How to Integrate an Automated Ticketing System into your MSP Business

Acronis
Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud
for Service Providers

The primary objective of modern MSPs is to effectively manage their clients' IT infrastructures to quickly resolve issues, improve customer experience, and ensure business continuity. Whenever a client of yours faces a problem, they can submit a request to your ticketing system and await a quick resolution.

While resolving a single client's IT issues is often easy for experienced MSPs, handling swarms of different customer requests via traditional support approaches alone is challenging. This is why automated ticketing systems are critical to streamlining request management. They can empower optimized ticket tracking and reporting, dynamic SLA enforcement, and better customer conversations to ensure a great support experience for both employees and clients.

This article will explore the essence of help desk software, the benefits of automation, and the required steps to integrate automated ticketing systems for MSPs.

Understanding Ticketing Systems: The Basics

Ticketing systems track and manage customer support requests and specific issue inquiries across different communication platforms - chatbots, email, social media, forums, etc. A dedicated help desk ticketing system provides a service hub for clients or customers to submit support requests and for the support teams to monitor, manage, and resolve all pending support tickets.

Modern help desk ticketing systems give customers a user-friendly interface to easily submit requests and track their progress. Moreover, the centralized platform enables support agents to categorize, prioritize, and properly assign tickets. But wait...

...what exactly are "tickets"?

A ticket commonly refers to a request to be resolved by IT or customer support teams (e.g., bug fixes, individual user requests, IT infrastructure vulnerabilities). Any user or employee request generates the so-called "ticket" to track the inquiry efficiently across its entire life cycle:

  • A request is submitted by a client or user.
  • The ticket is created, and its issuing is acknowledged and shared with the client and the support representative.
  • The ticket is officially assigned to a support agent.
  • Ticket status is shared with other relevant departments.
  • The support agent(s) work towards fulfilling the request and resolving the ticket.

From start to resolution, the client and the representative can communicate and follow the ticket's progress until the case is closed.

Advanced ticketing software

Dedicated ticket management software offers advanced features, such as automated notifications, data management, knowledge base, and analytics tools to increase your teams' productivity and efficiency.

In the IT sphere, the ticketing system is often combined with the service help desk system to provide an IT infrastructure library comprising numerous information technology best practices. This way, IT support technicians can use the service desk software to improve the quality and delivery of different IT services to clients, staff, and stakeholders.

A robust help desk ticketing solution typically includes the following features:

  • A self-service portal
  • Automation capabilities
  • Customization features
  • Alerts and regular reports
  • Centralized communication channels

While a reliable ticketing system provides many features to boost MSP business tools, we will focus on the potential of automation to bring your company to the top of its game. Let's dive in!

What is an Automated Ticketing Solution?

Automated ticketing systems are designed to handle incoming requests from clients and users without human supervision from support agents. This way, your support teams can focus on critical business projects and potential operational issues rather than repetitive, mundane tasks and processes. A robust automated ticketing system can streamline ticket tracking and resolution for the MSP and its clients.

The three primary functions of automation in ticketing software are the following:

  • Upfront customer data collection to reduce the need for back-and-forth communication.
  • Real-time updates to automatically inform customers of ticket progress via email or other communication channels.
  • Workflow automation to provide efficient ticket assignment to specific agents, critical issue escalation to higher management, and task execution in line with strict, predefined rules.

Below, you can explore all the critical features of automated ticketing software.

Automated ticketing system features

Automated ticket routing

Automated ticket routing uses predefined criteria (e.g., availability, expertise level) to assign customer requests to the right support agent or team. This way, your organization can reduce response and resolution times and provide quick, accurate responses to your clients.

Omnichannel support

Omnichannel support integrates multiple channels - email, live chat, social media, phone, etc. - to streamline agent-customer communication. Your clients can use whichever channel they prefer to send requests, while support agents can manage tickets and customer messages from different channels via a centralized dashboard.

The centralized platform also enables one-click request-to-ticket conversion, which can speed up tracking and resolution.

Workflow automation rules

Workflow automation can streamline most customer support processes without the need for human intervention. Via workflow automation, your MSP business can identify and automate repetitive tasks (e.g., ticket assignment to the right team, sending notifications to clients, escalating high-tier customer issues), resulting in quicker ticket resolution times and improved customer satisfaction.

Real-time reporting

Real-time reporting gives managers and team leaders instant insights into their support team performance metrics. The feature allows continuous key metric monitoring - ticket volume, response and resolution times, customer satisfaction, customer feedback, and more - so leaders can identify areas of improvement and work with the customer service team to enhance performance in the long run.

Improved team collaboration

An automated ticketing tool can streamline team collaboration so agents can seamlessly share information and resolve tickets. Advanced collaboration features enable agents to assign tickets flexibly and share internal notes and mentions to boost the efficiency of the resolution process.

Integration

A reliable automated ticketing system can seamlessly integrate with other MSP and customer support tools to provide a 360-degree view of all customer interactions to ensure effective ticket management and resolution and a better customer experience.

Benefits of Integrating Automated Ticketing Software in MSPs

  • Enhanced productivity

Automating ticketing systems can improve the productivity of all teams included in the ticket management process. Automating ticket creation, assignment, and tracking offers a streamlined approach to reducing errors and time spent on various ticketing tasks. This frees up more time for your teams to focus on challenging service and asset management projects.

  • Efficient ticket prioritization

Automated ticket systems can boost ticket prioritization by assigning urgency levels to customer requests based on message content, user attributes, company details, and more to route tickets to the most suitable agent for the specific scenario.

What's great for MSPs is that an automated solution can also prioritize incoming tickets based on your client's service level agreement (SLA). The SLA outlines a time frame within which your support team must resolve the issue; this, in turn, can enable your teams to focus on the most pressing inquiries and fix them first.

  • Improved resolution time

As we've discussed, automation can streamline routine, repetitive tasks and allow support agents to focus on more challenging issues. This, in turn, can improve resolution times for both basic and advanced client requests.

As the automated solution handles common inquiries and provides assistance to clients, your teams can focus on resolving complex problems more quickly and efficiently.

  • Enhanced deflection rate

"Deflection rate" refers to the volume of tickets resolved daily without the assistance of a support agent. The right ticketing software can leverage automation to "deflect" clients from contacting customer support agents and fix the issue via chatbots, a comprehensive knowledge base, or FAQs.

If an MSP maintains a high deflection rate, this means that your clients are resolving issues independently, which can reduce customer support expenditure and free up your workforce to focus on pressing complex issues.

Pre-Integration Considerations

Assessing Your Current Ticketing Process

Whether you've been using your current ticketing system for years or recently implemented it, assessing the ticketing process is essential to automate your help desk solution successfully.

Even if you haven't been planning to implement automation, regular testing and monitoring are critical to measure performance and ticket system functionality. To do so efficiently, you can collect agent and customer feedback (user testing) via the following methods:

  • A/B testing to compare different ticketing system options
  • Performance testing to measure critical support metrics (ticket response and resolution speed, efficiency, and reliability)
  • Bug testing to identify potential errors

You can also rely on customer feedback forms, usability tests, agent interviews, observations, error logs, bug reports, statistics, load tests, and more to gather insightful data and correctly assess your current ticketing process.

Once you've gathered extensive performance data, it's time to analyze and put the findings into comprehensive reports. You can use inferential, descriptive, or predictive analytics to summarize the results and better explain the collected data. Moreover, you can employ root cause analysis, SWOT analysis, fishbone diagrams, etc., to compare expected to actual performance and pinpoint areas for improvement.

Lastly, you can leverage data visualization (dashboards, presentations) to present the reports to stakeholders so they'd all be on the same page regarding:

  • Current and future MSP needs
  • Potential weak spots and limitations in your existing ticketing system
  • Functionalities that your system is lacking and can benefit from in the future

Moreover, you will get a comprehensive idea of how a potential automation upgrade will affect your customer support strategy and brand vision and how it will benefit staff, customers, and stakeholders. Once all discussions are through, your MSP will be equipped to make an informed decision on moving forward with the automation integration process.

Identifying Integration Needs and Challenges

The next step towards successful integration is selecting and designing processes suitable for automation. During this phase, MSPs should consider various factors to determine which processes can benefit from automation and how to integrate it optimally. Such factors include:

  • Process frequency, complexity, and variability
  • Interdependency of ticketing system tasks
  • Data availability and data quality
  • Required security and compliance standards
  • The required level of human intervention to pilot each task

Moreover, MSPs must map out the workflow process from end to end (considering input and output metrics) to define roles and responsibilities for support teams and managers, identify triggers and exceptions, and calculate performance indicators. It is generally best to optimize and standardize your ticketing system processes before you proceed to automation integration.

Common automation integration challenges

Ticketing system automation and integration can raise numerous challenges for MSPs due to data security, complexity, change management, etc. Organizations must also consider organizational, technical, and even cultural barriers; such can include legacy systems, siloed departments, or incompatible formats.

Moreover, security concerns must be addressed adequately to safeguard users, data, systems, and processes from corruption, data breaches, or unauthorized access. MSPs may also need to update policies, train the support workforce, and communicate the brand's vision across the entire organization.

Lastly, monitoring and evaluation are critical to collecting data, defining key metrics, and outlining expected results to measure ticketing system automation's potential impact and benefits.

  • Integration with existing infrastructure requires MSPs to identify which automated processes can be integrated within their existing systems (e.g., customer relationship management (CRM), enterprise resource planning (ERP)). The process can be cumbersome and complex but will help map out the entire client journey to understand the customer data flow across different critical systems.
  • Data security and privacy concerns are crucial for modern MSPs. As a business collects more and more data and stores it via automated tools, companies must ensure that said data is protected and kept private to safeguard users and employees in line with compliance regulations.
  • Employee and customer resistance is a common challenge MSPs face when integrating new technology. Organizations must address all potential factors causing said resistance, such as fear of reduced job security or job loss, lack of understanding of the automated software, the robot-replacement fear, etc.
  • Automation tool complexity varies across solutions. Some are easy to pilot without extensive technical knowledge, while others require highly skilled personnel to set and operate them. MSPs must choose a solution suitable to their specific use cases and available workforce expertise to ensure successful, efficient integration and following operations.
  • Budgeting issues can arise for MSPs with limited financial resources to invest in dedicated automation technology. Organizations must thoroughly evaluate the expected costs and benefits of customer support automation before investing in it. Moreover, they should calculate the expected maintenance and service management costs to meet the most optimal customer support standards.

Choosing the Right Automated Ticketing Solution

Once your MSP has evaluated your current ticketing system process and defined integration needs, goals, and potential challenges, you must choose the right automated ticket software to fulfill your integration strategy. While selecting an automated ticketing system vendor, you must consider various factors - their experience, reputation, pricing, security, available support, and scalability.

Moreover, you must evaluate the solution's features - user interface (UI), automation, reporting, workflow, customization, compliance, and integration capabilities - to pick the most suitable option based on your specific criteria and budget. Then, you can request references, testimonials, and demos to validate the vendor's claims regarding their product.

Technical Steps to Integrate an Automated Ticketing System

API Integration and Connectivity

The first technical step in implementing an automated ticketing system is ensuring your chosen AI/automated solution integrates with all existing databases, support channels, and any additional software within your infrastructure. Such instances can include CRM software, social media accounts, support inboxes, apps, payment portals, etc.

Integrating the automated help desk ticketing system with your existing tech stack provides a more comprehensive context on client issues and business operations to speed up ticket resolution.

Data Migration: Transferring Existing Tickets

One of the critical elements of successful process automation is your existing data migration. As an MSP, data is at the core of your service desk ticketing system; you must ensure its availability, integrity, and security throughout the entire upgrade process.

To do so, organizations must prepare both the data and infrastructure for the migration. The process involves backing up existing tickets, fixing errors and inconsistencies, deduplication, data fields and format mapping, and testing the migration process before you initiate it.

Moreover, you must ensure infrastructure compatibility, performance, and capacity to make the necessary adjustments before migrating your ticket database.

Setting up Automated Workflows and Rules

Finally, system admins and support agents can work together to create efficient automated workflows. The process includes the following:

  • Defining specific service level agreements (SLAs), such as system response times.
  • Configuring ticket prioritization and escalation triggers based on priority, request type, and client preferences.
  • Creating an official ticket handling policy to minimize communication issues and keep the ticket flow process optimized. (e.g., round-robin ticket assignment)
  • Implementing SMS and email alerts, agent reminders, and standardized templates.
  • Implementing a separate escalation process for specific IT issues within the MSP to ease agent-technician communication and problem resolution.
  • Configuring the automated ticketing software according to the best support standard to drive a client-centric support strategy.

Training Your Team: Ensuring a Smooth Transition

Importance of User Training

Workforce resistance can be a significant challenge to automation integration. MSPs must take the time to explain and manage the change that an automation upgrade brings to their business, workforce, and operational culture.

Companies must plan, design, and execute a change management strategy to address an automated ticketing system's potential impact, risks, and benefits to their employees, clients, and stakeholders. Employing a governance framework to define the rules, roles, policies, and procedures related to monitoring and enhancing automation project management is best.

Moreover, it's helpful to inspire a culture of innovation, collaboration, and continuous improvement among support teams via regular training, individual coaching sessions, and additional automation support for clients and employees.

Tools and Resources for Training

Many resources and tools are available for MSP employee training - workshops, webinars, online courses, training sessions, coaching, mentoring, books, videos, podcasts, peer learning, and more.

Every approach has advantages and disadvantages depending on your company's content, context, and audience. You must consider different factors that can affect the success of your employee training strategy, such as information relevance, quality, cost, and accessibility. Moreover, it's best to opt for flexible resources to reach your entire support workforce while reducing expenditure.

Lastly, not all resources you find will perfectly match your specific needs and preferences. In such a case, you can customize existing resources to align them with your strategy and vision to ensure an optimal learning experience. For example, you can re-format an existing presentation, modify the language and content, and add specific examples or exercises regarding your MSP business to tailor the course to your workforce, objectives, and brand vision.

Monitoring and Improving the Training Process

After you've selected, modified, and implemented the required resources to train your support workforce, you must evaluate the training program results. You can leverage tests, surveys, observations, and interviews to collect employee and trainer feedback to identify areas for improvement. Here, data collection must be comprehensive enough to help you answer the following questions:

  • Did the resources meet your training objectives and expectations?
  • Did the resources improve employee skills, behavior, and performance?
  • Did the resources provide a pleasant, engaging learning experience?

Once you answer these questions, you can start defining weaknesses in the training process and work to correct them as quickly as possible to ensure a positive customer support experience for both your workforce and clients.

Best Practices for MSP Ticket Automation

Prioritizing and Categorizing Support Tickets

Prioritization is a crucial aspect of ticket triage. From your client's perspective, most issues are deemed "high-priority", but your support team and technicians will benefit from ticket prioritization to ensure the most pressing problems are fixed first.

There is no one-size-fits-all prioritization strategy. As an MSP, you must consider your unique client base, SLAs, and ticket categories to define a prioritization strategy that works optimally for the business and your customers. Even if prioritization is automated, you must take the time to configure the appropriate automation rules and policies to streamline the process. For example, you can implement FIFO queues, where the first agent to log into the system is assigned the first available ticket(s).

Implementing SLAs (Service Level Agreements)

SLAs can provide several benefits to an automated ticketing system. Let's explore them below.

  • Well-defined expectations

SLAs provide your clients with a clear timeframe regarding issue resolutions, as well as what services they can expect to resolve their requests.

  • Transparency

SLAs keep clients informed on ticket progress and query resolution. Your automated ticketing system can send notifications to clients so they don't have to contact your support team unnecessarily.

  • Accountability

SLAs hold MSPs accountable for fulfilling the pre-agreed service management levels. This can improve productivity and efficiency amongst your teams.

  • Improved customer satisfaction

As SLAs require MSPs to satisfy predefined agreements, your improved productivity and resolution efficiency will often lead to higher customer satisfaction.

  • Competitiveness

If you continuously meet (or even exceed) your SLAs, your MSP can develop a competitive edge and distinguish itself as a top-tier service.

Continuous Feedback and Iteration

Client feedback is essential to enhance your automated ticketing process and improve user satisfaction. Requesting feedback continuously and analyzing the results can help you significantly improve your services and, thus, ensure a growing client base and business continuity.

The quickest way to gather feedback data is to automatically send emails to clients after a ticket is resolved and the thread is closed. However, you can enhance the feedback process by sending emails during ticket resolution or even when no tickets are active for the corresponding client. This way, enough time would have passed after their latest customer support interaction, and they can objectively share insights into their support experience.

Acronis Advanced Automation Solution

Dedicated automation solutions, such as Acronis Advanced Automation, can help modern MSPs streamline business operations and increase profitability. The automation software offers centralized control and back-office function management, comprehensive time-tracking, improved staff utilization, and automated, consumption-based billing.

Acronis Advanced Automation empowers your MSP to unlock complete visibility across all client contracts, service delivery, and customer requests (tickets) and ease incident management to improve client trust and maximize revenue.

The solution's advanced automation features include but are not limited to:

  • Seamless integration with the Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud, RMM software, and a range of accounting tools
  • Effortless consumption-based billing
  • Streamlined invoicing to increase accuracy and speed
  • Integrated ticketing and time registration
  • SLA and NPS advanced reporting
  • Automatic SLA tracking to continuously meet and exceed client commitments
  • Rapid quote generation to speed up the sales cycle
  • Profitability analysis reports
  • Resource control to uncover hidden management costs

Monitoring and Maintaining Your Help Desk Ticketing System

Regularly Updating the System

Continuous monitoring and testing allow MSPs to detect, define, and fix potential workflow issues. During the process, companies can resolve errors, defects, or customer issues detected during testing and monitoring or via client feedback. Once you fix the issues, you can re-test your system to ensure they are no longer present.

It's best to collaborate with vendors, developers, and suppliers to pinpoint as many issues as possible, resolve them quickly, and update your system via bug tracking and resolution. Afterward, you can check the updated system to ensure the changes haven't raised new issues.

A proactive approach toward system updates can improve productivity, minimize errors, and increase client satisfaction.

Analyzing Ticket Metrics for Service Improvement

Service desk ticketing system metrics can track your efficiency when handling client requests to resolve tickets. Analyzing ticket metrics can outline areas for improvement in your strategy to bring your support game to the next level.

However, tracking all ticketing metrics can be challenging, cumbersome, and potentially unnecessary. Tracking key metrics critical to your business strategy and vision optimizes analysis and quickly improves your customer service desk. Below is a short list of commonly tracked ticket metrics to answer several essential questions.

  • Average resolution time translates to how quickly your teams can solve customer issues.
  • Tickets by status relates to how many tickets are currently in progress, unanswered, blocked, closed, or other.
  • First response time (FRT) shows how soon your agents respond to clients.
  • Tickets by type points to what issues require the most time and effort from your workforce.
  • Tickets opened/Tickets solved calculates how well your teams manage the ticket backlog.
  • Tickets by customer can calculate which clients are creating (and thus having) the biggest ticket volume.

Conclusion: The Future of Ticketing for MSPs

Modern MSPs must leverage ticketing system innovations to stay competitive and ensure business continuity. Automation is the go-to approach to reduce the workload on your support agents, reduce response time, and optimize expenditure. However, while most ticketing systems are suitable for automation, companies must take the time to choose the right automated solution for their needs and preferences, integrate and configure it, and monitor and update it continuously to ensure stellar results.

Leveraging Advanced Features for Future Growth

While automation can immediately optimize your workflows, dedicated software can offer advanced features to tailor your customer support strategy to your unique needs, workforce, clients, and targets.

MSPs can leverage various tools and approaches to up their support game and stay competitive. Some of those include the following:

  • Multi-channel support (including support for multiple languages) to receive accurate customer requests and resolve them more quickly.
  • Fully customizable self-service options to ensure top-tier UX for your clients and workforce.
  • Advanced workflow automation to reduce time spent on mundane, repetitive tasks, thus ensuring better resolution times and customer experience.
  • Personalized ticket pages to show your clients you're aware of their preferences and ease your support staff during customer conversations.
  • An extended knowledge base to streamline common issue resolution, increase website traffic, and reduce email or phone inquiries.
  • Advanced reporting tools to ensure meaningful insights from customer contacts, improve support team performance, design specific workforce training, and foster an optimal cross-team workflow.
  • Ticket categories and tags to rapidly grasp the status of various customer queries within an extended contact volume and the required steps to resolve them.
  • Team empowerment features to benefit your support workforce and improve team communication, performance, and well-being.
  • Implementing a customer-centric support approach to customize the ticket-issuing process, encourage feedback, and build customer trust.

Staying Ahead with Evolving Ticketing Technologies

Understanding the current state of ticketing system automation is somewhat mandatory for modern MSPs. However, leaping a step ahead of the competition requires companies to grasp the evolving trends in ticketing systems and implement them into their support strategy and process as optimally as possible.

MSPs can strive to incorporate various evolving ticketing technologies, including the following:

  • A conversational ticketing system (AI-based) that leverages natural language processing (NLP), predictive analysis, and machine learning to help your support workforce focus on innovative, business-critical objectives rather than repetitive, mundane tasks.
  • Out-of-the-box integration to streamline workflow automation, provide enhanced visibility into client IT environments, simplify problem resolution, boost collaboration efforts, and improve employee and client satisfaction.
  • Self-service tools (portals) to enable clients to resolve issues on their own without an agent's assistance or to help employees fix on-premises issues without a manager's aid.
  • Smart live chat software (chatbots, virtual assistants) to continuously improve the speed and accuracy of client-agent interactions, enable 24/7 assistance, and optimize response times.
  • Mobile-first design to fit the ticketing system user interface for mobile devices first and scale the basis for larger screens after.
  • Cloud-based ticketing systems to allow anywhere client and employee access as long as they have an internet connection to ensure scalability, accessibility, and reduced costs.
  • While still in their development stage, blockchain-based help desk ticketing systems can provide enhanced transparency and security, advanced automation, and decentralization while improving the support experience for both employees and clients.

About Acronis

Acronis is a Swiss company, founded in Singapore. Celebrating two decades of innovation, Acronis has more than 1,800 employees in 45 locations. The Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud solution is available in 26 languages in over 150 countries and is used by 20,000 service providers to protect over 750,000 businesses.

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