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Feeling Good about Your Help Desk

By | March 14, 2017 in Help Desk

Feeing Good about Your Help Desk

Everyone has a help desk these days, and the service that a help desk delivers will probably cover a range of aspects. The service will be delivered by a combination of human-to-human and computer-to-human interactions, by calls/emails/chats to help desk agents and use of the self-service portal via an organization’s integrated help desk software system. That combination of people and automation is what delivers support to the users. Along with the actual support, how that support is delivered in terms of the way people feel afterwards, will very much affect how willing those users are to us it again.

The help desk deals with both incidents and requests in a similar way, although there is a key difference between them:

  • Requests is a user asking for something new or different, like a PC upgrade, additional software, or new access rights
  • Incidents are when something has gone wrong and the user is looking to get it put right.

So, requests are things you actually want to happen – improvements and new capabilities; incidents are things that nobody wants to happen.

Measuring the Help Desk

Because the help desk costs money – for staff, equipment, software, etc. – organizations feel the need to measure its performance, and its cost. So they record the money spent and measure metrics that describe how effective it is. Typically, organizations will measure the desk using a set of tension metrics to give a broad and balanced view of how well the help desk is performing against the targets set for it.

This will give you a set of numbers and an indication of whether the help desk delivers what you’re paying for, and whether it’s getting better or worse against those measurements. It might include a measurement called something like ‘user satisfaction’ but, at best, that will be one small part of the measurement. The major focus gets put onto easier-to-measure aspects like ‘first time fix rate’ and ‘average call duration’.

How Does Your Help Desk Make Folks Feel?

I’m a firm believer that the best help desks add more to an organization’s potential than just numbers can easily measure. Every interface with the help desk is a transaction of sorts. We, all of us, know from our everyday lives that this kind of interaction delivers two kinds of outputs:

  • Did I get what I set out to get?
  • Has the experience made me happier or angrier?

Whether it’s booking a flight, making a doctor’s appointment, or a host of other things, most of us have had the experience of getting what you needed but having been upset by the overall experience. A host of factors can upset us: having to wait, rude operators, confusing screens with obscure questions, trouble understanding, and more.

If your help desk is like this, your normal measures may show you meeting the service level targets you have set. But you will not be delivering the level of support your customers and users – and the organization as a whole – expect and deserve. Critically, unpleasant experiences with a help desk can have almost immediate detrimental effects on the business, such as:

  • Reluctance for the user to call again, meaning future requests are delayed and incidents will affect business performance for longer than they need do.
  • Increased temptation to try and fix things alone, or with peer support before considering to contact the help desk. This effectively stops both the user, and others, from working, and increases the prevalence of shadow IT.
  • A bad reputation, meaning customers are predisposed to see, and tell others about, the bad in your performance above the good.

Finding Out How They Feel about You…

It isn’t easy to get an accurate feel for how a help desk is perceived, and the effect it’s having on the user community. But you can try.

Of course, the obvious thing is to ask your users, but that only gets us so far for a couple of reasons:

  • Firstly, IT isn’t always so good at building and interpreting the right approach to surveys. (Joe The IT Guy wrote about that in his blog: Is Your IT in the Shadows?)
  • There is usually a wide range of variables – different groups, at different times, in different circumstances will feel differently about their help desk experience. Unless you can measure across that range of variables, it’s almost impossible to prepare and implement relevant improvements. That range includes things like:
    • Request or incident?
    • Time of day, month, or business cycle
    • Users from different parts of the organization
    • Language and cultural differences

The issue here is that we’re trying to find out how the help desk makes people feel – was it a pleasant experience, did they actually feel helped afterwards or just like they had been processed by an impersonal service? Since it’s a feeling rather than an objective fact, sometimes subtler methods than simple questions are needed, i.e. more general conversations, and of course feedback from business relationship management, account managers, and the like.

…And Then Doing Something about It

It isn’t enough to learn the effect that your help desk has on your users. That knowledge has to then be applied to improve the impact, to increase the ‘feel good’ factor during interaction with the help desk. That might mean: targeted training for help desk staff; workshop sessions with the help desk’s users to increase awareness; better knowledge gathering and presentation so that help desk staff are more aware of their clients concerns and attitudes.

There is a range of skills and practices that make a difference to a help desk providing a good experience. Obvious factors like interpersonal skills, awareness of the user’s role and environment those users live and work in, and so on. Time spent on training to increase these factors is usually time and money well spent.

Another valuable and effective technique is simulation and practice – these can be done in-house fairly easily. Pick out some examples of past issues and take a group out of the workspace for a few hours to talk through how things were done and how else they might have been done.

And, of course, do understand and encourage the application of “intelligent disobedience” (knowing when NOT to follow the rules) towards help desk performance and perception.

Have you tried any of these “feel good” tactics? Please do let me know if it helped and how so. Sometimes I get inspiration from the Godfather of Soul himself…maybe you will too 🙂

Dena Wieder-Freiden

About Dena Wieder-Freiden

As SysAid’s Content Marketing Manager, Dena values most her friendships and daily conversations with the awesome IT service management (ITSM) authorities from all over the world! As they share their knowledge with her, she enjoys paying it forward to the IT community at large. Outside of work, she’s most likely at the gym, the beach, or at home watching a movie and spending time with her family.

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