Handling Customer Requests with osTicket

This weekend I got a request from Angela about making some changes to her website, and I then realized that when I have multiple clients requests happening at the same time, I’m going to have to track them all! Currently, I am maintaining independent email and Basecamp threads with each of the 3 people I’m talking to, and this has been fine because I am in sales/new business mode. The request to make changes to an existing website threw me for a mini-loop, because there are different expectations for maintenance that I knew I needed to meet. Here’s how it breaks down:

  • In the way I do sales/new business, there’s no timeframe to close. I move the process along as quickly as we’re comfortable going, and email seems to be a pretty good way to do this.
  • Once the project is active, though, I switch to 37Signal’s online collaboration tool Basecamp to keep all our communications in one place. The client knows this is where I keep everything.
  • With maintenance, the client expectation is different: you need to acknowledge the request, give a time estimate, and then meet it within a reasonable time. This is an intermittent request, and it requires a different kind of tracking.

The latter type of tracking is called issue tracking, and I didn’t have a system in place. So I looked around to see what kind of open source solutions were out there, and came across a class of software for support issue ticketing. The specific software I installed is the open source osTicket, which seems attractive and well-supported from the 15-minutes I spent looking around. There are a lot of different systems like this out there, so I’m basically taking a leap of faith based on how nifty the package looks and how clean the design workflow appears from the screenshots.

I installed the software on the agenceum.com website, which is currently sporting a brand new blank home page with the new logo on it. Currently, the help desk link is looking awfully generic, so I’ll figure out how to make my own template for it with the Agenceum/Dave Seah branding. In the meantime, though, I’ll be putting all maintenance requests I get for my projects through the ticket system and get a sense of how it works. This might be an effective way of managing ALL of my tasks and prioritizing them, actually. We shall see.