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Are Your Users Happy? Tips for Running a Successful IT Help Desk

Posted by: Geoff Smith
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Are Your Users Happy? Tips for Running a Successful IT Help Desk

What do you think of when you hear the term Help Desk?  Is it a room full of technicians with noise-cancelling headsets, logged into an IT Service Management (ITSM) system, talking with their hands and guzzling Red Bulls?  In your vision, do they appear haggard, glassy-eyed and stressed?  Do they participate in the corporate culture, or languish in that basement call center the rest of the company thinks is some super-secret laboratory?

That may seem a little outrageous, but consider this: Google and Bing searches on “help desk” don’t show a real human representative until almost 20 images in.  And even then, the images are stereotypical and generic.  So you have to ask yourself, is that how the rest of the organization sees your help desk team?  Are they relegated to anonymity?

Back when I started my career in the IT industry as a service technician in the 1980s, I was a pretty popular guy when I strolled in the door to solve someone’s computer issue.  I would come in with my bag of tools, some floppy disks, and my trusty degausser.  I was that guy who could perform the voodoo ritual that would breathe life back into their systems while they went off and filed something or made some sales calls, and, because what I did was largely a mystery to them, they were (generally) pleasant and patient.

{Register for Geoff's upcoming webinar, "IT Help Desk for the Holidays: The Strategic Gift That Keeps on Giving"}

There is a new reality today, one born out of the following facts:

  1. Little productive work can be done without a functioning system today
  2. Users are more sophisticated with the basics of computer functionality
  3. Systems are more integrated and inter-dependent
  4. Remote support capabilities and call center technologies have matured greatly

These are not unique to IT; there are many parallels to other industries.  Are you more patient today when visiting the doctor, getting your car serviced, or when your Internet goes out?  Or do you find yourself self-diagnosing, visiting the forums, or fiddling with the cables first, and then when you do call or visit the specialist, you’re frustrated and impatient?

With these new realities, IT help desks have to mature to maintain value and provide good client satisfaction.  Our customer base is better educated, more dependent, and less patient than in the past.  However, we have new technologies to reduce wait times and improve resolution times and can leverage data and analytics to identify trends and predict usage demands. I'm actually hosting a webinar next week to go over strategies for reducing wait times and improving resolution times if you're interested in learning more.

The development of help desk services has been traditionally based on user counts and request quantities: X amount of users placing Y amount of requests equals the number of people I need to staff my service with. But there are other factors that can complicate that seemingly simple calculation, such as the ebbs and flows of requests by time of day, day of the week or month of the year, usage spikes due to new platform and application roll outs, and the geographic dispersion of users to be supported.  Other factors include the types of requests and length of the typical resolution cycle, technologies being consumed, potential complications from BYOD and mobile workforce requirements, and the quality of support artifacts.  And that doesn’t even consider staff burn out, attrition, and career advancement impacts on delivery capabilities.

So, as the person responsible for the delivery of a seemingly basic, vanilla and anonymous service, how do you create something that is world-class, aligned to your specific business outcomes, and is the face of all IT support to a sophisticated, diverse and impatient workforce that needs to work anytime, from anywhere on any type of device?  Seems a pretty daunting challenge.  Here are some tactics you can use:

  • Consider starting at the end. What is the desired business outcome from your help desk service? Ask the question of the line of business owners, determine their individual needs, and correlate that into a prioritized list of requirements. Is speed-to-answer the most valuable? Or is it resolution time? How much can you rely on their users to self-service?
  • Think like a services provider, not as a member of the organization. If you had to craft a solution that provides a consistent and predictable outcome, but that can flex non-linearly as demand changes without impacting your SLAs, how would you do that? What challenges may impact your service delivery capability, and how can those be dealt with proactively?
  • Determine what information is critical in self-evaluation of your service delivery, and in demonstration of value. How would you share that with the rest of the organization, and how can that be leveraged for continual improvement? Your constituents should feel empowered to opine and provide feedback, but equally as important is how you assess yourself.
  • What can I achieve within the given budget? Do I have to downgrade service levels, or can I save money by utilizing lower cost resources and enabling them with better documentation and support artifacts? What are the trade-offs?
  • Think creatively. If I move some services to a provider, can I improve the overall experience by re-dedicating the internal team to more complex issue resolutions or provide a more robust, hands-on response? Will providing end user training based on issue type allocation reduce the help desk need and create a more sustainable service?

Above all else, set the proper expectations, be realistic, and don’t over-commit.  At the root of it, help desk is a human experience, and since all humans are bound to be imperfect, so will your help desk.  While the prevailing perspective may be that they are automatons toiling away in some deep dark lair, we know that they are the face of all we deliver to our constituents.

Interested in hearing more from Geoff on how to run a world-class help desk? Register for our December, 10th webinar!

 

By Geoff Smith, Senior Manager, Managed Services Business Development

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