Question

E-mail communication with third party vendors and their ITSM Tools

  • 27 September 2022
  • 12 replies
  • 149 views

Userlevel 2
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Hi everyone!

This got a bit long, but I am trying to explain all of our issues and how they are connected and hopefully can be solved all together.

We just implemented Freshservice to handle our internal IT operations; however, as we are a small department, we have a lot of vendors and outsourcing partners working with us. We are still the first line of support to our customers though. Usually what we do is receive a ticket from a customer by e-mail or portal, then we have communication with our customer, and if needed, we would forward the e-mail chain to our third-party vendor. They would normally create a ticket on their own systems that we would log into the same ticket and continue the communication with us by e-mail within the ticket. 

Customer ↔ Us ↔ Vendor

With our previous system it was basically a chain of emails being handled in a “ticket” back and forth between the vendor, us and the customer. The vendor would reply to our initial request with their ticket number and then ours attached. Then all mails would be threaded both for them and us on our respective systems. Quite simple. 

Now with Freshservice we are having an issue which has basically disrupted all communication with our third party vendors. We receive an incident from our customer (requester) then we forward it to our vendor (Subject being: [#INC-XXX] - Ticket Title) then the vendor would reply back with their automatic ticket (Subject being: [Vendor ticket ID] - FW: [#INC-XXX] - Ticket Title). The problem is that their reply gets added as a private note to the tickets and then we can’t see their subject, and when we reply 2 things happen: first, it replies to the requester and not the vendor (as it was a note), and second, the subject goes back to the original that we set. So even if we forward and change the address from requester to vendor, they get it as a new ticket as we don’t have their ID in our subject anymore, and so on.

Our second issue is with vendors that send the “we received your request and this is your ticket ID with us” email notification. This is created as a new email and our subject is removed and put into the body of the notification. So the mail is not threaded into our ticket. So every time we forward a ticket to them, when they reply automatically, a new ticket gets created by us which sends a notification to them that a ticket was created which then creates another automatic ticket by them and so on. Not only that, when we close the second ticket they think the problem was solved so they close theirs and it is all just a disaster as you can see.

Finally, when we forward emails to the vendors, the whole chain of communication is not sent on the email, so whatever the customer had said or we had worked with before escalating to the vendors is not shown.

To conclude, is there any way to just be able to send emails back and forth within a ticket to third parties? It can be done with requesters, why not with a third party? How are you guys solving this? We can’t possibly be the only ones having back and forth e-mail communication with third parties that have their own ITSM tools. Seems like a pretty basic functionality to have, we could do it with our previous system without problems and it was the worst system I had ever seen, so can’t imagine Freshservice not having something. 

 

Thanks for your time and feedback!


12 replies

Userlevel 7
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Hello @elobato, I can imagine that this is extremely bothersome for all parties involved. A quick question for verification...at any point does the customer interact directly with the vendor?

If not then maybe a slight change in process could help clear this up. Using the method of Related Ticketing could allow you to maintain the primary “Customer” ticket and the child ticket for your “Vendor”. The parent ticket would have all the customer correspondence, and the child ticket would contain all your vendor correspondence.

Another option would be when you forward to the Vendor, and they reply, you can split that into a new ticket, link the tickets together at that point, or wait until the end and merge the tickets together.

Just some thoughts, but I am sure that there are more options and some of our community members might have a better solution.

Tagging some of them now… @daniel.soderlund @keefe.andrews @PatrickMurphy @ggallaway @BrynCYDEF @sanofar.allahpichai 

Hope that helps!

Userlevel 4
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I am struggling with the same issue as you are. I found the results similar to yours.

I have workflow setup and a group. When I assign to a 3rd party vendor (Group) the workflow catches the assignment and sends them all the details they need in the body of the email. The vendor is a requester in the system and their email is their main helpdesk email that we get responses from.

When they reply with their ticket number, it changes the subject line and I get a new ticket from them, not information added to a ticket.

I would not expect their subject to be retained and replace my subject, but just the contents dumped into either a reply, like a user replying versus a note. However not sure that I would want all the 3rd party communication visible to the end user who submitted the ticket, so adding the reply to a private note may make sense.

I’m finding my solution as Zach points out above. That I’m merging the tickets together.  I may add a ticket field that is not required and whenever a vendor provides their ticket number I could manually add it to that field, however that seems bothersome.

Userlevel 2
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Hi guys, thanks for the replies!

 

I have also added 3 of our vendors as occasional agents with their helpdesk accounts and have them on a third-party group, but they got the invitation notification which was awkward. I was trying to sort of absorb them into the system and be handled like any other requester or agent so they could communicate to our ticket. This was a suggestion from our consultants, but that didn’t really change the workflow of the whole communication issue.

We also added a third party ticket ID field to the ticket where we can write it down, but that only “works” for the vendors that send a new mail with a new subject so we get the new ticket, grab the ID put it on the previous ticket and then merge them. With the private notes it can’t be done as we can’t see the new subject with their ID.

As of now we are also manually merging tickets but then we need to handle the automatic notifications so we understand each other and there are no confusions as to what was closed and what should still be open.

We do have communication between all parties involved on many tickets, not all of them of course, depends on the needs, but it happens. In the end it should just be an e-mail chain. It is a bit complicated for us because our IT department involves many “groups” that handle different systems with different vendors so it is quite a big list, and sometimes the vendors reply from their personal accounts and not the helpdesk account. It gets tricky. I will look into relating tickets and separating vendor and costumer so we would work as a middle man as a workaround, but of course it would be better if we could have it all there in one place with no need of extra steps and notifications (which we use, but then would probably want to skip with the vendors if it has to work this way).

Userlevel 7
Badge +14

@elobato It might also be worth mentioning that we manage all of our email notifications using workflow and don’t rely on the out of the box email notifications of freshservice. This gives us better ability to manage emails and who is getting notified of what. So it might be beneficial for you to look at setting something like that up for Vendor and Customer communications.

Take care!

Userlevel 5
Badge +8

Wow - lot’s to cover @elobato so I’ll take it in chunks! lol

First off same as @zachary.king has done - in Admin > Email Notification > Requester Notification I turned off all the FS automation except Agent solves ticket. 

This will prevent a ticket storm but you won’t have auto replies so you need to set up Supervisor rules  to (a) send autoreplies where ticket is unassigned for 1 hr and (b) ignore those kinds of emails - you can even delete them.

We also use Automators for specific kinds of tickets that are outbound - bit of a different use case.

 

when we reply 2 things happen: first, it replies to the requester and not the vendor (as it was a note), and second, the subject goes back to the original that we set. 

  1. Could you add a CC on the reply or do you want to keep the ticket requester out of the loop initially?
  2. Could you change the Requester to the Vendor and then change it back once ready to communicate with original Requester?
  3. Child tickets as suggested by Zach

Problem 2: Check Admin > Email Notifications > Agent Reply Template

I had very similar ticket threading issues with my customers who have their own ticket systems and a lot of it was solved by stabilizing the subject line in the emails going out of FS.

I made sure that all my emails going out look like this on the subject line - watch for stray characters including spaces - they must be exact.  Pick the layout you like and use it everywhere - automations, supervisor rules, email notifications!

e.g.    [#{{ticket.id}}] {{ticket.subject}}

This will ensure your every email out will have your FS Ticket ID on it so they can find their way back.

One caveat, your vendor might find this causes trouble if they rely entirely on subject line ticket ID as we do in Fresh Service.  You could manually add the ticket ID to the subject line of your ticket then both IDs will go out - bothersome for sure!  It may take some finessing.

 

To conclude, is there any way to just be able to send emails back and forth within a ticket to third parties?

 

I’d look into the child ticket idea from @zachary.king  - making the Vendor the Requester on that child ticket then the customer would never see it.  

Plus this way it’s less costly as the Vendor just needs to be a Contact and not an Agent.

 

I was working on a “post office” idea with workflows where every time a note (incl replies from the requester) got added to a ticket the workflow would send the note content out to our business partner.  We didn’t end up using it but it was a fun thought experiment.

Here’s my Supervisor Rule: Assign unattended tickets to Client Success - note that it doesn’t apply to helpdesk accts that I specify nor to their automated messages.  We don’t have that many so I just delete them but you could create another rule to handle them.

 

Userlevel 1

I find this to be a fascinating topic and is something that has been on my mind for some time. I just wanted to comment on here to follow the thread and hopefully add my own experience once I get a little time to tinker with the workflow a little more myself. It’s awesome to know I’m not the only one with the problem. Maybe we should turn this into some kind of feature request if there isn’t one already?

Userlevel 2
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Hi!

 

Thanks for the reply! I did fix all the subjects and email notification templates to always add the ticket ID in the subject, to be honest not sure why Freshservice doesn’t have that implemented straight out of the box if it is kind of mandatory, but oh well.

I think I will give the child-parent ticket workaround a shot, seems like the smartest way to go, might be a bit more work and more to keep track of having to be the middle man between costumers and vendors for the agents, but they will have to get used to it I suppose. We also noticed that if the requester cc’s an external vendor into a ticket and that vendor replies, then the reply gets added as a private note as well and we can’t reply on that either. Really seems like too much trouble for a simple use case scenario in my brain 😅

And I think I will also disable most automatic replies and handle them myself with the workflow automator. Hopefully Freshservice comes up with a better solution in the future. Still open to more ideas if anyone has anything else to bring to the table :)

Userlevel 7
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Hi!

 

Thanks for the reply! I did fix all the subjects and email notification templates to always add the ticket ID in the subject, to be honest not sure why Freshservice doesn’t have that implemented straight out of the box if it is kind of mandatory, but oh well.

I think I will give the child-parent ticket workaround a shot, seems like the smartest way to go, might be a bit more work and more to keep track of having to be the middle man between costumers and vendors for the agents, but they will have to get used to it I suppose. We also noticed that if the requester cc’s an external vendor into a ticket and that vendor replies, then the reply gets added as a private note as well and we can’t reply on that either. Really seems like too much trouble for a simple use case scenario in my brain 😅

And I think I will also disable most automatic replies and handle them myself with the workflow automator. Hopefully Freshservice comes up with a better solution in the future. Still open to more ideas if anyone has anything else to bring to the table :)

I think the mentality behind replies to forwards coming into the help desk as a private note was to prevent visibility to the requester regarding conversations that were not with the requester directly. 

I think of it like forwarding a requester’s request to their manager for approval. The manager may not want their response visible to the requester. But in your case, there maybe communication between you and a vendor that you don’t want the customer to be privy too, so the private note prevents that access.

Good or bad??? Both have their place I guess lol

Userlevel 1

It looks like there have been a few feature requests along these lines in the past, but they didn’t seem to go anywhere. If someone wanted to create one and link it here, I’d gladly upvote it.

Userlevel 2
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Hi!

 

Just updating a bit on what has been going on:

We decided to go with the parent-child tickets and having the third party as a requester of the child ticket. We disabled the automatic notification on it so we email them what we need. They reply back with their ticket ID, we copy and paste it into a third party ticket ID field we created and then it gets added to the subject thanks to the agent reply template that we have set up as [#{{ticket.id}}] {{ticket.thirdparty_ticket_id}} - {{ticket.subject}} (if there is no third party ticket ID nothing is attached of course so nothing changes). Emails get threaded on both systems and everyone is happy. 

 

Now the only problem we have is those vendors that only send their IDs on the subject of the email, basically they change the subject to something like [Their ID] - [Our ID] - [Subject]. We should then keep that on our replies so they get them threaded as well and no new tickets are created. This is done automatically on their side every time we send some email to them. Thing is, we can’t see the subjects of the replies on FS, therefore we can’t see their ticket ID and update the field so our replies add their ID to our subject. Or to just replace our subject with theirs. FS basically grabs the subject in the reply and gets rid of it completely. I can’t even see it on the quoted text reply parts, and can’t seem to access it from APIs or anywhere. If we managed to get that then everything would be solved.

So there are 2 possible solutions I can think of:

  1. Ask the vendors to include their ticket ID on the body of the emails so our agent can copy it into the third party ticket ID field. (We don’t know how flexible their systems are, if they could do it just for us or if it would be for all of their customers.)
  2. Tell our agents to CC themselves on the first email where we request anything from the vendor so they get the reply on their personal inbox. Then they can see the ID and copy it into the field. (Definitely not pretty, extra steps, and could be prone to mistakes)

Maybe someone else has more ideas or solutions. Feels like we are getting close, but then we hit a roadblock again.

Userlevel 7
Badge +14

Hello @elobato is the “Vendor reply w/ ticket id” email coming in to your support mailbox before it is added as a private note to your associated ticket? If you look in that mailbox do you see the subject line of their email response? Maybe you can grab it there.

But I feel as if the first option you listed would be a reasonable ask of the vendor. I am actually surprised they don’t include the ticket ID in the body of their emails making it easier for their end users to reference those tickets.

Glad you are getting close though.

Userlevel 2
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Hi @zachary.king we can’t see the mailbox as it is forwarding everything to FS directly, but it is not attached as a private note anymore as the vendor is a requester in the child ticket so replies are emails. Their ID’s are attached in the original emails though, we have checked that before we used FS and if we CC ourselves. Seems to be FS just getting rid of the subject somehow. 

I hope the vendors can fix from their side, I also believe it would be convenient to have it in the body anyway, but I guess we will see 😅

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