester should be expected to do for themselves. Without a clear and proper intake process, fulfillers are expected to deal with these requests and be judged for how they fulfill these crappy requests. Poor intake procedure causes bored and repetitive responses to tickets such as the famous “Have you tried turning it off and back on again?” This is a very disrespectful process. It undervalues ticket fulfillers and demeans them. It is a major source of misery.
- Empower fulfillers to create a work intake filter
- Train fulfillers to deny poor or incorrect requests
- Make it easy for tickets to automatically have sufficient detail and context
- Create a blacklist for consistently disrespectful requesters
4. Requesters Feel Entitled To Superior Service
Requesters who open internal tickets feel that the other department works for them, and due to perceptual biases feel that their issue is more important than all of the other tickets in the system. It’s partially a re-transmission of the powerlessness requesters feel due to the paranoid workflow barriers, which manifests as high expectations on fulfillers. It’s partially because requesters don’t have other options, which also results in feelings of powerlessness. It’s partially a symptom of lack of skin in the game. If different departments are escalating their own tickets after opening them, it further compounds the problem and creates even higher pressure, and lofty expectations. This is a major source of misery.
- Remove workflow barriers that force employees to open tickets
- Enable internal competition so that requesters have options
- Pass part of the cost of ticket fulfillment to requesters, to give them ownership
- Establish ticket system transparency, to calibrate expectations
Healthy Ticket System Essentials
The biggest key to a healthy and empowering ticket system is that it should be structured to benefit work requesters and fulfillers equally. Work intake should be properly structured to ensure that everything flows as effortlessly as possible. Fulfillers should be primarily focused on client satisfaction, rather than on working a set number of hours, or making their boss “happy”.
The system should make each person more powerful, instead of being used as a coping mechanism for artificially restrained power. Rewards should be tied directly to fulfillment quality, so that natural incentives serve as the key motivators. Costs should be partially passed on to requesters, so that they take full ownership of their requests.
The biggest two structural changes that would transform internal ticket systems from sources of misery to tools of empowerment are:
- Allow natural costs and benefits to motivate behavior
- Give requesters and fulfillers genuine optionality
What do you think? What other miseries of internal ticket systems have you experienced? What other elements of external systems make them so empowering? Do you have other ideas for how we can fix our company ticket systems? Share in the comments.