What’s Your Priority?

April 2, 2018 Customer Support, Trends

When running an IT service desk, prioritization of work is of the utmost importance.  See if you recognize some of these lines. This is important to our business.  This is of a critical nature.  I have a P1 ticket that I need you to jump on.  I know I’ve only been down for 30 mins, but it feels like forever.  This is an emergency.  Can I get a live handoff?  What is your SLA anyways? As an IT manager, I hear these and many more almost every day.  So how do we truly prioritize when everyone seems to have an emergency.  In this blog post, I will go over some good rules of thumb when creating your service desk’s priority system.

#1: Actually Have a Priority System. It is impossible to enforce a priority system if it is not documented in any form. It’s tough to tell clients that they are a low priority.  It’s even tougher if nothing has been contractually established.  Set your service level agreements (SLAs) in all contracts, even if that SLA is best effort.  At least then, both the client and the service desk will be on the same page.

#2: Have Consistent Definitions. Make your definitions of the different priorities consistent and make it part of the organization’s vernacular.  If Priority 1 through 4 is going to be used, then use that throughout.  Don’t make the mistake of accepting whatever systems your clients want to use.  The service desk reps don’t want to have to figure out which priority system they should be using for which client. Is this client on the Priority 1 through 4 system or the critical/routine system? Pick one and be consistent.  The definitions within the system should also be consistent.  A Priority 1 should be the same for all clients.  This will help the engineers and techs know how to stack their cases. It may seem that you are being flexible or accommodating to your clients to have different systems or different definitions but this a recipe for failure.

# 3: Enforcement. So you’ve done a great job of creating a priority system; you’ve made it consistent across all of your clients, and trained your entire staff on it. Now, a high powered account manager calls in and wants you to make a routine case a priority 1 because she is working with the client a potentially large deal. What do you do?  Do you prioritize this case above the 3 emergencies that just came in?  No. You can’t do that. Explain to the AM your priority system and that service desk values all of its clients and that the routine ticket will be handled in the quickest fashion possible within the system. Be careful when making exceptions.  This brings me to the last rule.

# 4: Be a Little Bit Flexible. I know.  I know.  I know.  I just basically told you to violate the first three rules.  It’s ok.  It’s not blasphemy.  Some common sense must be thrown in here.  There is no system that is going to account for every situation.  Be flexible enough to recognize that fact.  There may also be a changing and evolving business environment.  They key is to know you are making an exception and to try to make those exceptions and not rules.  Be careful that you are not being so flexible that the exceptions become the rules.  If that is the case, then go back to rules one and two and redefine the priority system.

As I wrap up, I hope this was helpful.  Having a well defined and enforced priority system will help make things clear to your internal staff as well as your clients.  It sets appropriate expectations all around.


jeremy-niedzwiecki-1A proven leader, Jeremy Niedzwiecki has over 20 years in the IT industry. As the Director of Customer Support at ABS, Jeremy works to ensure that the ABS Customer Support team continuously provides the highest levels of support possible ABS clients.