Help Desk Response Time: How Long Is Too Long?

There is disconnect between end user expectations and the realities of service desk availabilities and capabilities, which often leads to high dissatisfaction. An efficient response time is made up of two factors: 1. Realistic user expectations set from the beginning, and 2. Accountability of the help desk team to properly classify and handle problems in an appropriate manner for each situation. To know just how long is too long for a user to wait for a resolution, consult this list.


Urgent Tickets: Immediate Response And Resolution

Urgent tickets are mission-critical, and failure to resolve these issues quickly will have a widespread impact as they prevent users from completing their work. Urgent problems typically do not have workarounds in place, and therefore need immediate attention. Tickets are classified as urgent when they:

  • Affect major services.
  • Affect a high number of end users.
  • Involve a breach in security.
  • Have implications on health and safety.

The help desk should acknowledge and respond to urgent requests immediately. Resolution will depend upon circumstances, but urgent issues that take more than one day to resolve indicate there is something broken in the help desk workflow.

High-Priority Tickets: Big Problems, Fast Actions

One step below urgent problems, high-priority tickets usually affect a significant number of end users and often disrupt workflow, but they do not grind operations to a halt. High-priority problems often have workarounds in place to help keep things moving. High-priority issues often:help desk response times

  • Inconvenience a large number of end users, without stopping their ability to work.
  • Cause some of those affected end users serious problems.
  • Signal a minor breach in security.
  • May have implications on health and safety if the problem persists.

High-priority problems should be acknowledged within an hour, but they may take anywhere from five hours to two days to resolve. If it’s taking a team more than three days to resolve high-priority tickets, it could have far-reaching impact on the organization.

Medium-Priority Tickets: Proper Prioritization

“Average” end user issues typically fall into this bucket. These problems must be resolved, but they do not have an immediate impact on the business, and should not be pushed ahead of urgent or high-priority tickets. Problems that fall into this classification may:

  • Affect a single user’s ability to work.
  • Impact a small number of end users, but with a workaround in place.

Medium-priority problems do not indicate a security breach or affect health or safety.

Response to medium-priority tickets will depend upon the help desk’s current workload. They should be acknowledged within a few hours, but may take up to five days to resolve. Most help desks can clear these tickets in around seven days, with little impact on the business.

Low-Priority Tickets: Longer-Term Fixes

Low-priority tickets involve user features that are not essential to workflow. They may affect a large number of users, but in a small way. For example, non-essential equipment malfunctions that involve an external SLA. Response time will vary from immediate to a few days, with resolutions coming within 12 hours to two weeks, depending upon the issue.

Managing User Expectations With Effective Communication

In order to maintain harmony with end users, help desks must manage user expectations up front. This involves honest communication strategies. The help desk should:

  • Acknowledge receipt of the ticket immediately, even if this involves an automated response. The receipt should let the user know when they can expect to hear from the help desk, as well as an indication of the typical response time for their type of issue.
  • Provide a method for the user to track the progress and escalation of the issue.
  • Define what it will mean for the situation to be “resolved.”
  • Do their best to meet that timeline.
  • Let the user know immediately the help desk team cannot meet the timeline.
  • Have a solid ticket-tracking system in place.

Response and resolution times will depend on a variety of external factors, but the proper personnel and infrastructure can resolve issues quickly and efficiently. When the help desk operates smoothly, they eliminate redundancies, prevent “lost” or “forgotten” tickets, and handle issues appropriately according to their designation.

Jonathan Stephan

Jonathan Stephan is responsible for new business development for Canvas IT. Working with customers, Jonathan designs the solutions and programs that best fit our customer’s needs, and helps them meet objectives. Jonathan brings 15 years of IT, Managed Service and Outsourcing experience to Canvas IT, having helped more than 100 Mid-Market and Enterprise customers streamline IT Service Desk Operations, gain ITIL maturity and deploy best of breed technologies.

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