People & Process Thoughts

Thoughts and musings all things people and process

Save Time, Money and Implement a Help Desk

There comes a point in the lifecycle of any successful company when in order to be efficient internally it becomes essential to be efficient externally. This can be equally true at a departmental level in large organizations, where one group of people support or assist another. Efficiency usually is about three things:

  1. Timeliness
  2. Accuracy and completeness of information
  3. An improvement loopback mechanism

The speed with which a problem can be resolved is obviously going to affect efficiency, yet the problem does not even have to be resolved in order for timeliness to bring benefits. A help Desk ticket provides a fire-and-temporarily-forget mechanism. The user with a problem can get on with other things and not have to sit and ponder the problem and its resolution. If the ticketing system sends out an auto response then so much the better. The joint frame of reference between ticket initiator and responder is an instant time-saver. If the ticketing system implements SLAs or business Rules and Actions then efficiencies are built into the system through the definition of clear processes and timelines.

The telephone is one of the least efficient ways to communicate because while it has the benefit of human interaction it has the problem of having no clear requirements on data. "The system doesn't work” is possibly the most useless statement an end-user can make. How doesn't it work? Why do you think it is not working? Can you send me a screen shot? Who are you and what permissions do you have? These are valid questions to ask in response. What is inefficient is to ask all of those questions, discover that the system doesn't indeed work and then pass the end-user on to someone else who now has to ask all the same questions again! The only way to guarantee accuracy and completeness of information once and for all is to define the entire set of data required, formalize it with rules (what is mandatory, what is optional, what can be defaulted and what must be provided), capture it all, and route it to the appropriate responder. Even then there may be questions to answer so make sure the responder has a direct route straight back to the ticket initiator and all concerned.

Finally, there is no value in repeatedly solving the same problem without addressing its root cause. This is what ITIL is all about and why ITIL processes should be closely linked with (and possibly part of) a help desk. A well-run help desk is an absolute goldmine of useful information about product and process improvements and training needs. Mine it! It can identify things like "20 tickets are raised because team x,y,z need training in product A”, "customers A and B, supported by internal team X have no problem with a product, while customer C supported by internal team Y has constant complaints. Is the problem in the support team, or is it the customer's internal team quality that is the issue?” Asking questions and finding the answers to problems like these is the way to drive efficiency, cut costs and identify revenue opportunities. A help desk is not just a place where problems go to die.

Like the British Cycling team that dominated the gold medal table at the London Olympics, success is the culmination of multiple, incremental improvements. Start with auto-responses to ticket raisers; define forms, fields and rules, and map them to processes; search through and collate common problems in the help desk and feed them through as the appropriate ITIL type to be tackled and eradicated. Do all of these things and your help desk system can transform your business, saving you a lot of time and effort and bringing you the intangible but massively beneficial side-effects of great customer service.

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