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Helping parents keep away from the school office: ticketing desks for schools

Pupils in the UK are starting to head back to school as the COVID-19 lockdown eases, but with lots of new rules and considerations in place.

Along with new one way systems in and out of school, rules around social distancing and wipe clean lunch boxes, one rule that caught my eye at my son's school was the request that parents don't enter the building and go to the school office. Instead they should call or email.

In the "old days" pre March 2020, the queue at the school office after the morning drop off used to be to the door, and whilst I know not all of the year groups are going back yet and people won't have raffle tickets to return or new PE kit to buy, the school office must still be dealing with a lot of parent enquiries. Our school have been brilliant - but I did email the other day and not receive a response. And I'm sure their phone lines are jammed at the moment with parents asking all sorts of questions.

So it made me think they maybe should consider a ticketing system. Rather than email the school office, AND message the teacher on ClassDojo, not sure who to email with what - and not sure if the email is even getting through as you've just replied to a mailing list newsletter sent from Teachers2Parents that all parents received, a ticketing system would allow clear 2-way communication to be funneled to the right people and ensure no messages slipped through the cracks. From reading the website of Teachers2Parents it really does sound like that - teachers talking to parents, not parents talking back.

A ticketing system - or support ticket system - allows your school or educational establishment to receive emails from parents, and route it to the right person, be that a teacher or school office. You can then have a 2 way conversation, with the messages all showing up in the support ticket system. Parents - or "customers" - can normally email an email address like normal and it feeds into the system, or they can visit a page online and enter their support request / query. When you're finished, you can "close the ticket" and know that the question is resolved. Sometimes the ability to route the enquiry to the right person, based on rules you set up, is an added extra cost depending on how the system is priced, so you may just prefer to run everything through the school office.

The old skool way of setting up a ticketing system was to download some ticketing software and host it on your own hosting - and if you know someone handy with FTP you can still use something like osTicket for free and do that. Although in this day and age, and if you're a primary school, secondary school, nursery or preschool you're probably going to need to be careful about where you host it and security requirements considering GDPR and protecting the data of young people.

So the newer way - and to be honest, the easier way to just get up and running with something quickly - is to use a hosted solution - "software as a service" you may have heard it called, or SaaS. This is when you just create an account and login to use it and the system is all on a website, like Facebook or checking your email in Gmail. These options generally look a bit better too - more like a nicely designed interface and less like Windows 95 because they've been designed in the last decade. The market leader in this space seems to be ZenDesk which will set you back from £5 per agent per month. A competitor of theirs is FreshDesk, who have a free option which would suit you if you just wanted a simple option with all members of your staff sharing a single agent login.

If you go for a hosted solution you generally pay "per agent" which means per person who uses the software at your end. But if you know that there's generally only one person managing the school reception desk, you need only pay for one license and the people who are manning the desk can just take it in turns, when it's their shift, to log into the single account and reply to messages. If you're including teachers though, that'll up the amount of agents you need. And if you've got lots of office staff and you want to keep track of who replied to what, rather than all messages seem to be sent from the same login, then you'll need to pay for more agent licenses. FreshDesk also advertise on their free tier that you can select which database centre you use for your account - meaning you choose where in the world your data is hosted, and you can therefore select to keep it in the UK inline with GDPR.

I started this article due to thinking about some of the challenges facing schools during this Coronavirus Pandemic but it has got me wondering if I should introduce a ticketing system to my web agency, so if I decide to, I'll do a comparison article to compare ticketing systems and report back on my findings! Sign up to our newsletter to be kept in the loop!

 

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Lisa
by Lisa

Lisa has planning, designing and building websites for companies of all sizes for over 18 years. Now a days you'll mainly find her wireframing and then designing complex sites over at 18a to make sure they flow well to give the user the best possible experience whilst providing great ROI for the client. She also teaches SEO (search engine optimisation).

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