The keys to excellent internal help desk management

November 23, 2010

Internal help desk management can be among the most challenging use cases for support software.

“Support services are not always well-documented or communicated, so they may be unclear and/or undefined for even those on the inside,” explains Paul Ille, director of Technical Services at Alloy Software, a leading provider of service management, asset management, and network help desk software solutions that help organizations of all sizes automate IT operations. “This makes it difficult to set goals and define metrics for success, because employees receiving internal customer support may have vastly different expectations. Ultimately, this can result in frustration on both sides of the support ticket.

While help desk management is ideally defined by an internal guide on support delivery procedures, there isn’t always a process in place to create or abide by one single source of truth. Expectations are then left to guide process. According to SaaS guru Matthew Monahan, expectations come from two sources: experiences and requirements.

“If the customer’s regular experience is that it takes two days to resolve a support issue, then they expect that issues will take two days to resolve, Monahan says. “Conflicts generally arise when a customer has an urgent requirement, but they know from experience that their needs will not be met in that time frame.

The path to improvement involves synchronizing watches—agreeing, as a team, on service level agreements, or SLAs, for time to resolution or first response time. Here’s how to get the ball rolling on creating and implementing team-wide SLAs:

1. Create a service catalog

Agreeing upon and defining your services internally and externally will improve customer service and is, ultimately, a better way to manage expectations. Once you agree as a team and an organization on what you’re providing your customers, you can then forge ahead with setting expectations, Ille says. Help desk software that includes an SLA solution makes it easy to incorporate them into the workflow.

2. Develop a culture of helping within the help desk

If help desk management is too focused on minimizing costs, then you end up delivering subpar assistance to your users,” Monahan says. “If, however, you focus on giving the users everything they need to get their jobs accomplished, then you win–twice.” Monahan says the first win is that your team will become more proactive, looking for opportunities to help users before waiting for them to report problems. The second win is that your user base will come to view the help desk as a partner in problem-solving, rather than people to yell at when things go wrong.

3. Hire good employees to retain good employees

When your company has stellar help desk management, it often means your best hires stick around. The support organization wins with less turnover, and agents can become more skilled over time, able and willing to solve more difficult issues.

4. Build a workflow that tracks issues end-to-end

Both the customer and the help desk staff should be able to identify the status of the issue at a glance. Such transparency reduces frustration and anxiety for all parties, and it, from a metrics perspective, it speeds resolution. “Any staff member should be able to jump in at any time, knowing exactly where the previous person left off, as well as the next step that needs to be completed,” Monahan says. “The user should have updates regularly, with the option of tracking their issue online or by e-mail.”

5. Remember: The help desk is a partner

The help desk does not exist just to mop up mistakes, a cultural message that should permeate throughout the company. The help desk is a valued partner for every department, in fact. Think of it this way: Where would Star Trek’‘s Captain Kirk be without Scotty in the engine room? If Kirk needs warp speed to get the job done, Scotty uses his technical prowess to find a way to give it to him and save the day. As a result, Scotty—our help desk–is hailed, and not cursed, by the rest of the crew. “The help desk’’s mission, similarly, is to make every user as successful as possible,” Monahan says.

6. Offer a knowledge base or self-service portal

Help desk software should also come with an option for a knowledge base. Often times, end users are just looking for a quick solution to a simple issue. Rather than submitting another ticket, a knowledge base allows employees to search for and solve their own issues. This reduces the strain on the ITSM team so they can solve more complicated issues requiring 1:1 support.

It can be easy to be overwhelmed by all of the aspects of help desk management: help desk software, knowledge management, ITIL; not to mention ticket queues and the always-on nature of customer support. But a good strategy, great talent, and the right help desk software can help ensure you provide quick and efficient customer support for your employees.

Learn more about how help desk management solutions can streamline your workflow

Build a thriving help center