How to Prioritize Help Desk Tickets When Everything is a Top Priority

By Staff Contributor on February 10, 2017

web help desk, help desk

Today, most of us depend on some form of help desk support. IT support teams ensure the most uptime possible for systems and processes that keep businesses running smoothly. Their customers and yours rely on the help desk to resolve small glitches and technical hiccups, as well as the major IT problems that threaten to impact productivity and the bottom line. But calls for assistance flood IT staff daily—and it can be difficult to prioritize help desk tickets when everything is a priority.

Whether your IT teams are responding to Level 1 (basic support and troubleshooting), Level 2 (config issues, hardware and software repair, etc.), or level 3 support (network and server infrastructure troubleshooting), they often struggle to address all of these with the same priority and at the same time. Help desk teams face scenarios just like these every day:

9:30 a.m. –  Sue in human resources emails, “One of the new hires needs a laptop, accessories, and environmental temperature of exactly 73° to maintain proper working aura.”

9:35 a.m. –  James calls from sales, “Desk phone line not working. And can you arrange to have this call credited back to my mobile carrier?”

9:42 a.m. –  CEO’s admin assistant, Rosa, pays a personal visit, “The video projector in the executive conference room is not working. It needs to be working if the rest of us want to keep working.”

Under the best of circumstances addressing a growing volume of tickets, and managing ticket prioritization, with timely assignment and escalation can be challenging. Not to mention, shorter SLA timeframes, and supporting diverse technology platforms—particularly with a lean support team.

So How DO You Prioritize Help Desk Tickets When Everything is a Priority?

As the guidelines from ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) for IT support tickets prioritization suggest, your staff should prioritize tickets based on urgency and business impact. You can help them develop processes for this prioritization by having them ask and answer the following questions:

  • What is the problem?
  • How many users are affected?
  • What services are affected?
  • How fast do we need to resolve this?
  • Where is the issue or user located?
  • Why is this problem happening?

While this approach does help clarify the nature and urgency of the problems coming in, it can have pitfalls. For example, as more high-priority tickets come into the help desk, fewer low-priority tickets may get resolved, which can create new headaches. Introducing Service Level Agreements (SLA) to your ticket prioritization process is an effective solution. SLAs define rules for closing tickets based on ticket resolution time, which can both help users track their ticket progress, and can invoke escalations if SLA targets are in jeopardy.

Your staff can also help organize tickets by using a process like this:

Service Request Priority Ticket Resolution Time
New recruit needs laptop and accessories Low 1 Day
Sales team desk phone line is dead High 2 Hours
CEO’s office video projector is not working Medium 5 Hours
Email server is down Critical 30 Minutes


Prioritizing tickets allows your help desk staff to manage and resolve service requests based on the time left, which can also help them easily organize the tickets, update the status of the tickets, and keep users updated on the progress.

However, managing these processes manually can be inefficient and costly. With manual workflows your staff may run the risk of spending time on administrative tasks instead of resolving customer issues, dropping the ball on something important or not communicating effectively to other team members. Automating these processes can allow your help desk staff to spend more time resolving problems and less time expediting tickets—which helps build customer satisfaction and your organization’s reputation as efficient problem solvers.

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