The Real Cost of Reassigning IT Service Desk Tickets

“Please hold, while I transfer you to a colleague who can help…” It can often be a time-consuming and frustrating journey for the end user.

The IT service management (ITSM) and IT support communities are quite rightly increasingly focused on employee or customer experience. More and more companies are focused on IT strategies and targeted improvements that enhance the IT support experience.

A key element of this is speed – linking the end users quickly to the right people and/or the right information so that their immediate need for assistance can be met; whether this is related to an issue or a request, including requests for information.

IT-support ping-pong

Scenarios where employees are passed from service desk agent to service desk agent – as they patiently, or not so patiently, wait – are increasingly viewed as constituting a poor employee experience. Too many of us know the situation too well; “Please hold, while I transfer you to a colleague who can help…” It can often be a time-consuming and frustrating journey for the end user.

After all, no one likes to “ping-pong” between different people, having to wait on hold, perhaps having to re-explain the issue again and again, and maybe even having multiple people trying to apply the same, unsuccessful solution.

It’s not great for the employee, and often it’s just as dispiriting for the IT support personnel involved. But the really important impact, and cost, of this ping-ponging is at a business level – because the passing of tickets, and employees, between people, groups, and even companies can also be costly, not just in terms of time, but also money.

But let’s start by highlighting the true impact of ticket reassignment on the employee experience.

Understanding the employee “happiness” impact of bounced tickets

The data in Table 1 below shows the levels of employee happiness, relative to ticket assignment, based on 10,000 feedback responses from multiple companies.

Up to now, people simply assumed that the “bouncing” of tickets, and people, adversely affected the employee experience (and employee happiness); now this data demonstrates that it does and, importantly, it shows the magnitude of the drop-off in happiness with each bounce.

The more times you're shuffled around the most it costs in time and monet, this is the true reassignment service desk cost to your business.

Table 1: Employee Happiness by Reassignment Count

Of course, not all reassignments significantly affect the employee. For instance, a ticket might be handled by several IT support agents, or a third-party support team. The ticket goes “out of sight” of the affected employee. But this in no way undermines the above data, because if the employee were aware of being passed around it would probably detract from their happiness more than if they remain unaware of interactions behind the scenes assuming the resolution takes a similar time.

Understanding the business impact of bounced tickets

Hopefully, the above data has given you pause to think a little. But when you review the same data from a lost-productivity perspective, the alarm bells should really start to ring.

Table 2 shows the lost employee work time by the number of reassignments as reported in 38% of the feedback responses shown in Table 1, i.e. those that recorded the data. Please note that while the volumes are different due to the number of employees who have responded to the “lost work time” question, the percentage of responses in each count matches closely.

Table 2: Lost Work Time by Reassignment Count

The table shows that each bounce not only delays reaching a solution, which might be far more than shown above if viewed as elapsed time, but, more importantly, the time represents an affected employee’s lost productivity – with more and more productive time wasted as the number of bounces increases.

Quantifying the business cost of bounced tickets

In an ideal world, there will be a minimum of ticket bounces, with the first service desk agent “on deck” able to handle the ticket. However, it’s not always going to be possible and an over-zealous agent keeping an end-user on the phone, probably on hold, while they try to hit a first contact resolution (FCR) target probably isn’t doing the end user any favours in terms of their productivity (or, in fact, their own productivity for that matter).

But what if your service desk tried to significantly reduce the number of ticket bounces? For example, through better initial ticket distribution, recruitment practices (and the staff recruited), knowledge management, and second-touch resolution practices. This would potentially save the business money (as well as providing a better employee experience).

Think about it! It would save time and money on at least three levels:

  1. Service desk personnel time and, potentially, opportunity cost
  2. Employee lost productivity and frustration caused by the situation
  3. The potential business impact of lost employee productivity, for instance lost sales and the associated revenue (i.e. the employee opportunity cost).

It can get very “fuzzy” when one tries to calculate what an individual incident costs the business, so let’s keep it simple.

If an employee has an all-in cost to the business (i.e. that cost is not simply their pay) of GBP 50 or USD 65 per hour, then each ticket costs GBP 100 or USD 130 or more, perhaps notionally, if it needs to be reassigned twice (due to the lost employee productivity).

Why “perhaps notionally”? Perhaps the employee will work an additional two hours of “unpaid overtime” to overcome the effect of the lost productivity, then rather than it being a true business cost there’s a goodwill cost. Alternatively, the true cost of those two lost hours might be even more than the all-in employee cost in terms of the adverse effect on the business. As I said, the maths can be fuzzy.

The cost of lost employee productivity might be very clear-cut for your company, or it might be somewhat fuzzy. Either way, please use our lost-productivity ROI calculator to start to add up how much bounced tickets are costing your business. It’s the first step in reducing ticket reassignment’s drain on your organisation.

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