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One of the temptations support center analysts and technicians have is to mark tickets “resolved” after they apply or communicate a previously known fix, without waiting for the customer or end user to acknowledge that their issue has, in fact, been resolved. Often, this temptation exists because they are being rated on the number of first contact resolutions (FCRs) they complete, and/or how many tickets they can resolve in a day. But quantitative and activity-based metrics often drive imperfect behavior.
For more about FCR, read Jeff Rumburg’s Metric of the Month: First Contact Resolution Rate
If you are not familiar with the name Schrödinger, he was a Nobel laureate in physics who proposed that we conduct a thought experiment in which we put a cat in a box with a vial of deadly poison. We could not know whether the cat was alive or dead without opening the box. Therefore, he said, the cat is both alive and dead until we open the box and get empirical evidence about which is the case. This paradox is usually called Schrödinger’s Cat.
One day recently, I was seated on a plane waiting to push back from the gate. I was watching luggage being loaded onto a plane at the next gate. When the luggage cart was empty, the ground crew member shut the cargo door and threw the latch. My mind asked a question: “Is the cargo door closed?” My answer was no. It isn’t closed until the pilots say so. Or, to put it in Schrödinger’s terms, it is both closed and not closed at the same time.
If there’s an indicator light in the cockpit that says the cargo door isn’t closed, that plane isn’t going anywhere. The ground crew will return to the hatch and reopen and close it until the indicator lets the pilots know it’s secure. If it’s a fault in the indicator, it must be cleared before the plane moves. As a frequent flyer, I am very glad that the crews operate this way. I do not relish the thought of a cargo hatch opening mid-flight and causing a serious problem.
While most incidents are not as critical as a loose hatch on a plane, consider the corollary in healthcare IT: That diagnostic device or laboratory computer is not working right until the clinician, technician, or physician says it is, and patients’ health—or even lives—may be at stake.
An entire enterprise can be reduced to scribbling on paper if a business-critical application fails. The service isn’t restored until the customer says it’s restored. Individual employees may not be able to work if their devices fail or their network connection is unavailable. While not high in impact to the organization as a whole, incidents can have very high impact on the individuals experiencing them. Missed deadlines, customer disappointment, and business loss may be the result of a seemingly—to IT—minor malfunction.
So, even though a reboot has fixed what appears to be the issue in a hundred prior cases, analysts need to hear the magic words, “Yes, that fixed it,” from the user or customer. In the meantime (and yes, sometimes it’s tough to get the customer to respond), you have a Schrödinger’s Ticket; it is neither resolved nor unresolved, in a way. It is not resolved until the customer says it’s resolved. The customer’s word is our empirical evidence.
Roy Atkinson is one of the top influencers in the service and support industry. His blogs, presentations, research reports, white papers, keynotes, and webinars have gained him an international reputation. In his role as senior writer/analyst, he acts as HDI's in-house subject matter expert, bringing his years of experience to the community. He holds a master’s certificate in advanced management strategy from Tulane University’s Freeman School of Business, and he is a certified HDI Support Center Manager. Follow him on Twitter @HDI_Analyst and @RoyAtkinson.
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