Reporting Problems Properly

Why does it matter how I report a problem?

The problem with society in general is that everyone thinks that somebody has already reported, is going to report, or will get somebody else to report the problem. When you think about it – this model is not terribly safe or low-risk

Many, if not all, service oriented organisations like our local authorities have spent a lot of time and money examining how they do their work, and adopting different ‘tools’ to help them be more efficient. Where services are provided for different teams with different needs, email simply does not help.

Most organisations will have some form of help= or service-desk which manages communication with the ‘customer’ and then logs the details of each call into a computer system which records all the requisite information, and adds markers or flags to each ‘ticket’ dependent on what type of problem it is.#

This ‘ticket’ is then assigned to the correct group for them to resolve the problem. Why use such systems when a phone call or email would do the job?

  • A ticket will also contain information on when it was created, assigned to each group, when it was opened and when the problem was fixed.
  • The ticket is categorised with different terms being used for different purposes.
  • These flags and timers allow managers to track how much workload is coming in, and also how long it takes to deal with problems and to ultimately report back to the customer that their concern has been addressed.
  • A ticket system will allow for multiple reports of the same problem, but then the closure of duplicate tickets referring correctly to the open ticket already assigned. This also means that multiple reports of the same problem can be automatically tracked lending higher priority to the initial report.
  • Ticket systems allow for all sorts of reports to be generated based on the timing information and other fields, which support better decision making by management as to which areas need more attention.

For example, a single report of a pothole in a road will be properly categorised, reported and sent to repair teams.

An engineer may visit the site, examine the problem and place more technical information into the ticket. They will make assumptions about the problem, and one would be that it has little effect on local people, as only one person has complained.

Reports, Statistics and the Power of numbers

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics

Mark Twain

The modern world of local authorities, where every piece of information is potentially, and readily, available to the public via the Freedom of Information Act or through GDPR/Subject Access requests, means that all decisions and activities have to be documented, justified and carried out in a manner which is deemed fair to all.

When you have multiple reports of problems, all of which seem of similar type, shape, size and type of location, the only way you can decide between them is to look at how the problem affects the ‘customers’. Impact (how bad is it) is often calculated by how many reports of the same problem there are, and also by logging other factors such as Councillor involvement (representing constituents) or petitions.

The impact most readily found in reporting will be duplicate reports.

Always get a receipt!

When you contact the authority to report the problem, always ask for a ticket or problem reference. This will ensure that they have created a ticket. Don’t get fobbed off by someone saying ‘it has already been reported’. If you are sure the problem is not fixed, then ask for a new ticket, even if it gets closed later.

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