Why do users avoid helpdesk ticket systems?

I often wonder why people avoid using ticket systems like they avoid anchovies. Despite IT policy, pleas and great ticket response times users will always prefer to call or send email directly to an IT staffer instead of submit a ticket (via email or form) to a nameless “helpdesk.”

Reasons, reasons, reasons

Here are some reasons users give for not following the IT ticket submission process. I’ve included some thoughts on each one in parenthesis.

  • “I just have a small issue – it doesn’t warrant a full-blown ticket” (Small issues can become big issues if they are handled outside the central ticket system.)
  • “I need help right away” (Even though the response time to tickets is consistently equal to direct calls/emails.)
  • “It’s just easier to email/call you directly” (Our ticket system allows users to email tickets just as they would me directly – the only difference is literally the address in the To: line.)
  • “I forgot.” (If there was no other way to get out of an tech-jam other than submitting a ticket, would the user remember or otherwise figure it out? Yes.)

I hate to be harsh, but all of these have the trappings of excuse-making.

Make sure IT isn’t justifying excuses

First, and of course: make sure that your support process is not giving legitimacy to any user excuses.

Users should be able to create tickets via email. There’s no easier way for office/knowledge workers to communicate their issue (other than face-to-face, which is often not possible given IT staff constraints or geographical location). Users can easily include screenshots, copies of errors and other details that are difficult to submit on a web form. Copy/paste, drag/drop. Sure email doesn’t allow for all kinds of fancy up-front ticket qualification, but this is about making it as friction-free as possible for the user. We use the wonderful zendesk which excels at handling tickets via email. It even tries to guess some of those qualification tags automatically when it receives the email.

Prioritize tickets submitted correctly to the system as opposed to the direct calls and emails. Granted, this is tough, especially when dealing with execs and bosses, but you have to reward those that follow the process, not those who circumvent. If you do not prioritize your tickets you fall into the trap of justifying the second excuse above (“response to tickets is slower”). Do not let your ticket system get this reputation!

Make sure that your expectation that every IT issue be submitted to the ticket system is crystal clear. Users should have no doubt what process to follow to obtain support. Educate users on the benefits of the system from their perspective (nothing falls through the cracks, easier to spot widespread outages, allows multiple IT staff visibility to issues, etc.). Formalize and publicize the IT policy on handling tickets submitted via ticket before direct calls/emails to IT staff.


Now that you’re sure the helpdesk is not validating any of the excuses listed above, you will probably wonder why users still avoid the sleek and efficient ticket system. I don’t know.

Heck, I’ve even seen IT professionals avoid using vendor ticket systems! (Be a good customer and use the vendor’s ticket system, even if they don’t follow the Rules of a Good Helpdesk above and you have to also send a direct email/call to get movement on an issue.)

My guess is that it is something to do with us being humans, running on relationships and relying on those relationships even more in a time of need. There’s something not quite comforting enough in “[email protected]” when your computer’s down. (Maybe rename your ticket submission email to “[email protected]” and tell your users its a new IT staffer!?)

Stick to your guns!

Whatever the psychological explanation, you will still receive issues via direct email, phone call, IM, txt, driveby, etc. I say stick to your guns!

Redirect as many of those to tickets as you can. (“Yes, I’d love to help, can you do me a favor and submit it as a ticket while I take a look? Would help me out a ton.”) In Outlook on Exchange you can use the Action > Resend feature to redirect an email to your ticket system as if was sent by the user. For calls or drivebys, create the ticket for the user and make sure the user is included so s/he get the solved/closed notification from the ticket system – a gentle reminder that they should have submitted one.

You know that capturing all issues in a ticket system leads to better: end-user support, IT metric reporting, trend analysis, IT staff utilization, etc. Don’t let natural human tendencies sabotage the ticket system and deprive your users of those benefits.

Do you have suggestions to help users consistently use a helpdesk ticket system?

About Kye Hittle

I’m tall, enjoy traveling, running and the company of good friends. Lover of [square brackets]. (OK, parenthesis too, which I overuse, and {curly braces}!) Professionally I am the Director of IT for a nonprofit and do freelance higher-ed, small biz and other nonprofit tech gigs. I heart technology used for personal and societal good.
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