ChatOps / article

How chat helps IT support agents crush it

Most IT support organizations use a ticketing system. And that's good. But the process used with these ticketing systems is based on the escalation model which–let's face it–is burdened by basic inefficiencies. Passing tickets from agent to agent, and being held hostage by individual schedules? That model's so tired even Rip Van Winkle needs more sleep.

Plus, it seems some organizations continue with this model as if escalation were the only way to provide support. (Old Man Escalation says: That's the way we've always done it, and we're stickin' to it!)

But just because you've always relied on escalations doesn't mean that's the best way to go. Escalations have their uses, sure, but many times an answer is simple and doesn't need a lot of routing. And if a manager or expert is unavailable? We all know how frustrating that can be.

Here's where group chat comes in.

The speed of group chat, combined with the power of a support tool (like, say, Jira Service Desk), gives your team new moves, moves it needs. It's like adding, say, low-hand palm and flying buddha kick to your core technique. (You know the adage: start a kung fu analogy, continue a kung fu analogy.)

Together, it's support black belt time.

With group chat, you can ask a teammate a question and get answers immediately--plus files, links, and screenshots. In many ways, group chat is even more effective than reaching over and tapping a teammate on the shoulder.

Especially if that teammate is on another continent.

Let's walk through the ways a group chat tool (such as Hipchat) benefits an IT team:

1. Real-time teamwork

Teammates can ask a question and get answers to address issues fast. In cases where text is cumbersome, you can start a 1:1 video chat, or share your screen. It's simple, and far more efficient than asking questions via email, or escalating and watching the ticket crawl and stall™ (not actual trademark) it's way through the workflow.


Screenshot of a team's chat room

Rooms make it easier to work together on an issue because everything discussed and every file shared is available for the entire team's benefit. The history is searchable and always available for review, and the room effectively becomes the team's command center. This gives support managers a nice advantage, too. When needed, they can hang out in a room and observe how issues are being addressed, discussed, and solved.

Perhaps best of all, you can pull others into a room with @mentions when you need the expertise of people on other teams. Guest access for 3rd-party experts is also available in many group chat tools. This allows others to enter and contribute, then exit when the issue is resolved.

Chat room ideas for IT support

Outage notifications room - An IT team should know immediately what and when something is down. A central location for this prevents 10,000 people (slight exaggeration, hopefully) from pinging/emailing/phoning the IT desk with the same question, yet it also provides a place where anyone can report an outage and have it investigated. In addition, with a general outage room you'll know immediately when the system is back up.

Temporary incident/problem rooms - Spin up temporary rooms for tickets, incidents, topics–any way your team sees fit. Temporary rooms can be used to solve an incident or problem, and afterwards you can delete the room and/or archive it when the issue is complete, which is great for auditing purposes. For example, let's say your team is rolling something out to the whole company. Create a room and prior to the rollout advertise this unique support chatroom. It'll help support users who have trouble, and it's a great way to deflect tickets. And in a broader context, this lets companies support new services for their employees without putting "sewage" in their support pipeline.

Team rooms - Rooms for each team provide a space to discuss team business. This might be general IT team work, or work specific to a particular office location. Team rooms can be private, in which case only invited members are allowed access, or remain public so anyone in the company can pop in and benefit from the .gifs and cat pictures.

Expert room - A room for dedicated subject experts might be a useful room, a known place to go for specific subject matter needs.


Group chat tools integrate with everything so you can pump notifications about the most relevant topics and issues straight into the chat room. For an IT team, bringing system and network alerts into a chat room can serve as the canary in the coal mine saving precious time during an emergency (see Outage notifications room above). These notifications may even help the team shore up a teetering system before it completely topples over.

Bringing system and network alerts into a chat room can serve as the canary in the coal mine saving precious time during an emergency

IT in action - Halogenics

Halogenics uses Hipchat to get notifications wherever they are, and that includes on the go via mobile. They've set up notifications from Jira Service Desk, Jira, and New Relic to monitor all their support activity, servers, and bugs.

Remote support

Distributed teams are commonplace today, and it's no different for IT teams. Group chat is a place where teammates can work together no matter where they're physically located. This is especially important for growing companies that need a space where everyone can be in the same room–even if it’s a digital one.

A very useful feature of group chat is knowing when teammates are online and available. In Hipchat, someone's online status is indicated by a green (available), yellow (away/idle), or red (do not disturb) dot. A gray icon (offline) is displayed when a user is a member of a private room but not currently in that room, or has no clients connected and does not have any mobile devices hooked up. A mobile icon appears when a user has no clients connected, but has a mobile device hooked up.

It's much more effective to see who's in a room and available to help. When compared with sending an email and having no idea if the person is online to answer, leaving you waiting and guessing, clogging inboxes...well, there is no comparison.

Pro tip

With some group chat tools (like Hipchat) you can send a message to a teammate who's not in the room, and not online. The system will automatically send an email notification to them with the contents of the message. This is especially effective when used with @mentions: @all and @here. This is a way to make sure all team members who need to be alerted, will be.


Some support and ticketing platforms don't have a mobile interface. If this is the case, a group chat tool can really save your bacon. If you or your teammates are out and about (or trekking through the deep, dark recesses of the server room), the chat app keeps everyone connected and informed, which is invaluable in emergencies.


Some IT support teams enlist the help of robots, like Hubot, which is great for responding to requests during off-hours. By using a support bot, when people join a support chat room during off-hours the bot can greet them with a message and explain it’s outside of business hours. Check out this use case from Bugsnag. And see other bots at Hipchat Bot Lab.

If you're interested in learning more about Atlassian's approach to deflecting tickets and stopping interruptions, check this out from the Atlassian build engineering team.

IT support agent testimonial

With group chat, you can work with your team faster and in a more efficient way. This naturally leads to quicker incident resolution, and we all know what that means: more free time! happier customers!

If you're looking for...

  • better collaboration and teamwork
  • faster incident resolution
  • stronger customer satisfaction ratings

...consider connecting your IT support to a group chat tool. Because these things aren't just priorities for your IT organization (which we assume they are), they're what make your team a force of nature like...Bruce Lee. (Had to finish with kung fu, right?)

Interested in learning more about how Hipchat and Jira Service Desk work together? Check out our integrations page.

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About the author

Jamey Austin

Master Wordsmith, Atlassian

When not fussing around with words on a page, I love to walk while listening to Spotify, horse around with my kids, and ponder honking existential questions. Please comment below, and find me on Twitter: @jameyaustin

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