well-said. wish i had some mod pts to give you. looks like you're in the ideal position to comment on this issue.
One thing I haven't seen addressed here is the possibility of combining tickets. I've worked help desks in several places before and used different ticket tracking systems. Most of them had the ability to take automated entries, either generated via a service desk web page or just from sending an email to the service@ address. Obviously the heuristics of filing/assigning the ticket were poor with the email route, but the online ones usually work pretty good.
The customer gets to enter in a brief description of the problem, then the form attempts to auto fill the fields. The user then has the opportunity to correct fields that were incorrectly selected.
In the end none of these systems combined tickets (that's tough for a compiuter to do) but they always sent the user a link they could click on to check ticket status. Only about 15% of users actually took advantage of this, but if you get someone that's getting upset over our response time, sitting down with them for a few minutes and training them on it (really doesn't require training, more of a hand-hold) that usually calms them right down. "no your request wasn't thrown away, yes we are still aware of the problem, no it hasn't been fixed yet, yes the right person has been informed, yes you will hear back from us when it's resolved."
Combining tickets was always a manual process. One place when I started I had over 100 tickets in the system, many of which were months old. Users would just enter a new ticket every few weeks (or days!) if they didn't physically see a problem get fixed. (did not check ticket status, maybe it can't be fixed, or we need more information than "it doesn't WORK!", etc) I spent the first few days simply combing over the list repeatedly, combining entries. Some tickets were in the system as many as 13 times, by three people. That makes the tickets a lot more manageable. It also has the effect of letting you know how many people a problem is affecting.
One improvement I didn't see was the ability for a user to look in the ticket system, FIND an open ticket for the problem they were having, and allow them to either (A) add notes, or (B) click a "ME TOO" button to add a counter to let the staff know it was affecting more people and should get higher priority. But given the average user's low ambition to even look at the status of their own tickets, sadly, this very useful feature would probably be very difficult to get into any reasonably high usage. People would much rather take the laziest approach and fire off a 20 second email, than fill out a 2 minute form, or do a 5 minute search. So it usually comes back to me to merge tickets and dedup.
IMAGINE THIS: big pothole opens up in front of your apartment, right outside the entrance to the lot. You put in a ticket. It's a residential low traffic street so it has low priority. Week or two goes by. OK... print out a note and stick it on the mailbox panel inside the apartment, "want that pothole out front fixed? go to www.mycity.com/maintenance and look up ticket #12345. Click the "ME TOO" button. If we all click that, it'll be fixed fast!" A week goes by, and five other tennants click ME TOO. The priority on that pothole goes from 1/10 to 6/10 due to having 6 complaints on it. Street department has it filled in two days later.
That's how it's supposed to work.