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One of the biggest struggles in our company’s early years of selling managed services was in the control of ticket flow through our Help Desk. For a while, it appeared that the amount of tickets in our queue kept growing at a rate that did not reflect the number of new customers we were acquiring.

Our staff became overwhelmed and would often voice their frustration, bringing morale down to an all-time low. To avoid a complete mutiny on our Help Desk, our reaction would often be to hire a new Level 1 Technician, thinking this would help chip away at the volume of tickets and satisfy the masses. This would appease the team for only a few months until the queue levels began to rise again.

After realizing that this wasn’t a viable solution, we were left wondering, “How is this possible? Why does the volume of tickets always seem to increase, even though our SLAs are met, and everyone is working as hard as they can?”

Lowering ticket balance

The answer to our question was eventually revealed when we decided one Friday to do a “ticket blitz.” This was an all-hands-on-deck effort to close out as many tickets as possible and bring the queue down to a desired level. Everyone from the CEO, to the marketing and operations director (me), to high-level engineers participated in a joint effort to accomplish our goal. Those who did not have the technical capability to resolve issues were tasked with calling the most dormant tickets to schedule a remote session with a Help Desk Technician.

The conditions of the blitz were that if the goals were met, the entire Help Desk team would receive a handsome bonus on their next paycheck. On our first blitz, these goals were in fact met, and our team was thrilled with the outcome. Not only did they receive a bonus check, when Monday morning rolled around, they weren’t walking into a firestorm of tickets and irate customers. Ticket levels were at a healthy balance and the team felt significantly less pressure throughout the day as a result.

Tracking ticket differential (+/-)

After the blitz was over, we reflected on the results with mixed feelings. We realized that we figured out how to get ticket queues back to normal levels once they became inflated, but this was not a way to keep them from growing in the first place. To figure this out, we had to boil down what made this effort successful and figure out how to implement that into our culture on an everyday basis.

There were three important takeaways that we learned from this experience:

  • Our service team could be motivated by bonus incentives.
  • Our service team appreciated when management “chipped in.”
  • Our queues shrunk when we closed more tickets than were opened.

The latter of these takeaways proved to be the most important. This became the primary goal moving forward. We realized that setting a numeric goal for tickets in each queue is not realistic on a day-to-day basis. Instead, we wanted to focus on closing more tickets than were opened each day, week, and month. We tracked this by creating a dashboard in our PSA that demonstrated the amount of tickets that were opened, the amount that were closed, and the difference between them.

We called this our “ticket differential” and it was shown as either a + (bad) or – (good). For example, if 100 tickets were opened and 90 were closed, this would be a differential of +10. If the opposite happened, and 90 tickets were opened with 100 being closed, the differential would be a -10. We now had a clear way of indicating how our queues changed on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis and could use this information to better stabilize them.

Creating team incentives

From our previous experience, we knew that we had to offer an incentive to get our team to buy-in and we had to show them that we are “in the trenches” too. This time, instead of cash, we offered what we thought was the next best thing: tacos.

We would track our daily ticket differential and present the previous day’s figures in our 10-minute morning meeting every day. Each week our goal was to end the week having closed more tickets than were opened and if we were able to do so, we would have a “taco party” for the entire company the following week.

Now every Friday that we were behind in the ticket differential was a “blitz” and it became a fun way of closing out the week on a good note, while giving everyone something to look forward to the following Monday. As the weeks passed by, the ticket queues decreased and most importantly, it was a slow transition that was completely sustainable. This became part of our company’s culture, which boosted morale, and had a residual impact on our customers’ satisfaction. If it weren’t for this one metric, we may not have been able to stabilize our company the way we did, as we ultimately prepared it for a successful acquisition.

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Photo: chainarong06 / Shutterstock

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Kevin Clune

Posted by Kevin Clune

Kevin is the Co-Founder of, and Author of The MSP Growth Funnel. While he is not creating content for various media outlets in the IT Channel, his time is spent working one-on-one with Founders, Operators, Marketers, and Sales Executives in the Managed IT Industry to help them execute their goals for growth. His past roles include Director of Marketing & Operations of a Top 500 MSP and Founder of a Digital Marketing firm.

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