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ocPortal Tutorial: Running a virtual support desk

Written by Chris Graham, ocProducts
Thumbnail: Configuring the support ticket and comment topic systems

Configuring the support ticket and comment topic systems

ocPortal can be used as an effective support desk tool. For those unfamiliar with the concept of a support desk, or who may not relate their personal needs to being an application of such, these are some common properties of a support desk system:
  • PLACEMENT: the ability for issues to be placed, both by staff, and by the audience being supported
  • NOTIFICATION: notifications, for staff to be made aware of issues
  • CATEGORISATION: categorisation of issues
  • PRIORITISATION: prioritisation of issues
  • ASSIGNING: the issue is assigned to a specific member of staff
  • TRACKING: tracking of issues
  • COORDINATION: coordination with the resolution of issues between relevant parties
  • RESOLUTION: the ability for issues to be marked as 'resolved'
  • ARCHIVING: past issues may be browsed

Four different ocPortal systems may be used to provide such a support desk:
  • The Support Ticket system
  • Discussion Forums
  • The Feedback system
  • The Messaging system


The Support Ticket system

Thumbnail: Managing support ticket types

Managing support ticket types

The support ticket system is designed specifically for the handling of support issues. It is a relatively simple system, that is tied into the discussion forums for actual storage and moderation of support tickets (each ticket is stored as a forum topic).

The support ticket system provides two main advantages over the discussion forums:
  • Issues remain private, between reporter and staff
  • The interface is more simple

Thumbnail: Viewing support tickets as staff

Viewing support tickets as staff

Thumbnail: Viewing a support ticket

Viewing a support ticket

However, if these two advantages are not significant, we recommend use of the Discussion Forum directly.

To use the Support Ticket system, you must not be using the 'none' forum driver, and you must have created the support forum that is referenced in the ocPortal configuration (for OCF it's auto-created). It is usual to use page access permissions to restrict access to the support ticket page so that only those that may request support may access the system. Support tickets are not linked to on the menu by default- use the entry point finder tool in the menu editor to create a link.

Support tickets are created simply by visiting the support ticket page, clicking to add a ticket, and filling in the appropriate details. Upon completion of this, an e-mail is sent to the staff, and the staff can then respond to the ticket as appropriate; it should be noted that staff should not reply to the support ticket forum-topic itself, because if they do so, no 'staff have replied' message will be sent back to the ticket starter. This said, the forum interface should be used for any ticket post editing and deleting, as the support ticket system itself does not provide this.

The support ticket system supports attachments, but only in OCF .

Guests may create support tickets, but they need to leave their e-mail address (there is a field for this) if they want a reply.

Staff will see all open support tickets when they visit the support ticket page, but users may only seen their own. If the support ticket list is left open then it will automatically make your computer beep if a new ticket is made, and refresh to show that new ticket. Likewise, if a support ticket is left open, your computer will beep and the ticket will refresh, if a new post is made in the ticket.

Support feature Method
PLACEMENT A special interface is provided for this
CATEGORISATION Support ticket types may be managed from the Admin Zone
PRIORITISATION You can make use of ticket types to set up a priority scale
ASSIGNING If more than one member of staff are viewing the same support ticket then a notification will be shown
NOTIFICATIONS E-mail/etc notifications are sent
COORDINATION A topic-like reply feature is provided
RESOLUTION Ticket may be closed
ARCHIVING Ticket list is made available, according to permissions


The Messaging system

The Messaging system is designed to allow staff to easily receive messages and organise themselves with respect to those messages. It is different from the Support Ticket system because the Messaging system is designed around staff planning, and unlike support tickets there is no inbuilt reply mechanism to reply to messages received (although people may leave their contact details). It is optimised for managing feedback instead of maintaining customer relationships.

The Messaging system hooks up to the main_contact_us block. This block gets placed on a Comcode page of your choice, and you use it to gather messages. Any messages gathered will be e-mailed out to any staff who have notifications enabled for the particular usage of the block. Staff can set up their notifications by visiting the Comcode page where the block is placed. When staff are e-mailed they get a link to view the message, and discuss it between themselves. One member of staff may opt to take ownership over the message, which gives them the responsibility of actioning/implementing whatever it implies is required (e.g. if it is a suggestion, implementing that suggestion).

Support feature Method
PLACEMENT A special interface is provided for this
CATEGORISATION You can place multiple contact-us blocks, each identified with different IDs. Staff members may set notifications for them individually.
PRIORITISATION Not supported at the time of writing, although ticket types may be used in this way
ASSIGNING If more than one member of staff are viewing the same support ticket then a notification will be shown
NOTIFICATIONS E-mail/etc notifications are sent
COORDINATION Staff may privately discuss messages and take ownership
RESOLUTION Once a staff member has taken ownership over staff can essentially consider the matter resolved
ARCHIVING It is possible to browse past messages


Discussion Forums

The Discussion Forum (our own OCF, at least) is designed to be an extremely efficient multi-purpose working environment: forums are at their heart an interactive communication medium. There are also a number of special features, such as post templates, and multi moderations, that make the forums particularly appropriate for use to provide support.

For more information on this, see the 'Running a discussion forum based help desk' tutorial.

Support feature Method
PLACEMENT Standard forum features may be used effectively
NOTIFICATIONS Staff may set up notifications against forums as appropriate
CATEGORISATION Sub-forums may be used for this
PRIORITISATION Sub-forums may be used for this
ASSIGNING Sub-forums or topic titles may be used for this
COORDINATION A reply feature is provided
RESOLUTION Topic may be closed
ARCHIVING The forum-view allows browsing and searching


The Feedback system

Thumbnail: The feedback commenting system in action

The feedback commenting system in action

Most forms of ocPortal content support commenting, via the feedback system. For example, if enabled for a download, and in ocPortal, the download may have an attached discussion. This discussion is actually stored on the forum in a comment topic.

The advantage of the feedback system over the Discussion Forums is simply that the discussion is attached directly to actual content. For most forms of content, these discussions are unlikely to be classifiable as 'support', but the download system in particular may contain questions and answers relating to the download itself.

To use the feedback commenting system, you must not be using the 'none' forum driver, and you must have created the comment topic forum that is referenced in the ocPortal configuration (for OCF it's auto-created).

Support feature Method
PLACEMENT There is an implicit attachment to a related piece of content (such as a download)
CATEGORISATION There is an implicit attachment to a related piece of content (such as a download)
PRIORITISATION Sub-forums may be used for this
ASSIGNING Not supported
NOTIFICATIONS a notification can be enabled for when new feedback is posted
COORDINATION A reply feature is provided
RESOLUTION Not supported
ARCHIVING Content may be searched and browsed


Concepts

support desk
A virtual support desk is the virtual equivalent to a companies real-world help-desk/support-department/reception/call centre.
support ticket
A ticket is an issue placed the support ticket system created for private discussion between the placer and the staff

See also