Gosh, I hate calling customer communications “tickets”, but I do, on the other hand, love an allowance of alliteration. 

So, “Pick-a-Ticket”, it was

Leading a team with a small, but significant and persistent, case ageing issue, I needed strategies. These old cases were stuck. They needed help. They needed re-gearing. They needed re-engaging. They needed expert attention. Or, indeed, any attention.

We were running with a pretty large backlog at the time. A couple of acquisitions and organisational readjustments had hit us hard over the previous year or so, and the folks were floundering. We were in full-on fire-fighting mode. Customers who shouted loudest got the most attention. Customers who cared, well, they were the ones we cared about.

But this quagmire of old cases was bothering me. It was dragging the team down. The odd one would get closed, through a spark of inspiration, or a product fix, or, frankly, the customer not caring any more. But otherwise, these cases hung around. The quagmire muddied my dashboards, and messed up our metrics.

I’d tried the good old rally of pep talks, serial prodding and questioning, and outright nagging. But none of them really helped us get the swampy base layer cleared away. 

We figured there were a number of problems at play:

  1. Customers don’t tell you when they cease to care about an issue
  2. Processes didn’t support any prioritisation of old cases
  3. Team members would let cases fester when they couldn’t get traction (either technically or operationally)

So, “Pick-a-Ticket” was born. We had a twice-weekly 15 minute focus session, held virtually or on a call, where team members rotated to pick their ’stuck’ or old cases. They had first option to volunteer, otherwise I’d just pick some concerning ones from the dashboards. 

With the whole team present, and a strict 15 minute time limit, they were also all pretty engaged. There was an opportunity here to improve things for everyone. 

We brainstormed everything about the first ticket, from customer status, to technical inspiration and expertise, to procedural issues and more. When the ticket owner had enough to progress the ticket, we moved on. And we stopped after 15 minutes (though I never stopped absolutely mid-flow, we initiated no new conversations after 15 minutes).

Processes were streamlined. Expertise was distributed. Customer engagement strategies were shared. In every session, without fail, we moved those tickets a little closer to closure.

The result was pretty startling. A 19% reduction in Time to Resolution (TTR). That, and other strategies, contributed to a 25% reduction in product patch delivery time, and, most staggeringly, a near-on 95% reduction in backlog. After all, once you can see the wood for the trees, the progress propagates itself. The release allows people to streamline their own operations, as well as the organisation’s.

Resolution-focus sessions such as these are a powerful weapon in the armoury of any CS team.

Do you do something like this? What’re your top strategies for combating case-ageing problems?

This article first appeared on my Linkedin publications in May 2019