> Call Centre > Full Story
up Efficient Help Desks
is King and how does one service him better? Use help desks
that are friendly, efficient and problem-free. Here is how
you can do it.
of the foremost issues impacting Information Systems (IS)
Management is resolving the help desk crisis. At the core
of this crisis is the IS Management's continued focus on repairing
an old and failing help desk strategy. Originally developed
as a tool to support an efficient, single-threaded environment
of IBM 3270 terminals, critical elements of today's help desk
strategies have not kept pace with changing desktop technologies.
PCs and distributed computing have evolved and now present
a new level of sophistication in which corporate employees
perform their jobs.
today's corporate user still sits in front of a monitor stroking
away at a keyboard, his or her desktop is now complicated
by a hard drive, a diskette drive, a mouse, a network adapter
card, a graphics accelerator, and a shelf full of applications
software and documentation. With the increasing complexity
of the technological environment, help desk personnel are
taking much longer to provide solutions as end users are routinely
calling with more and more sophisticated usage questions.
In some cases, the customer knows more about their desktop
applications than the help desk professional attempting to
resolve their problem.
element of crisis confronting IS Management is staffing the
help desk function.
the help desk has been historically considered a thankless,
glamourless back office job, many technically competent people
will not consider rotating through the help desk, or cannot
wait until they leave the support role. With the lack of quality
people resources to choose from, IS managers are forced to
staff the help desk with lesser skilled personnel.
crisis brewing for IS support organizations, the near future
will determine if these troubles represent danger or opportunity.
For support organizations that try to hang on and refine the
"helpless desk," there is great danger. These organizations
will simply fail to provide adequate support service to an
increasingly complex technical environment. They will ask
for additional staff and phone lines, at the same time the
CIO is attempting to reduce support costs.
the other hand, opportunity abounds in re-engineering a strategic
solution to customer support. With the PC mission-critical
to the success of the employee and the company, IS managers
must rethink and develop a new customer support strategy to
match the technical, staffing, and financial requirements
of the next generation help desk. When constructing the new
help desk strategy, IS managers should consider several important
factors, including: the interpersonal, technological and judgmental
qualities of the help desk personnel; the technical tools
required to solve and prevent problems; the relationship between
the help desk and staff and management; and the location of
the help desk.
the very start, IS managers must embrace a new philosophy
which proactively seeks to eliminate problems from occurring
in the first place. In essence, a proactive versus reactive
mindset and culture should be the core competency of the help
desk. At the "helpless desk", the staff fixes, and
fixes and fixes. At the strategic help desk, the staff constantly
searches for new ways to solve and prevent.
technological worth is valued higher for problem prevention
than for crisis problem management, as much as possible, help
desk personnel should be taken off of the phones and placed
on technology projects and systems that will keep the customer
from needing to call in the first place.
addition, help desk personnel should utilize the help desk
database not only to log and recall problems for fixes, but
to also analyze which problems are recurring and indicate
a "root" problem. At the end of the day, these people
should then strive to review the database so that fixes can
be put on a voice response system (VRUs and IVRs are discussed
later) that the customer can listen to while they are in queue.
The help desk should naturally use the database to communicate
known "bugs" to application developers instead of
waiting for an end user revolt.
if problems are anticipated across the network, then customers
should be contacted before the problem is experienced. While
help desk personnel may complain that customers never call
to tell them they are doing a great job, how often does help
desk staff proactively call customers with solutions?
connectivity and proactive network management tools are the
instruments of success for a strategic help desk. As desktop
applications are mission critical to company success, they
are also a frequent source of problems. It is absolutely necessary
for staff to have the ability to "takeover" and
manage the PC or file server from the help desk. In many cases,
it reduces problem solving time by more than 50 per cent and
increases first call problem resolution by more than 65 per
application management software is necessary to proactively
detect, correct and prevent software application problems.
Thereby, the help desk is aware of a problem before the end
user. This strategic software not only makes the LAN and PCs
run smoothly, but it also increases user productivity and
substantially reduces support costs.
strategic help desk tool is a CD-ROM tower. This enables instant
access to problem resolution libraries, such as Novell and
Microsoft. Do not assume that the staff will utilize these
tools. IS Managers must teach the staff on how to use these
tools rather than relying on memory recall and field dispatch.
strategic help desk also invests in "front end"
technologies known as VRUs and IVRs.
voice response systems generally consist of a PC, voice cards
and application software. They are situated between the telephone
system and host computer databases, automatically answering
and routing calls. They also access computer databases to
provide callers with a voice response containing the information
that they are seeking. Beneficial ways to implement VRU and
IVR systems include password resets, terminal resets, surveys,
call routing, system status, technical tips, and fax backs.
Routine problems are quickly solved by systems without consuming
life easy for the customer
The help desk must focus on making life easier for the customer.
IS managers should empower staff to break rules if necessary
to achieve customer satisfaction, as opposed to having to
adhere to rigid operating procedures that are strictly enforced
in the name of consistency. In a mainframe environment, this
could be efficient. In a distributed environment where PCs
are mission critical, operating procedures should allow flexibility.
research supports this assertion: Matrix has concluded that
the employees frequently recognized for superior achievement
are the employees who are allowed rule bending or rule modifications
to bring about a creative solution for their customers.
IS managers should have an avenue in which customers can reach
an advocate who champions their particular cause on IS technical
issues. For instance, a technician could be appointed "accounting
champion" and study the company's accounting system from
the business as well as the technical side. This individual
would attend department meetings and communicate one-on-one
with accounting staff and management.
real world example is if the payroll file server is down and
the department will miss a deadline, the accounting champion
would go to the controller to update on downtime. The controller
and payroll staff will have increased respect for the help
desk function, improving the working relationship between
the help desk, management, and other related departments.
single point of contact is another strategic customer solution
for the help desk. Two heads may be better than one, but when
calling a help desk, customers want one central number versus
two, three or twenty. It was for this very reason that Harvard
University recognized and consolidated support departments.
The University was surprised to discover that it had, in many
cases, 20 or 30 technical support groups servicing the same
cutting the sheer number of groups and consolidating the strategic
help desk function, IS management can efficiently set and
promote a policy of preferred practices and standards right
down to a basic list of productivity software. These standards
also aid in examining which desktop software is reasonable
and cost effective in terms of compatibility, interoperability,
of the strategic help desk function within the building makes
a clear and visible statement. By moving from the back office
to the front office, the location of the centre will send
a positive message to company clients, employees, and vendors.
They will view the help desk organization as an important
centerpiece to the company-wide strategy for customer support.
as a result of their perceived importance, the help desk personnel
will be more content, more productive, and more willing to
serve in a customer support capacity.
implementing the strategic help desk solution, IS management
will encounter staffing issues, budget concerns, and numerous
product, service, and technology decisions. To ease and re-engineering
processes, IS managers should consider these helpful insights:
the temptation to accomplish everything overnight and instead,
focus on doing a few things very well.
the help desk should not be considered a project, but a
work in progress. A strategic help is always evolving and
adapting to technical changes in the desktop.
not underestimate the importance of tailoring the help desk
to the customer so that they understand and readily use
a concerted effort to reach and reward the new help desk
Armed with this strategy, the help desk staff will campaign
to eliminate problems at their root causes. In addition
to creating a more efficient help desk environment, the
new strategy will heighten company respect for the help
desk function, improve staff quality and retention, and
ultimately renew the spirit of "help" in the "help
Corporate Help Desks
you think that running a help desk only involves handling
trouble tickets and looking through reports that spell out
a seemingly endless list of PC users' woes, think again. The
new generation of user-support software elevates the internal
help desk into the realm of so called "infrastructure
is the term industry analysts use to describe a growing trend
in user-support software that is changing corporate help desks
into control centres for all the assets of a large organization.
From managing computers to cars, telephones to trucks, software
to security systems, the internal help desk is moving out
of IT and into the mainstream.
support centres of the future, unlike those of today, will
be capable of managing, tracking and responding to issues
that impact all of the day-to-day activities of a business.
move to separate the internal help desk from the external
call centre, is the second major trend at work in the internal
user-support marketplace. Both the help desk vendors and their
customers are putting "more focus on knowledge tools
and integration of network management technologies" with
the internal help desk.
mangers in organizations of all levels look for several key
capabilities in the help desk software they now deploy. Several
vendors including Computer Associates, Tivoli etc. incorporate
such features into their help desk products.
Another of the help desk's most critical needs is e-support,
the term for supporting users electronically. It is essential
for companies to ask themselves questions such as "How
do we support employees over the Internet? and, "How
do we get users to use self-support services on the web?
enabling the help desk should be a requirement to be in the
help desk market. Most help desk providers, including Bridgehead
Software, Clarify, Peregrine, Tivoli, Computer Associates,
Remedy and Network Associates, are meeting this demand by
delivering browser-based versions of their future.
fact, Network Associates offers only a browser-based version
of its Magic Tool Service Desk, having given up on the client/server
architecture almost entirely.
help desk software gives end users self-service access to
the help desk and its resources, including the organization's
knowledge base of tips, defect reports and solutions or work
grounds to commonly encountered hardware and software related
problems. It is one of the prime ways help desks can accomplish
more with fewer resources.
access is perfect for internal help desk use because it allows
users to create their own [trouble tickets], search for [equipment]
solutions, add updates and get status online, feel many solution
providers. With a web-enabled help desk, users who cannot
find the answers they need in the knowledge base can contact
the help desk online quickly and easily.
Another critical need of every help desk is the ability to
track users' assets [e.g., PCs, peripherals and software]
and their problem history. Asset tracking is a key capability
for two reasons:
it assists the help desk agent analyze a user's problem more
quickly and it is vital because of the frequency of software
and hardware migrations that organizations are forced to make
when vendors upgrade their products. It is virtually impossible
to upgrade desktop computers without knowing what software
and which versions run on them.
desk managers are becoming more concerned about tracking users'
entitlements. In help desk parlance, entitlements refer to
the level of support that services departments or individual
users receive from the support organization.
in turn, means IT help desk managers in large companies want
to be able to automatically create, manage and follow through,
on so-called service level agreements [SLAs]. SLAs spell out
the details of the degree of support services. [e.g. types
of response times, percentage of downtime allowed] that a
particular user, group or department is entitled to or has
appears that large organizations increasingly demand support
software that allows them to deploy what are known as change
management systems. These give help desks complete control
in defining how processes such as the previously mentioned
new employee hire are handled.
desk mangers at the low end of the market individual help
desks in small businesses or divisions within the larger companies
have significantly different needs than those in the enterprise.
Some of these are functional and others are organizational.
medium-sized help desks are also looking for easily customizable
support centre software. The ability to change agent and management
screens is important because small businesses may not have
all their processes defined or fully documented.
the changing environment of businesses today and increasing
demands from global customers, help desks should be re-engineered
to become more efficient and should work in true spirit of
the `help' in help desks. NM
more information contact: firstname.lastname@example.org