The Epistemist

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Issues vs. Incidents

May 28th, 2009 · 1 Comment · support

In designing technical  support processes, it is critically important to understand the difference between issues and incidents. There is a subtle but clear difference,  but the teams often mix the two together, causing churn and wasted resources.

An incident is a problem report from an end-user; it generally describes the specific symptoms being experienced that may be unique to a particular environment or setup. Incidents are all about the customer; they are managed at the Tier 1 support level and tracked in a CRM system.

An issue is the underlying problem that caused the incident; it may impact more than one customer. Issues are all about the product, and are managed at Tier 2 level.  All issues should be captured in a Knowledge Base; they are worked on in a CRM or a bug-tracking system.

Issues are resolved by Tier 2 or Tier 3; associated incidents are closed by Tier 1 – with  a loop back to the customer!

The churn occurs when incidents are handled one after another without consideration of what the underlying issue may be. This is why it is so important to use KB with every customer interaction, so that every incident can be traced to its root cause through an issue.

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One Comment so far ↓

  • David Kay

    As much as ITIL gives me a headache (“the Consultant Full Employment Act of 1974” or whatever) I think the distinction between what it calls “incident management” and “problem management” (what you call issues) is an important one.

    The key issue (ahem) is how to allocate scarce resources to doing problem (issue) management. This is where tracking knowledge reuse can really help.

    Bottom line: I agree, although I guess I’d suggest using the word “problem.” Or “root cause.”

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