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7 ways to clear a backlog of Service Desk tickets

How can I clear a backlog of Service Desk tickets without overtime?

This is a good question faced by many Service Desk Managers. How do you reduce or clear a backlog when you cannot simply throw more resources at it?

Here’s some approaches that have worked for me in the past and that can be mixed and matched as appropriate to your organisation:

1. Increase 1st Call Resolution

Implement measures and approaches to increase 1st Call Resolution:

  • Set a target/SLA, measure it daily for the month to date and report back to the team.
  • Publicly praise the Analyst(s) resolving the most calls.
  • See if some further coaching or training can help those staff members who are resolving the least at first call.
  • Set targets around adding to the knowledge base, updating it, and using it.

2. Head off calls before they happen

Ensure that when you get major outages you do all you can to head off calls before they get logged:

  • Set up an IVR message on the Service Desk phone system so you do not get the calls coming through about known major incidents.
  • Set up a web notification/noticeboard for planned and unplanned outages, and encourage users to check there first.

3. Minimise follow-up calls

You are probably getting a lot of follow-up calls for existing incidents:

  • Identify which 2nd Level teams have the most open and aging incidents. Target them first.
  • Notify customers that you have a backlog that you are working through, and set an expectation so that they only need to call if the open incident or request is urgent.
  • Of course as you reduce the backlog, you’ll get less chase-up calls, freeing up your staff to resolve or progress more of the backlog!

4. Use different queues for different ticket types

Make sure that the different types of incidents and requests held at Service Desk level have
queues in the ITSM toolset that relate to that type of ticket, e.g. have a Tier 2 queue for Service Desk resolvable calls that cannot be resolved at first call, and have a Service Desk queue for calls where you are waiting for customers to supply further info (these should be in an ‘on hold’ status anyway with the SLA clock not ticking). You might find that other queues for the Service Desk make sense once you start thinking down this path.

5. Free up the best resolvers

If your phone system allows it, set certain staff that are good resolvers or ‘queue clearers’ to only receive calls when everyone else is busy. Then set them the task for the day or week for clearing down a certain queue. If you are able to give them the task for a week, all the better, as a sense of ownership (and hopefully pride) can then form in regards to how they manage that queue.

6. Keep tickets progressing

Check on a daily basis that each Analyst has taken responsibility to progress any tickets open in their own WIPbin or personal queue. You may even wish to make it a process that such tickets are sent through to the Service Desk queue at the end of each day so they are not forgotten.

7. Implement ITIL Problem Management

An ITIL Problem Management type approaches can assist by reducing the number of new tickets being created:

  • Ask IT subject matter experts what can be done to reduce incidents.
  • Do some trend analysis from your incident reporting to identify areas that can be improved.
  • Perform root cause analysis on all major incidents so that recurrence is minimised.

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