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Using the Knowledge from Within (Your Help Desk)

By | January 24, 2017 in Help Desk

Having an external perspective is valuable, and even essential, for an organization to establish improvement ideas. That ability to ”see the wood for the trees” coupled with knowledge of the broader world outside your organization can be helpful. That’s why consultants are often worth the money: to deliver that outside world view and help an organization adopt approaches that have proven to be helpful to others. This is often referred to as following best practice, and getting external help to do so – a traditional IT service management (ITSM) approach taken by many CIOs and IT managers.

But there is another, often equally important, perspective (aside from the wider world view) that an organization should be aware of in pursuit of continual improvement. And that’s the perception based around familiarity, local knowledge, and shared experience, which is available to companies that want them. These are far cheaper than the external consultant path, and will complement and refine best practice approaches.

The most powerful concentration of useful knowledge and awareness in many organizations resides right inside their help desk – especially true if that help desk is internal and local to the user community.

Let Your Help Desk Help You

Collecting and analyzing data is an important and valuable exercise. At the heart of good problem management is working with the collected incident data, seeking trends and patterns, and initiating corrective or, better yet, preventative actions. Don’t stop doing that, but remember also that users are people, and the heart of the help desk role is people-to-people communication. So… along with looking at the cold, hard statistics, it makes good sense to collect information on how your users actually feel about the services you deliver, the things you get right, and the things you get wrong. In fact, what exactly do they see as right and wrong? Their ideas may not line up with yours.

A good help desk offers IT management a quick, simple, and reliable route towards understanding how their users actually feel about the services delivered. But how often do those IT managers do the simple and obvious thing: go and talk to the help desk staff. So much can be gained from opening channels of conversation, no need for anything too formal, just go and talk to them, maybe over coffee or even a beer?

A Conversation Is Worth a Thousand Statistics

In fact, talking with front line staff is, and always has been, a good plan for most organizations. As mentioned earlier, this shouldn’t be seen as an alternative to formal analysis but as a human-oriented complement to statistical and factual analysis.

A whole range of subtler nuances are available from ongoing dialogues with help desk staff, and even more from sitting down and watching them in action. For example, here are some things that might be learned/discovered:

  • How often do they need to calm users down before they can capture relevant information? Is it clear why the users get upset? Is it just that they need their services fixed, or is the mechanism you have for calling the help desk part of the problem? Features that are attractive from a supplier perspective – like menu choices (the press 1 for complaints, press 2 for requests kind of thing) – may cause users to get even more upset than they initially were when they decided to call the help desk!
  • How much user self-help is going on out there? The conversations that help desk staff have are likely to expose how often users have tried to fix things themselves, and how often they have discussed and tried approaches with colleagues before calling the help desk. This kind of information is rarely captured by any formal mechanism but should have influence over how services are built, maintained, and supported.
  • And, crucially, how happy are the help desk staff? That might not sound like a top priority but consider how expensive staff turnover can be – recruitment, training, security clearance, etc. before a new staff member is fully contributing. Keeping staff happy is key to reducing those kinds of costs.

Keep the Conversations Going

Of course, the help desk people are not the only staff a manager could usefully spend time with. Second and third line support personnel have their own tales to tell, as do service level managers. In fact, just about every one of them offers information and early warning signs about possible future issues.

Therefore, don’t just rely on measurements and numbers – remember that service is about people, so take the time to talk to those people who are out there delivering those services on your behalf.

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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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