Why don't you have priorities?

We have found that giving users the option of noting their priority results in them selecting the most urgent one, most of the time. This field really only serves as a place for people to vent their frustration, and complicates the new entry form until you have eight mandatory fields and even-more-pissed-off users. We were inspired to build Tender because we were so disgusted with reporting issues where there are many many required fields and you just. want. to. report. a. bug.

In our experience, not providing this field means that your users will put "URGENT" in all their titles until you educate them that all requests are, in fact, a priority, since that's what we're doing -- supporting their requests -- and if they ever get something that is truly urgent ("The office is on fire") we will be still buried in their lost passwords or forgotten email addresses. It's like crying wolf. The existence of options within the field is bogus, because who wants to feel like their issue isn't important? So there's only really a flag for "urgent", or not. And no-one is reporting an issue that isn't urgent, really.

This article, the classic "Priority Zero", further illustrates one of the problems with assigning priorities:

http://blogs.msdn.com/oldnewthing/archive/2008/11/21/9131198.aspx

People whose features had been assigned priority 1 said, "Hey, how come 
my feature isn't priority 0? It's just as critical as that other guy's feature." 
Soon, everything that was priority 1 got reclassified as priority 0. Nature 
abhors a vacuum, so all the priority 2 items got reclassified as priority 1, 
and the priority 3 items got reclassified as priority 2.

In practice, most of the discussions trend towards the lower priorities, until you have a cluster at the highest. It's useless.

Solutions

We strongly advise a triage-and-queue system. It works something like this:

  1. Create a set of queues; these are invisible to the user, so you can name them fun things. (If you're not having fun at work, you're in the wrong job!) A healthy disdain for the perceived intelligence of your userbase apparently helps. "Actually urgent", "silly users", or more mundane and functional - "Respond within a week", "Feature requests", "Billing". Your company might like to set SLAs for each queue -- we're not going to build support that in into Tender the near future, we believe it's entirely a human issue -- but you can definitely figure it out amongst yourselves in meatspace.
  2. When new discussions come in, the person doing triage assigns the discussions to the relevant queue.
  3. If necessary, use filters to auto-assign discussions to queues; for example, the word "URGENT" in the subject line could put a discussion into the "Low priority" queue.
  4. Have your developers subscribe to the various queues that are relevant to them.

You can also use a custom email address for each category on your site. (If you're confused about categories vs filters, categories are user-facing, queues are supporter-facing).

That's it!

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