Five Tips for More Effective Helpdesk Resolution

By Martha Ciske

Have you ever locked yourself out of an account with a misspelled password? Perhaps you have undergone the agonizing moments when you think you have lost a document or watched the once perfect formatting go from really good to really terrible all in one press of the spacebar. Every day, business professionals face these situations. Logically, they would then dial their company’s helpdesk for assistance, or would they?

If your helpdesk is not perceived as helpful, your employees may not be calling at all, or they may only be calling when there is no other way around it. They might actually keep the number or email of a particular person in the IT department to call because they don’t want to have to deal with the helpdesk at all.

If your helpdesk team members have great technology skills and less than stellar communication skills, they may be hindering your flow of business. The following are five ways you can resolve common helpdesk issues.

1) Document: This time-intensive and tedious task of recording who called, why, and what the resolution was is the bane of many helpdesk staff. On the end user’s side, frustration mounts when they find themselves saying things like, “I called when this happened this twice before. X person fixed it. Why don’t you know how?” This creates distrust in the abilities of your helpdesk staff, and word spreads like wildfire.

Unfortunately, many technical staff members have had the experience of a poorly managed IT department using incident documentation numbers to track and rate staff productivity. For example, the number of “tickets” equals the worth of the staff member. While statistics from ticketing systems could arguably indicate performance, documentation is the primary way your helpdesk staff can track issues and provide consistent knowledge back to users in an efficient manner.

If you don’t have a documentation system or method, get one. Emphasize quality of documentation, not quantity. Make sure everyone knows how to use it, even those not on the front lines of user support. Review the new additions and solutions periodically at your staff meetings.

2) Build a Non-Technical Vocabulary: Some of the most brilliant people at your organization may not have the same vocabulary as your helpdesk when it comes to technology. They might refer to their remote access as “dialing in” or their mouse as a “clicker” or any number of other outdated or just descriptive phrases when they call seeking help. No matter what “flashy thingy” they are calling about, they need to receive communication utilizing concepts they understand. This communication needs to be treated with the exact same urgency as a caller who uses all the right words.

3) Get the Big Picture: Many of the mundane tasks of the helpdesk can easily be diagnosed, but if your helpdesk staff isn’t listening, they might be solving many little tasks to the detriment of the person calling who is trying to accomplish a big task.

For example, a secretary calls and needs to know how to get a list of contacts. Your helpdesk says to print the contacts from Outlook. But, they didn’t ask the secretary what the intended purpose was for that list. If the secretary needed to share that information to put into a marketing email blast system, putting them in a .csv would be a lot more helpful.

Either the secretary won’t call back because she didn’t get the help she needed, or there will be countless more calls to actually resolve what she needed to do. Take the time to get the big picture. Understand the purpose of what the user is trying to do. Providing the right solution once will always be more helpful than providing partial solutions that might not work towards the user’s end goal.

4) Create Clear Expectations: Providing your end users clear instruction on how, when, and where to contact the helpdesk and what to expect can help temper frustration for users who are not receiving the service they expect. On your organization’s intranet or phone list, clearly state the hours of helpdesk operation and provide information on how to best contact the helpdesk for their particular issue. Should they call, email, or enter a request on a Webpage?

If you offer after-hours support, provide clear instructions on how to initiate that service. Is it sending an email with a particular subject line or calling a toll free number to leave a message? If possible, include this information in your employee manuals and as part of on-boarding training. Create a poster to stick in the copy room or break room.

5) Focus: When your staff is assigned to the helpdesk, no matter if it is a rotation or a fixed position, they should focus on the helpdesk. It sounds simple, but often helpdesk staff are tasked with other technology related work in their “down time.” Not only does this divide the attention and intentions of the staff, but it can also lead to poor responses when users call for assistance. Make sure any duties other than responding to assistance requests are not creating competing priorities or valued above providing effective support.

Improving the way the helpdesk staff communicates within their department and to end users, as well as creating clear expectations of service, can help improve your helpdesk’s effectiveness and the effectiveness of your business’ employees.

Martha Ciske is a legal technologist in Orlando, FL. She has made a career of being a translator of technology and resident nerd for businesses, professionals, and non-profits..

[From the April/May 2013 issue of AnswerStat magazine]