https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2013/10/24/gov-uk-support-requests-a-brief-guide-to-our-standardsurgent/

How to make normal, urgent and emergency GOV.UK support requests

We’ve recently developed a set of standards to guide the GOV.UK team’s response to requests from government organisations. The standards are posted in full over here - but if you’re short of time, here’s the one-minute version.

The basic performance standard

First of all, please use the internal support form to ask the GOV.UK team to do things - not our personal emails. Your requests reach us via a system called Zendesk.

We aim to give a considered response to all enquiries within 2 working days.

We’ll try to give you a definitive response in this time - but we may need to ask you for more information, or for more time to consult.

If we accept changes, we’ll give you an idea of timing - for example whether we’ll aim to complete them this sprint, or during an upcoming or future sprint.

Fairly urgent and really urgent stuff

We recognise that not everything can be planned in advance.

So every 2 hours, we will scan the requests we’ve received for particularly urgent issues - for example, new bugs that affect the site’s usability.

To help us do this, write URGENT in the title, and in your ticket explain the impact on users if the issue is not resolved immediately.

Critical events: use our emergency phone number

We also have emergency phone contact numbers you can use to reach us immediately if your request is of critical urgency. Our guidelines contain an overview of the situations that might merit this.

GOV.UK emergency contact phone numbers

We have separate guidance for publishing in a national emergency.

Managing and chasing your requests

If we don’t get back to you within the above targets, chase your request by updating your existing Zendesk ticket. Please don’t create a new one, as that’s really confusing.

Please help us manage requests by only raising one issue per ticket. We’ll close any requests which have been awaiting your response for more than 2 weeks.

Reporting back and evaluating how we’re doing

This is the first time we’ve set explicit standards for our responses to government organisations. They won’t be perfect - but we hope they’re a step in the right direction.

We’ll report back to GOV.UK steering group on how we’re doing; and will review these standards in December/January.

In the meantime, please use the comments section on this blogpost to raise any questions or issues.

3 comments

  1. Comment by E.A. Brown posted on

    Hi GDS,
    First, thank you for establishing a standard for your requests. It shows a maturing of your processes, intended to improve the experience of those using Zendesk.

    However, I think that simply marking urgent items URGENT is not sufficient.

    *Everyone* thinks their stuff is urgent. I get messages marked URGENT regularly, and it is no reflection on the actual time-sensitivity or topic-sensitivity at all. I don't think this will distinguish genuinely important requests: you'll just get a flood of URGENT requests.

    I deliberately avoid marking anything URGENT in the subject line for exactly this reason - because readers are unlikely to take that label at face value.

    How do you then triage the genuinely urgent items (things that are time-sensitive, or that, in error, could reflect badly on your organisation) from the things that are simply gaffs?

    Can I suggest that you add a tick box to your unpublish form for 'time sensitive' and one for 'affects reputation of GOV.UK'? These qualifiers distinguish the genuinely important requests from the milling crowd.

    Following your iterative model, use them for a month or two, and see how they're used/abused.

    Please consider a more refined solution than 'mark it urgent' for important Zendesk action requests.

    • Replies to E.A. Brown>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Hi there

      Cheers for this - interesting point.

      First, with regard to unpublishing requests specifically, we're now pretty close to being able to devolve this ability to departments. Which should hopefully take away a major pain point.

      But more broadly. I do take your point about 'urgency creep'. But the truth is that when we look at tickets in Zendesk, it does help us prioritise what to to look at if the title contains an indication of priority (and the content of the request contains info about why). And if people are abusing the 'urgent' flag, we can call them up on it...

      However, we're due an initial evaluation of these procedures in December - really happy to consider your suggestions as part of this, and in light of our experience til then.

  2. Comment by Cari posted on

    Hello - how'd the review in December go? - cheers, Cari