When you get your first client you may be inclined, especially if they are of a small or moderate size and if you are eager to please, just to tell them to call or text you when they have a problem. This approach won’t scale, though, as you and they grow. No matter how big you or your clients are, you should probably handle support requests through a ticketing system. Why?
First, you can’t be barraged by calls and texts. When your phone rings, you answer it, or you at least check it, and you can’t do that for even a modest volume of support requests on a daily basis. That will eat into your time to manage systems, keep up-to-speed on news and updates, update your books, contact new customers, and so on.
Second, without a ticketing system, you’ll have no way to triage the requests. You can’t respond urgently to all of them, so you’ll end up jotting them down somewhere, which inefficient and prone to error.
Third, without a ticketing system you’ll have no records, or at least poor records. You don’t want to be searching through email, voicemail, or texts to look for support requests. A ticketing system will allow you to search by date, user, system, tag, message content, and so on, which is not only helpful for finding a particular request, but helpful for viewing all the requests associated with a particular system, user, problem, etc.
Fourth, using email, text, and phone for support requests won’t at all scale if you have employees. It will quickly become a mess trying to assign tickets and verify if they’ve been completed.
So what do you want from a ticketing system?
At a minimum, you want either a desktop app or web portal that clients can access on their systems and use for submitting their problem and its priority. Other useful information—such as the system, user name, date, etc—will be automatically generated. Then you can handle the requests yourself or delegate them to your employees. That’s the minimum.
At the next level, you would want those requests to integrate with your billing system, so that when you check off that you’ve completed the request and entered how long it took you and your notes, that information automatically gets filed into the client account and is automatically included in their invoice.
Also, a surprisingly useful feature to have for the client-facing portion is a dropdown box with a list of prefab choices they can select to help explain their problem. This feature helps clients getting frustrated trying to explain their problem in detail. (Remember, they’re not the experts and moreover, they lack the technical terminology to explain the problem.) It also helps you avoid needing to decipher those explanations and it gives you better information with which you can look into the matter before calling them or starting a remote session.
Finally, remember that a good ticketing system helps keep you and your clients in good communication. They have a consistent way of contacting you and you have a consistent, structured way to manage the variety of support requests, with all their different issues and priorities, across all of your clients.