For many companies, the IT help desk acts as the face, or the front of house, of the IT organization. It handles employee issues and service requests, while also dealing with most, if not all, of the communications between end users and the IT organization. The help desk is a crucial player in delivering IT services to the business and has a number of responsibilities it needs to uphold in order to be successful.
In this blog post, I explain three of the key help desk responsibilities and offer advice on how best to deliver against them.
1. Deliver Great Customer Service (As Well As Great Outcomes)
First and foremost, in the current times of employees experiencing superior customer experiences in their personal lives (and bringing the same expectations into the workplace), the number one responsibility of any IT help desk should be to deliver against end-user needs while also providing great customer service.
That said, it’s easy for IT organizations to fall at this hurdle because they’re too internally focused, with help desk policies and processes (and how these are implemented) serving technical teams ahead of customers.
Hopefully however, your help desk exists to serve your organization’s end users, and the roles they fulfill, and so it’s their needs that you put before anyone else’s. This should include providing your customers with information they need, resolving their tickets efficiently, communicating with them about business impacting issues and changes, and generally just being easily accessible when they need you.
End users will ultimately want to be treated as human beings, rather than IT asset custodians, and ideally as customers (of IT support).
How can you do this?
- Research end-user habits – for instance, what types of tickets are they logging? What are they complaining about? What common questions are they asking? What help-based information are they looking for? This research will help your help desk to better understand your customers’ needs, which means that you’ll be better able to meet their needs.
- Regularly survey customer satisfaction levels – there’s no better way to find out what your customers need, want, like, and dislike than just straight-up asking them. This could be in the form of online surveys, after-call surveys, or even face-to-face interviews. Customer feedback is vital because it’ll tell you what’s working and what’s not, so you can adjust operations, and even policies, accordingly. It’s ultimately free consultancy!
- Communicate in line with end-user needs and expectations – whether it’s an individual ticket, a major incident, or planned maintenance you must ensure that you’re communicating with end users as they expect you to. If a logged ticket needs to be escalated, then tell the affected end user(s). If a major incident takes down a critical system, then update affected parties regularly until resolution. And if you’re planning maintenance, then alert your end users well in advance so that they can make any necessary arrangements. Communicating to customers is one of the easiest things to do, but often falls by the wayside because other work gets in the way. And a lack of communication is ultimately only going to lead to unhappy customers and more work in the long run as you tackle complaints and “chaser” emails and calls.
- Resolve as many issues at first contact as you can – ideally, whenever possible, your help desk agents should avoid having to call-back end users or escalate the ticket. The more first-call resolutions your help desk can provide – thanks to the collective knowledge levels of agents – the happier your customer base is going to be.
- Provide a self-service portal to support self-help – modern customers like to be able to find the help they need quickly, and an IT support self-service portal can act as a one-stop shop they can visit to find the answers to common questions, documentation to help them resolve their own issues, and a space to log their own tickets should they need to do so. A self-service portal will empower end users which will, in turn, lead to more satisfied customers. It also has the potential to save your organization money in support costs – and the more your end users can do to help themselves the less it costs to assist them.
2. Provide Accurate Reports That Demonstrate Performance, Drive Improvement, and Prevent Issues
Reporting is an essential task for any IT help desk.
Reports can show how well help desk staff are performing (both individually and collectively), how many incoming incidents and requests the business is facing, whether or not service level agreements (SLAs) are being met, which resolver teams are not turning tickets around quickly enough, etc. They can even highlight problems causing repeat incidents, identify ticket trends, and show ongoing escalations.
Reports are also useful for tracking data and performance over time too, and you should be using these to demonstrate how your IT support levels are improving.
How can you do this?
- Consistently present the figures well – your weekly and monthly reports should be shared around your IT department, and wider afield as appropriate, so everyone has a view of what’s going on. Your performance data should not be kept secret even if it doesn’t look great right now. And you can always pair it with a performance improvement plan if you need to.
- Use real-time reporting to aid proactivity – real-time reports, and dashboards, should be used where possible so you always know what position your help desk is in. Plus, if someone urgently needs information you can provide it on the spot. Dashboards should be created for any stats that you frequently consult, and these can be shared with other IT managers that need the data. Real-time reporting will also save you lots of time because, when it comes to pulling your monthly reporting pack together, the required data is instantly available.
- Analyze and visualize your data – reports should be used to identify patterns, highlight trends, and spot any anomalies. This is made even easier when visualizations are used to present your data – because graphs, and similar, are much easier to consume than raw data in an Excel spreadsheet.
- Alert teams, when needed, using the reporting data – use your reports to alert IT managers and teams to potential issues. This highlights where issues are, or will be, and allows you (or others) to get ahead of the game. This might mean that you can get a fix implemented before disaster strikes.
3. Share and Exploit Your Collective Knowledge
Having a knowledge management capability, and knowledge base, is a great way to share the knowledge your IT help desk has collated – both individually and collectively. A knowledge base will provide relevant information to your end users and technical teams alike. The knowledge articles in the knowledge base can be role-based too, meaning they’re only accessible by the people who need, and perhaps authorized, to use them. By sharing knowledge, your help desk will have the ability to prevent calls coming in, thus reducing ticket volumes and workloads, and make both your customers’ and agents’ lives easier.
How can you do this?
- Implement a FAQ area – your knowledge management capability should include a space where end users can find answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs). Not only will this make them happier – because they can get the information they need quickly – it will also prevent your help desk agents from having to deal with the same inquiries again and again.
- Review and assess documentation regularly – your knowledge base will be fairly useless if you don’t regularly review the documentation stored inside. This might be because articles can’t be found, can’t easily be understood and used, or have become outdated. For the latter, you should add review dates to each document in order to avoid outdated content. You can either update it, if still required, or retire the document if it’s no longer needed. For the former two issues, assess how many tickets are being created for which knowledge articles already exist. Then try to understand why the relevant knowledge articles aren’t being used.
- Provide easy-to-do fixes – you can use your knowledge base to provide information to end users that will help them to solve their own issues. These simple fixes should be able to be performed without the need for admin credentials and they’ll free up your agents to deal with more complex issues.
The IT help desk of course has many other responsibilities to uphold but customer service, reporting, and knowledge management should certainly be up there at the top because:
- Without good customer service your help desk will likely develop a bad reputation and you’ll struggle to get end users to use your services.
- Without reporting you won’t be able to see how your staff and processes are performing or how well your help desk is meeting business needs.
- Without knowledge management, you’ll be reliant on what individual agents know and you’ll never be able to get to a position where customers are able to resolve their own issues. A knowledge base can empower both customers and employees for a more effective and harmonious working environment.
What other key responsibilities would you add? Please let me know in the comments.