Incident Management Best Practices

Learn how to effectively respond to incidents and ensure business continuity with these incident management best practices.

Incident management is one of the main processes in ITSM. It helps the IT system stay afloat while your support team fights issues caused by human error or rotten luck. However, because incident management involves multiple stages and is a customer-facing function, those starting it out as a separate process might experience enormous difficulties. Is the new team structure efficient? Should I add more people to the first-level support team? What stage of the incident management process is the most important one? These questions may be tough to answer with little experience. To help you, we’ve put together a list of incident management best practices that we consider essential for teams and companies when just establishing this process:

  1. Develop an incident management process and stick to it,
  2. Use incident models, and action playbooks,
  3. Create response templates for complex customer service cases,
  4. Apply consistent guidelines for incident documentation,
  5. Establish multiple levels of support & clear escalation paths,
  6. Customize automatic alerts,
  7. Keep requesters informed.

Below in this article, we went through these recommendations in more detail.

The image is a flowchart outlining the steps involved in developing an effective incident management process, with the girl in the middle
The list of incident management best practices, with each item numbered and described in detail.

Develop an incident management process and stick to it

Think of the incident management process that makes sense to your company. Viewing incident management as a process with separate steps allows you to break down the complex process into smaller tasks and to understand better the tools needed to achieve the goal at each stage.

Come up with a unified approach to handling incidents: the order of necessary actions when dealing with them. A standard method may look like this (and we’ve broken it down into details in our article about incident management):

  1. Incident identification,
  2. Incident logging,
  3. Incident categorization and prioritization,
  4. Diagnosis and investigation,
  5. Resolution,
  6. Closure,
  7. Post-incident review.

Use incident models and action playbooks

Incident management is all about following previously agreed procedures. As a result, one of the incident management best practices is preparing playbooks and guides for every scenario in advance.

Consider splitting all typical incidents into a few groups, each united by a similar resolution workflow. Such standard resolution approaches are called incident models. According to ITIL, these will include:

  • Steps to resolving an incident,
  • The dependencies between these steps, such as the order in which they should be taken,
  • Security measures necessary to resolve such an incident, such as backing up specific data and notifying stakeholders.

Companies treat incident models differently – some write them down as resolution guides, while others try to enhance incident classification to an extent where incidents of a particular class will go through a pre-defined process. If you want to automate part of the process, you will find our Alloy Navigator solution valuable, with its highly flexible workflow automation capabilities.

Create response templates for complex customer service cases

In IT support, the way you communicate with users is as crucial for the team’s reputation as the incident resolution rate. Solving the user’s problem is only possible in, like, 99% of cases. At the end of the day, some users come to IT support with bugs that are yet to be fixed in the next product updates. Others, even if they don’t realize it, request help without knowing what they actually want. However, even if you can’t solve the user’s problem, what you can do is be polite, friendly, and empathetic with the customer. Customer service practitioners argue this might be even more important for winning a client.

That is why we highly recommend paying more attention to the culture of customer service in your team. You could start by building a collection of example response messages for challenging situations. This helps your support staff be prepared and feel confident in situations like when the user is rude or when they receive an inquiry outside their area of responsibility. Moreover, standardizing replies will create a unified tone of voice across the whole support team. Here is a procedure that might work to get it started:

The image is a screenshot of a template for managing incidents in an organization, with fields for recording incident details, response and resolution actions, and lessons learned.
  1. Collect a database of challenging cases. Create a list of repetitive customer interaction scenarios that puzzle your employees and make them wonder what to answer. Allocate some time for collecting such cases – because they might differ for every industry and company type. Compiling a list of cases that bother your team will be more effective than just googling for standard customer support reply templates.
  2. Create reply templates. When you’ve got information about the most frequent communication blockers, sit down with a couple of colleagues well-versed in customer communication, and together you will develop message templates for the “difficult cases.” For example, what would you do if a user is angry and wants to “talk to the manager” while the higher-level manager is busy?
  3. Take advantage of the in-built reply snippets. Finally, use the snippet feature of your software to free your employees from copying and pasting the previously agreed template replies.

Apply consistent guidelines for incident documentation

One of the widely accepted incident management best practices is the focus on the consistent documenting of incidents. This procedure is vital to later analyze incidents, for example, during a postmortem incident review.

Create a clear guideline on how to document the incidents. Discuss what you want to be included in an incident’s first-time log. Then, think about the formal descriptions for parameters like symptoms, the urgency level, and the incident category, which would be easy to remember.

Also, think about the parts of information that can be collected automatically. The intelligent ticket categorization and prioritization help Alloy Navigator handle this in the best way possible.

The image is a visual representation of a list of incident management best practices, with each item numbered and described in detail.
The image is a diagram depicting the different levels of incident management, with each level corresponding to increasing levels of complexity and responsibility.

Establish multiple levels of support & clear escalation paths

A multi-level support team structure allows one to sort requests and assign them to the agents based on their expertise. The first-level group (called L1) receives all incidents and helps users with general troubleshooting tips that work in most cases. Then, the incidents not resolved on the first level pass to second-level technicians (L2), that apply more sophisticated diagnosis and resolution techniques. In the rare cases when this doesn’t help, the third-level support experts (L3) jump in.

While your first-level and second-level support agents should be able to resolve most of the incidents, it’s essential to have experts with deep knowledge of special problems accessible. Apart from full-time employment, consider an option where they agree to help on-demand.

For the escalation mechanism to work smoothly, use incident management software to automate the routing of the requests. First, you’ll need to write down the roles and responsibilities of team members on paper. That will make it much easier to configure the software.

Customize incident management automatic alerts

Apart from the issues reported by users, automatic system monitoring alerts might be of enormous help. When something goes wrong in the IT system, such monitoring tools identify this and send notifications to the stakeholders. In modern incident management software, the configuration of the alerts is flexible: you can add alerts for special triggers and remove those already existing if it’s more convenient for you. It’ll enable you to focus on things that really matter instead of receiving tons of notifications that don’t bring any value to your area of responsibility.

The image is an icon depicting a bell with an exclamation mark, and does include a person looking at a computer display
The image is a flowchart outlining the steps involved in keeping stakeholders informed during an incident, with options for different communication methods and frequency.

Keep requesters informed of the incident resolution process

Ensure that your requesters are informed on every step of the incident resolution process. Look at these tips on how to implement this idea using Alloy Navigator:

  1. Include after-resolution automated email surveys to get an insight into how satisfied your users are.
  2. Use announcements on Self-Service Portal to notify as many users as possible about updates on a major incident.
  3. Let users know their issue is a work in progress by notifying them of updates on the incident status.

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