Chapter 1. Introduction

Table of Contents

Trouble Ticket Systems - The Basics
What is a trouble ticket system, and why do you need one?
What is a trouble ticket?
OTRS Help Desk
User Interface
Email Interface
New Features of OTRS 5
New Features of OTRS 4
New Features of OTRS 3.3
Hardware and Software Requirements
Perl support
Web server support
Database support
Web browser support
Professional Services for OTRS

Trouble Ticket Systems - The Basics


This chapter offers a brief introduction to trouble ticket systems, along with an explanation of the core concept of a trouble ticket. A quick example illustrates the advantages of using such a system.

What is a trouble ticket system, and why do you need one?

The following example describes what a trouble ticket system is, and how you might benefit from using such a system at your company.

Let's imagine that Max is a manufacturer of video recorders. Max receives many messages from customers needing help with the devices. Some days, he is unable to respond promptly or even acknowledge the messages. Some customers get impatient and write a second message with the same question. All messages containing support requests are stored in a single inbox folder. The requests are not sorted, and Max responds to the messages using a regular email program.

Since Max cannot reply fast enough to all the messages, he is assisted by the developers Joe and John in this. Joe and John use the same mail system, accessing the same inbox. They don't realize that Max often gets two identical requests from one frustrated customer. Sometimes they both end up responding separately to the same request, with the customer receiving two different answers. Furthermore, Max is unaware of the details of their responses. He is also unaware of the details of the customer problems and their resolutions, such as which problems occur with high frequency, or how much time and money he has to spend on customer support.

At a meeting, a colleague tells Max about trouble ticket systems and how they can solve Max's problems with customer support. After looking for information on the Internet, Max decides to install OTRS on a computer that is accessible from the web by both his customers and his employees. Now, the customer requests are no longer sent to Max's private inbox but to the mail account that is used for OTRS. The ticket system is connected to this mailbox and saves all requests in its database. For every new request, the system automatically generates an answer and sends it to the customer so that the customer knows that his request has arrived and will be answered soon. OTRS generates an explicit reference, the ticket number, for every single request. Customers are now happy because their requests are acknowledged and it is not necessary to send a second message with the same question. Max, John, and Joe can now log into OTRS with a simple web browser and answer the requests. Since the system locks a ticket that is answered, no message is edited twice.

Let's imagine that Mr. Smith makes a request to Max's company, and his message is processed by OTRS. John gives a brief reply to his question. But Mr. Smith has a follow-up question, which he posts via a reply to John's mail. Since John is busy, Max now answers Mr. Smith's message. The history function of OTRS allows Max to see the full sequence of communications on this request, and he responds with a more detailed reply. Mr. Smith does not know that multiple service representatives were involved in resolving his request, and he is happy with the details that arrived in Max's last reply.

Of course, this is only a short preview of the possibilities and features of trouble ticket systems. But if your company has to attend to a high volume of customer requests through emails and phone calls, and if different service representatives need to respond at different times, a ticket system can be of great assistance. It can help streamline work flow processes, add efficiencies, and improve your overall productivity. A ticket system helps you to flexibly structure your Support or Help Desk environment. Communications between customers and service staff become more transparent. The net result is an increase in service effectiveness. And no doubt, satisfied customers will translate into better financial results for your company.

What is a trouble ticket?

A trouble ticket is similar to a medical report created for a hospital patient. When a patient first visits the hospital, a medical report is created to hold all necessary personal and medical information on him. Over multiple visits, as he is attended to by the same or additional doctors, the attending doctor updates the report by adding new information on the patient's health and the ongoing treatment. This allows any other doctors or the nursing staff to get a complete picture on the case at hand. When the patient recovers and leaves the hospital, all information from the medical report is archived and the report is closed.

Trouble ticket systems such as OTRS handle trouble tickets like normal email. The messages are saved in the system. When a customer sends a request, a new ticket is generated by the system which is comparable to a new medical report being created. The response to this new ticket is comparable to a doctor's entry in the medical report. A ticket is closed if an answer is sent back to the customer, or if the ticket is separately closed by the system. If a customer responds again on an already closed ticket, the ticket is reopened with the new information added. Every ticket is stored and archived with complete information. Since tickets are handled like normal emails, attachments and contextual annotations will also be stored with each email. In addition, information on relevant dates, employees involved, working time needed for ticket resolution, etc. are also saved. At any later stage, tickets can be sorted, and it is possible to search through and analyze all information using different filtering mechanisms.