Huge Ticket IDs

I contacted LL Bean the other day. They are a well known company and have a good reputation for providing quality customer service. The actual content of the response I got was great, I got the response quickly, and so on. Perfect customer service experience, but I do find it weird to see such long ticket / reference numbers.

Here is the reference number (with some numbers and letters changed) that was added to the subject of my email to LL Bean:

Q4009071300N0S010X3471544

That is really long.  Separated with commas, it is this: Q,400,907,130,0N0,S01,0X3,471,544. I am not a math person, but I looked it up and 1 followed by 24 zeros is a septillion. A trillion only has 12 zeros. That isn’t even counting letters and how many additional possibilities there could be with the letters.

Is it really necessary to have a ticket or reference number where each person on the planet could contact LL Bean about 1.6 quadrillion times (not an exaggeration) and still have a unique ticket ID. If each person lives 80 years, to get the 1.6 quadrillion times number, they would have to contact LL Bean about 39 million times a second. That probably makes those Sprint customers look like low mantainence.

This is really nitpicking. I’m sure plenty of companies have really long ticket IDs. It really isn’t needed. Try to keep things simple. Your ticket number doesn’t have to be really long. A combination of 6 digits and letters is fine. There are still millions of possible combinations.

Take Dell’s service tags as an example. A sample service tag is 5RFDP01. It isn’t super long, but is still very effective. You should consider using something similar for your ticket or reference numbers.

Some other tips:

  • Don’t use both 0’s and O’s. Ideally, use neither. If you need to, just use one.
  • Before looking anything up, read the ticket or reference ID back to the customer.
  • If you break up long IDs with dashes, it makes them easier to read and say.
  • If your system is smart enough, it should be able to do partial matching. So, if I was off by one number, hopefully the system would be able to tell and come up with a match.
  • Use part of the ID to be something useful. For example, a customer who is a reseller may automatically have R added to the front of their ticket IDs.*

* Credit cards do this already. A credit card number that starts with a 3 is an American Express card, a 4 is a Visa card, and a 5 is a MasterCard.

Note: My math may very well be off. I think you get the point, though.