Before I worked at TAC, I was pretty careless about how I filled in a TAC case online. For example, when I had to select the technology I was dealing with in the drop-down menu, if I didn’t see exactly what I had then I would go ahead and pick something at random and figure TAC would sort it out. And then I would get frustrated when I didn’t get an answer on my case for hours. Working in TAC showed me why.

When you open a TAC case, and you pick a particular technology, your choice determines into which queue the case is routed. For example, if you pick Catalyst 6500, the case ends up in a queue which is being monitored by engineers who are experts on that platform. Under TAC rules (assuming it is a priority 3 case) the engineers have 20 minutes to pick up the case. If they don’t, it turns blue in their display and their duty manager starts asking questions. (In high touch TAC where I worked, we didn’t have too many blue cases, but in backbone TAC it wasn’t uncommon to see a ton of blue and even black (> 1hr) cases sitting in a busy queue.)

If the customer categorized his case wrong, this meant it was sitting in the wrong queue. Now an engineer had to notice his case, review it, determine where it should go, and “punt” it to the appropriate queue, at which point the counters are reset and the case is sitting again.

Imagine for a moment that you are an overworked TAC engineer with 30 minutes left to go on your shift. You are supposed to clear out your queue and take any cases before the next crew comes on (at least we were in HTTS). You don’t want to take any more cases, however. There is a case sitting in your queue which has turned blue and your colleagues may not be happy to see it sitting there when they come on shift. Well, you’re an experienced TAC engineer and you know what to do: punt the case to another queue, even if it’s the wrong one. If you pick a busy queue, it will take at least 30 minutes for the engineers on that queue to see the “mis-queue” and punt the case back to your queue, at which point you are off shift and it becomes the problem of your colleagues on the next shift.

My recommendation is to be very careful to select the right menu options when you open a case online with any tech support organization. Make sure you route the case to the right place the first time so you don’t have to wait for engineers and managers to look at it and re-categorize it.