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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Support tickets, day of the week, and the time of day

Have you ever noticed that some tech support issues are handled quickly and others take forever? After you've gone through this a few times, you might start wondering what the difference is. It's not an easy thing to figure out from the outside, and few people on the inside truly appreciate what's going on, either.

Obviously, there is ticket complexity. If you ask for a password reset which means "ssh in, su, and run one command", that's easy. If you want someone to recompile sendmail from source so you get the latest version which supports a particular kind of plugin and then add that plugin and configure it, obviously that's a bigger task.

Then there is the matter of tech roulette. Some of these people are just flat-out incompetent, and there's no way around it. If they get your ticket, expect it to take a long time and be screwed up, no matter how simple it is. It might even bounce around between a few people before it is resolved. Sometimes, they'll ponder a single ticket for an entire shift and then drop it at the end with a note like "couldn't get to this one today". Sure.

You might also wind up on a "support team" which is overloaded, or it might have comparatively little to do. That all depends on how much money you intend to pay for the privilege, and a little bit of luck too.

There is another matter, though, and you actually have some control over this. That is the day and time of day when you submit your ticket. If you drop a request into a queue which is overflowing with work, it might just disappear until they catch up. Don't count on them having the kind of staff who can keep up with the actual flow to maintain the same level of responsiveness during the day. I've seen it from the inside, and many manager types flat out do not care.

Here's what I'm talking about. Imagine a bunch of customers, all with different categories. Some were big money, some were small. Some had one operating system, some had another, and some had both. I gave them made-up names: Apples, Bacon, Cinnamon and so on. I also split all of that up and then also looked at it across an entire week.

What follows is a rendering of how many tickets a given group opened in a particular hour in a particular week. For example, the "Apples" group had 11 new tickets created between 9:00 AM and 9:59 AM on Monday during the sample week.

Check it out. It's long, but it'll open your eyes.

Apples

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 0
Mon 0 0 1 0 1 2 1 3 5 11 2 4 3 4 3 2 0 1 2 2 0 1 1 0
Tue 0 0 2 0 0 3 3 1 7 4 5 1 3 3 1 4 6 3 1 0 3 0 1 0
Wed 0 0 1 0 0 2 0 5 2 2 5 1 2 4 0 3 2 3 1 0 0 2 0 0
Thu 1 0 0 0 0 0 3 4 5 2 4 4 1 6 2 1 3 0 0 1 3 1 0 0
Fri 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 2 3 5 5 0 2 1 4 1 0 1 1 0 0 1
Sat 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 2 1 1 0 0 0

Bacon

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 1 0 0 0 2 0 4 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 1 0
Mon 1 3 2 2 1 0 2 3 6 3 5 8 6 8 7 3 2 1 4 2 2 1 3 0
Tue 0 2 2 2 3 0 4 2 5 8 4 4 2 3 6 2 1 2 2 3 1 1 0 0
Wed 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 3 4 5 3 3 8 3 2 4 1 0 0 1 2 0
Thu 3 0 1 1 3 0 1 2 5 4 6 1 5 5 3 4 3 0 2 4 1 3 2 0
Fri 0 2 2 0 0 2 0 3 4 3 5 10 3 1 2 3 6 2 0 3 1 1 0 1
Sat 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 1 1 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0

Cinnamon

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 2 2 0 5 1 3 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 1 0
Mon 2 3 3 2 2 6 2 4 5 11 15 11 11 12 10 16 11 2 2 2 3 2 2 2
Tue 0 1 0 1 2 1 4 4 13 5 15 4 9 13 10 6 15 3 1 2 3 6 1 1
Wed 0 0 0 1 2 5 2 1 3 11 5 14 13 8 8 8 4 5 7 4 1 1 1 1
Thu 1 2 0 3 3 2 2 3 7 5 14 14 6 8 11 11 19 14 4 2 3 1 0 1
Fri 0 1 1 1 3 3 3 3 8 6 7 8 19 15 14 3 4 6 6 3 4 0 0 0
Sat 0 0 3 0 0 0 3 3 0 3 3 1 2 3 3 1 0 1 0 2 1 1 1 1

Doggies

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 1
Mon 1 0 0 3 1 2 1 0 6 1 8 6 5 3 2 2 3 4 1 0 0 1 1 0
Tue 0 2 0 2 3 1 3 4 5 2 4 2 5 4 3 7 6 1 1 0 2 2 0 0
Wed 1 2 2 2 2 1 3 3 5 3 5 5 2 3 2 2 7 5 1 2 0 0 1 2
Thu 1 0 1 2 1 3 2 5 2 7 3 4 3 4 2 6 3 4 1 0 0 1 0 0
Fri 0 0 1 1 0 3 3 2 5 3 7 5 3 1 2 3 7 2 1 0 0 1 0 0
Sat 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 0 1 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 1 0 0

Eclipse

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 2 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 0
Mon 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 2 2 3 2 0 3 3 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Tue 0 0 0 0 3 1 0 0 1 2 2 23 3 4 0 5 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0
Wed 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 1 2 2 2 3 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 1
Thu 0 0 1 0 1 3 0 0 0 2 2 3 2 1 4 4 5 1 0 0 0 0 0 0
Fri 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 2 3 4 1 2 1 3 1 1 2 2 1 0 0 0
Sat 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0

Falafel

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 1 0 0
Mon 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 3 2 5 3 1 3 6 4 4 0 0 1 0 0 0
Tue 0 0 0 2 0 2 0 1 1 0 4 1 2 2 2 1 1 2 2 0 1 0 1 1
Wed 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 0 1 2 4 3 3 3 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
Thu 1 0 1 0 2 2 0 0 2 2 4 5 5 5 1 4 3 2 0 2 1 1 1 0
Fri 0 0 0 2 2 0 1 3 4 0 1 1 4 3 0 4 1 1 1 0 1 1 0 0
Sat 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 1 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0

Gopher

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 1 1 2 0 1 0 2 1 1 2 2 0 1 0 2 1
Mon 0 2 3 3 1 4 1 7 8 9 5 6 5 3 12 5 4 3 2 1 1 2 0 1
Tue 1 0 1 2 1 1 2 3 6 2 6 6 6 5 7 5 3 2 2 0 0 1 4 0
Wed 0 0 2 2 2 1 4 2 6 7 10 2 6 6 8 6 2 2 3 2 2 1 1 2
Thu 0 1 2 4 3 4 1 2 4 4 5 5 1 2 9 6 1 2 2 1 0 2 0 0
Fri 1 1 2 0 1 1 1 0 5 2 3 5 3 5 3 5 3 3 1 3 1 0 2 1
Sat 0 1 1 1 1 0 1 0 1 2 1 3 2 1 1 0 2 2 1 0 0 1 1 0

Hippo

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 3 3 0 0 0 1 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mon 0 2 1 3 3 3 2 2 7 4 9 24 3 3 4 3 3 3 1 0 0 1 1 1
Tue 0 0 0 1 2 3 1 2 3 6 9 1 2 4 1 2 0 1 1 0 1 0 1 0
Wed 0 3 1 3 2 2 5 5 2 4 4 5 0 2 1 1 2 0 1 1 1 0 2 1
Thu 1 0 1 2 5 3 4 4 2 3 4 2 3 2 4 4 1 0 3 0 0 0 1 1
Fri 0 0 3 2 2 1 4 2 2 2 7 0 4 2 4 3 3 1 0 0 0 1 1 0
Sat 0 2 3 1 0 1 1 1 1 1 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Italy

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Mon 1 0 1 1 1 0 0 0 1 1 3 5 5 6 6 2 2 1 1 1 0 0 1 0
Tue 0 2 1 1 0 0 0 0 1 2 1 1 1 2 0 5 1 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
Wed 0 0 1 1 0 0 2 0 1 5 2 3 3 4 3 3 2 2 1 0 0 0 0 0
Thu 1 0 0 0 0 0 2 1 1 1 4 0 2 3 1 6 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 0
Fri 0 0 0 2 2 0 1 2 2 4 2 2 1 1 0 2 1 3 1 3 0 0 0 0
Sat 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Justice

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 4 0 1 2 2 2 1 3 0 0 0 2 1 1
Mon 0 0 5 1 0 5 7 6 9 10 2 4 5 6 1 4 4 4 0 2 7 2 2 2
Tue 1 0 2 4 1 0 2 5 7 10 1 9 9 8 4 8 3 2 2 2 2 3 3 0
Wed 0 0 0 0 0 2 5 1 6 5 8 4 3 4 2 3 3 2 2 4 0 1 1 4
Thu 0 0 1 2 0 4 5 6 0 5 9 2 3 0 5 1 8 2 4 3 2 1 0 2
Fri 2 1 2 0 1 1 6 0 6 2 4 9 4 8 4 7 4 2 1 1 1 0 1 1
Sat 2 0 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 0 5 2 0 2 4 2 1 1 1 0 0 0

All groups

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 1 2 3 1 6 2 5 4 9 6 14 3 7 6 8 5 4 10 4 6 1 4 8 3
Mon 6 11 16 16 10 22 17 26 48 55 53 76 48 46 51 46 33 24 13 10 14 10 11 6
Tue 2 7 8 15 15 12 19 22 49 41 51 52 42 48 34 45 37 17 13 8 13 13 11 2
Wed 2 6 7 10 9 14 21 19 30 40 47 42 38 39 37 35 27 25 18 13 4 6 8 11
Thu 9 3 8 14 18 21 20 27 28 35 55 40 31 36 42 47 47 26 17 13 10 10 4 4
Fri 3 8 12 9 12 11 19 16 39 26 42 49 47 38 32 34 34 22 13 16 10 4 4 4
Sat 3 3 8 3 3 4 7 6 6 8 7 11 12 9 8 3 10 6 6 5 5 3 2 1

Bacon + Hippo

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 1 0 1 0 3 1 4 0 4 3 0 1 0 1 2 1 0 1 0 2 0 0 1 0
Mon 1 5 3 5 4 3 4 5 13 7 14 32 9 11 11 6 5 4 5 2 2 2 4 1
Tue 0 2 2 3 5 3 5 4 8 14 13 5 4 7 7 4 1 3 3 3 2 1 1 0
Wed 0 3 1 3 3 3 5 6 3 7 8 10 3 5 9 4 4 4 2 1 1 1 4 1
Thu 4 0 2 3 8 3 5 6 7 7 10 3 8 7 7 8 4 0 5 4 1 3 3 1
Fri 0 2 5 2 2 3 4 5 6 5 12 10 7 3 6 6 9 3 0 3 1 2 1 1
Sat 0 2 3 1 0 1 1 1 2 1 2 3 1 2 2 0 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 0

Cinnamon + Gopher

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 1 0 1 1 1 0 2 3 1 7 1 4 1 2 1 1 2 2 2 1 0 3 1
Mon 2 5 6 5 3 10 3 11 13 20 20 17 16 15 22 21 15 5 4 3 4 4 2 3
Tue 1 1 1 3 3 2 6 7 19 7 21 10 15 18 17 11 18 5 3 2 3 7 5 1
Wed 0 0 2 3 4 6 6 3 9 18 15 16 19 14 16 14 6 7 10 6 3 2 2 3
Thu 1 3 2 7 6 6 3 5 11 9 19 19 7 10 20 17 20 16 6 3 3 3 0 1
Fri 1 2 3 1 4 4 4 3 13 8 10 13 22 20 17 8 7 9 7 6 5 0 2 1
Sat 0 1 4 1 1 0 4 3 1 5 4 4 4 4 4 1 2 3 1 2 1 2 2 1

Bacon + Cinnamon + Falafel + Gopher + Hippo

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 1 1 1 1 4 2 5 2 8 4 7 2 4 3 5 2 2 4 3 4 1 1 4 1
Mon 4 11 9 11 7 13 7 17 26 30 36 54 28 27 36 33 24 13 9 5 7 6 6 4
Tue 1 3 3 8 8 7 11 12 28 21 38 16 21 27 26 16 20 10 8 5 6 8 7 2
Wed 1 4 3 6 7 9 11 10 15 25 24 28 26 22 28 21 11 12 13 7 4 3 6 4
Thu 6 3 5 10 16 11 8 11 20 18 33 27 20 22 28 29 27 18 11 9 5 7 4 2
Fri 1 4 8 5 8 7 9 11 23 13 23 24 33 26 23 18 17 13 8 9 7 3 3 2
Sat 0 3 7 2 2 2 5 5 4 6 6 8 5 6 6 1 4 3 3 2 1 2 2 1

Apples + Doggies + Justice

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 1 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 2 4 0 2 2 2 3 2 6 1 0 0 3 2 2
Mon 1 0 6 4 2 9 9 9 20 22 12 14 13 13 6 8 7 9 3 4 7 4 4 2
Tue 1 2 4 6 4 4 8 10 19 16 10 12 17 15 8 19 15 6 4 2 7 5 4 0
Wed 1 2 3 2 2 5 8 9 13 10 18 10 7 11 4 8 12 10 4 6 0 3 2 6
Thu 2 0 2 4 1 7 10 15 7 14 16 10 7 10 9 8 14 6 5 4 5 3 0 2
Fri 2 3 4 1 1 4 9 3 13 7 14 19 12 9 8 11 15 5 2 2 2 1 1 2
Sat 3 0 1 1 0 2 2 0 1 2 1 3 7 3 1 2 4 2 3 3 4 1 0 0

Eclipse + Italy

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 0 2 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 3 1 1 1 1 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 0
Mon 1 0 1 1 1 0 1 0 2 3 5 8 7 6 9 5 2 2 1 1 0 0 1 0
Tue 0 2 1 1 3 1 0 0 2 4 3 24 4 6 0 10 2 1 1 1 0 0 0 0
Wed 0 0 1 2 0 0 2 0 2 5 5 4 5 6 5 6 4 3 1 0 0 0 0 1
Thu 1 0 1 0 1 3 2 1 1 3 6 3 4 4 5 10 6 2 1 0 0 0 0 0
Fri 0 1 0 3 3 0 1 2 3 6 5 6 2 3 1 5 2 4 3 5 1 0 0 0
Sat 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 1 0 0 0 0 0 0

Apples + Doggies + Eclipse + Italy + Justice

00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23
Sun 0 1 2 0 2 0 0 2 1 2 7 1 3 3 3 3 2 6 1 2 0 3 4 2
Mon 2 0 7 5 3 9 10 9 22 25 17 22 20 19 15 13 9 11 4 5 7 4 5 2
Tue 1 4 5 7 7 5 8 10 21 20 13 36 21 21 8 29 17 7 5 3 7 5 4 0
Wed 1 2 4 4 2 5 10 9 15 15 23 14 12 17 9 14 16 13 5 6 0 3 2 7
Thu 3 0 3 4 2 10 12 16 8 17 22 13 11 14 14 18 20 8 6 4 5 3 0 2
Fri 2 4 4 4 4 4 10 5 16 13 19 25 14 12 9 16 17 9 5 7 3 1 1 2
Sat 3 0 1 1 1 2 2 1 2 2 1 3 7 3 2 2 6 3 3 3 4 1 0 0

Phew! Obviously, if you're an "Italy" customer, you aren't fighting for contention with other issues. Likewise, if you are one of the techs who works on those issues, life is pretty laid-back. If you work Saturday or Sunday, you might not have a single new ticket all day!

The flip side of that is the "Cinnamon" customers. If your ticket drops in between about 9 AM and 7 PM Monday through Thursday, or around lunch on Friday, you're in trouble.

Wouldn't it be interesting if the companies you dealt with gave you this kind of data for their incoming call and ticket rates? That way, if you had an issue which could wait, you could take care of it at another time when it wasn't so busy. You might not have to wait as long, and it might spread around some of the load.

Unfortunately, too many places either don't care or go to the other extreme and treat these numbers like Secret Sauce. Both of those demonstrate the wrong attitude to customer care.