Help Desks play key strategic, as well as problem-solving, role

Ask people to define “Help Desk,” and most will discuss the tactical role of resolving acute problems. But there’s a much more strategic role that a Help Desk can fulfill: Identifying issues within individual companies or with particular products and services that may merit major “repairs” or improvements.

Whether a Help Desk is managed by internal resources or a third-party vendor, companies need to assess how well they are executing an overall technology strategy, deciding what new technology merits consideration, and how well their day-to-day operations are faring (e.g., workflow efficiency).

The following are ways Help Desks can help accomplish these objectives:

  1. Spot company training deficiencies. If employees are calling the service desk about technology that the company thought they understood, additional training may be in order. In this role, service desk feedback may uncover employee shortcomings that, suffering somewhat from a “forest for the trees” malady, internal staff doesn’t have.
  2. Reveal technology shortcomings. If, for example, your company has VoIP, and the Help Desk ticketing system is getting a sizeable number of complaints about signal quality, you need to find a fix. Sometimes, this is a simple issue of adjusting the bandwidth for your phone calls. Or, it could be a router conflict with use of the Internet. Or, there could be an issue with the high-speed Internet provider.

Using the ticketing system as a research tool may help a company narrow down what is going on without getting caught in a chicken-and-egg problem, as so often occurs (e.g., the ISP says the problem is with the VoIP provider, and vice versa. In reality, the problem may reside within the company’s own technology).

  1. Identify communication/personality-style challenges with particular employees. If certain employees constantly yell at the top of their lungs when calling the service desk, the company may have an attitude issue to address with specific employees or departments. If this is occurring with people who normally do not exhibit such behavior, the technology could be at fault for exasperating typically even-keel personnel.

Depending on the problem, the solution may either be communications training for employees, so that they do a more productive, less antagonistic job of dealing with the service desk people (and perhaps others), or re-working/replacing a particular technology.

  1. Establish the support desk as a primary educational tool. Besides formal training with employees, the service desk offers a unique, one-on-one opportunity to educate specific employees, offering them individual attention, versus group learning, that can be less effective for some.
  2. Research how successful a particular technology rollout has been. To be effective, this research needs to address two things: The success of the overall strategy, and the efficacy of the tactical plan. Carefully monitoring, and aggregating, Help Desk call information will provide useful information about both areas.
  3. Assess the willingness to use the Help Desk. Look at quantity, as well as content, of support desk calls when compared to overall rollout/implementation success. If the new system clearly is not working well, and there is much internal grumbling, but few calls, this may be a clue that people are reluctant to call, either because they’re generally demoralized, or because they don’t feel comfortable with the Help Desk. Conversely, if a system deployment appears to be working well, and many calls ensue, this could indicate a lack of pre-rollout employee training, or simply show employee comfort with their service desk.
  4. Use the Help Desk as a tool to evaluate overall employee satisfaction levels, areas that go beyond the specific technology being addressed in the call. Savvy Help Desk consultants can spot recurring attitude trends, both good and bad. By accurately capturing and recording this information, the service desk can perform a critically important “head shrinking” function.
  5. Take an active role in helping employees adhere to company standards. In many companies, skill sets are great, the right technology applications are in place, but there are no company standards in use. People use different styles and formats that aren’t consistent (e.g., everyone’s business card has a different font). With this problem identified, the support desk can proactively educate callers about these issues as part of an overall fact-finding process, and help build firm-wide standards for such tasks as creating documents. Ultimately, this can reduce the service desk call burden, and free up resources to deal with other pressing issues.

A ticketing systems like a service desk can be a treasure trove of useful information about how the company is doing with specific technology strategies and tactical initiatives, as well as provide an overall “report card” of how employees feel about the company.

The key is to direct the service desk to gather the types of information you seek and how you want it reported. Properly “configured,” the Help Desk can be one of the most valuable business tools available in the marketplace today.

Gene Smith is general manager of Mission Critical Systems, Denver-based IT management firm. Reach Mr. Smith at 303-383-1MCS (1627);