Make Customers Smile in 7 Easy Steps with OTRS - Part 3

In Part 2, you learned about agents, customers and queues, and you also got a brief look under OTRS' hood, by learning how to customize the customer self-ervice portal with your own theme and logo. The customer portal is more than just a pretty face, however. It is the easiest way for customers to register new support tickets, check the status of existing tickets, and enter into online conversations with support staff. The easiest way to demonstrate how this works is with an example, and that's what will be the subject of Part 3.

Step 5: Begin Accepting and Resolving Tickets

Put yourself in the shoes of Ms. Alice Apple, a long-time Dizzy Domains customer. This morning, when comes in to work, she realizes that she isn't able to download her email from the Dizzy Domains mail server. So, she pops open her Web browser, surfs on over to the Dizzy Domains Web site, and clicks the big red "Support" link. This link redirects her to the OTRS customer support portal, where she registers for a new account by entering her name and email address. After completing this process, Alice receives a verification email, which contains her password. She uses this to log in to OTRS, where she is presented with a screen like the one shown in Figure 16.

Figure 16: OTRS customer dashboard

To create a new support ticket, Alice must select the New Ticket option, select the appropriate queue for her problem, and enter details about her problem. Figure 17 illustrates the support ticket editing interface.

Figure 17: New ticket creation

Once Alice submits the form, the ticket is registered, assigned a unique numeric identifier and reappears in the customer dashboard. Figure 18 illustrates:

Figure 18: OTRS customer dashboard displaying new ticket

Behind the scenes, the ticket appears on the Dashboards of all the agents currently logged in (you can see this for yourself by logging out, and back in to the agent interface at http://localhost/otrs/ Gilda Goat, who generally handles email matters, also gets an email notification of the ticket, since the "Email Services" queue is in her "My Queues" list. She selects the ticket for a closer look, and is able to retrieve a composite view of the ticket that includes Alice's original message (Figure 19).

Figure 19: Agent view of new ticket

Gilda changes the ownership of the ticket to her own account using the Dashboard -> Ticket -> Owner screen and then locks the ticket using the Dashboard -> Ticket -> Lock function. Locking the ticket allows her to work on it while simultaneously indicating to other agents that work is in progress.

Once Gilda has investigated the problem and restarted Alice's email server, she uses the Dashboard -> Ticket -> Compose Answer function to write an email back to Alice, letting her know that all is well. As part of this process, Gilda also closes the ticket, by setting the "Next ticket state" field to "closed successful" (Figure 20).

Figure 20: New ticket being closed with custom response

Back to the Dashboard, and Gilda's on to the next ticket. In the meanwhile, Alice receives the email message from Gilda, tries her email and finds that it still isn't working. So she logs back in to the OTRS customer interface, where the system shows her that the ticket has been successfully closed (Figure 21).

Figure 21: OTRS customer dashboard with updated ticket status

Alice selects the ticket and writes a follow-up email to Gilda, repeating the problem and noting that the server is still non-functional. She also attaches a screenshot of the error message she receives when connecting to the mail server.

Figure 22: Ticket reopening

The OTRS system automatically re-opens the ticket, sending a notification to Gilda and displaying the ticket in her "My Queues" list. When Gilda selects the ticket for review, she is able to view a complete history of her previous interaction with Alice in a linked thread at the top of the ticket (Figure 23).

Figure 23: List of previous actions on reopened ticket

Gilda rechecks Alice's server and finds that it hadn't started correctly the first time due to misconfiguration. She fixes it, starts it up, checks that it's all working, and writes back to Alice as before, closing the ticket in the process. Alice receives the email, finds everything working normally, and ends the day with a smile on her face.

While this is a reasonably simple example, it highlights many of OTRS' key features. For example, the self-serve customer interface allows customers to log in and open tickets independently. As agents and customers manipulate tickets, the system keeps track of, and changes, each ticket's status automatically. The linked message history on each ticket allows agents to quickly review previous actions on the ticket. The queue management system allows for tickets to be sorted into categories, and the lock/unlock mechanism ensures that multiple agents don't work on the same ticket at the same time. The ability to attach documents to a ticket helps in efficient communication and troubleshooting.

This is just the tip of the iceberg: agents can also access a number of other functions that make the ticket management process more efficient. For example, it's possible to create email response templates ("Your question is answered in our manual at...") that can be used to quickly answer common questions. Agents can also enter internal notes for each other on a ticket ("This is a VIP customer, so be nice"), watch tickets for changes in status, and attach documents (screenshots or debug files) to a ticket.

Tickets that pertain to the same issue can be merged together, while a single ticket that refers to multiple issues can be split and assigned to different queues for faster processing. It's also possible to create so-called "master/slave tickets", where all child tickets are automatically closed once the parent ticket is resolved.

Now that you have an idea of the functions available to handle tickets, let's look at configuration and management reporting, in Part 4.

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