The help desk, ITIL, and getting things done

The help desk, ITIL, and getting things done

January 11, 2010
The help desk, ITIL, and getting things done

A help desk is only as good as the processes you define for it. When setting up your help desk, it’s important to ask: what are the steps you need to take in order to best serve your customer support requests? And what are your ultimate goals?

The traditional help desk defines its goals and processes according to government and corporate best practices such as ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library). The goal within ITIL when dealing with customer issues or incidents specifically is “to restore normal service operation as quickly as possible and minimize the adverse effect on business operations”. The main incident management processes you follow to achieve that goal are:

  • Detection and recording
  • Classification and initial support
  • Investigation and diagnosis
  • Resolution and recovery

Many of the businesses you know follow ITIL best practices, and while Zendesk is designed to accommodate these practices, we’ve also taken the route of simplifying or at least open up customer support to more lean and nimble ways of dealing with customer issues. ITIL was created with IT help desk needs in mind, and the role of IT has changed dramatically recent years with the introduction of cloud services, outsourcing and last but not least increased consumerization.

In the web 2.0 world David Allen’s GTD (Getting Things Done) is a popular reference model and a method to … well getting things done. The popularity of GTD can be partly chalked up to its simplicity. Your life is already complicated so why use a complicated system to get through it all?

The GTD method breaks down how to deal with the stuff coming at you:

  • Collect
  • Process
  • Organize
  • Review
  • Do

While similar to the ITIL incident management steps mentioned above, the GTD methodology is considered flexible and probably somewhat more accessible. Let’s tweak it a little and apply it to our thinking for a new help desk. When getting your help desk organized and processes in place, think about these four basic steps:

1. Collect

The easier you make it for customers to be in touch, the better you’ll be able to respond to and understand their needs. Zendesk offers multiple ways to collect requests and keep the conversation smooth: email, web portal, phone, forums, integration with your own site and many more.

2. Organize

After collecting customer requests, they need to be sorted and prioritized so that they’re properly identified and routed to the right people with the right skills with as few stations as possible. Rather than throwing all of your tickets in one huge inbox, Zendesk defines and routes incoming requests manually or automatically. Every ticket is described and assigned to an owner so everyone always knows exactly what is on his or her plate.

3. Communicate

When an issue arrives and your business processes kicks in you want to make sure the right people are notified. Zendesk leverages many different channels – email, web, SMS, tweets, etc. – to make sure both your customer, your staff and other stakeholders are up to date and kept in the loop.

4. Follow-through

Unlike an open-ended email conversation, a support issue should have a well defined path and solid closure. Within Zendesk, an issue always has a clear state that helps move it along from a new issue to a closed one. And you can set up rules that kicks in at deviations from your defined course.

Love Your Help Desk

David Allen says that GTD is “stress-free productivity”. At Zendesk, we say Love Your Help Desk. Clear and appropriate no fuss help desk processes are key to ensuring transparency, expectation alignment and ultimately mutual satisfaction. Between you and your customers, partners, colleagues, and managers.

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