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Why Most IT Help Desks Are Like Factories And Why They Shouldn’t Be

Why Most IT Help Desks Are Like Factories And Why They Shouldn’t Be

Most Help Desks are Like Factories

Believe it or not, if you were to walk into your IT help desk office, you’d often find a scene more reminiscent of a factory. Impersonal environments where robotic exchanges between help desk technician and user are the norm. No freedom of expression, limited personalities, little connection between the person behind the desk and users calling in with issues. No matter whether your issue is big or small, the average help desk treats all issues equally poor. Limited empathy for struggling users, limited working relationships established between your users and those that are helping them, nothing memorable—except for possibly a lingering unsolved computer headache that may soon return after the Advil wears off.

Since help desks sometimes dehumanize the human side of technicians, often your experience—both with internal or outsourced IT help desks—will comprise of a mixture of common help desk call issues:

  • No greeting—when someone answers your business’ phone, don’t you expect them to greet the caller, identify who they are and your business? When you call in for IT help desk support you should be validated that you called the right place. Simply saying “hello” should not be good enough!
  • Not catching the subtleties within conversations—often time, you realize that the help desk technician didn’t cause your problem and that they’re trying to help. But if you’re frustrated because a resolution is taking much longer than expected, the technician should be able to recognize that frustration and empathize with you or your user.
  • No sign that technicians are going out of their way for your users—when you call in with an issue, you want someone to focus on your issue until it’s solved. But more often than not, technicians don’t make users feel special or even included in the resolution. Often, they talk over users’ heads talking in acronyms and jargon that unintentionally makes non-technical folks feel stupid.

Avoiding to fix common soft problems that riddle help desks often lead your users less satisfied at their jobs, less productive and more likely to disengage from work during working hours.

One of the biggest reasons your help desk isn’t improving call handling is that the sterile factory environment stifles social engagement, user interaction and solely promotes ticket closures (even if the tickets resolved with band aid fixes).

Studies have found that sterile factory-like environments for help desk and call desk workers leads to lower service satisfaction AND an increase in ticket resolution errors. Most commonly, help desk organizations fall into one of three common environmental settings, all contributing to how your users are received and how satisfactorily their issues are resolved:

Adherence Environment— technicians rely mainly on company policies and procedures when making decisions on how to resolve issues. Help desk management strictly enforces company-wide (or department-wide) policies.

Individual Judgement Environment— technicians rely on own personal experience and judgement to make decisions. Help desk management expects technicians to resolve tickets using their previous training or experience with little to no room for collaboration.

Network Environment— technicians use and share their previous experiences to improve the department as a whole. When technicians cannot readily resolve issues, they rely on advice from colleagues to make decisions on next steps. Help desk management encourage technicians to seek help on issues they are unfamiliar and to give help to resolve issues where they have particular experience.

The problem with most help desks:

In most situations, help desks conform to the adherence model. Nearly 55% of help desk and custom service call centers are dominated by policies and procedures—a useful model to ensure minimal infractions that could land the company in hot water. 35% of help desks rely on individual judgement models—where technicians are free to “shoot from the hip” to resolve issues. Less than 10% of IT help desks utilize a network-based system where technicians seek advice from colleagues, managers or documentation to resolve tickets or learn how to best handle a specific phone call.

Recent research shows that adherence model—a model that most managers prefer because of its allusion to establish consistency in user experience—performs the worst of the different help desk environments.  Individual judgement leads to minimally better results. The network judgement model actually leads to considerably better ticket resolutions—reducing errors by over 25% compared to adherence or individual judgement environments.

It’s not that better-performing help desks evolve from limited management. Rather, with ever-changing technical demands, increased dependence on technology, and complicated resolution paths to technical issues, adhering to a strict protocol or relying on one technician’s individual knowledge base will fall flat. And relying strictly on scripts rather or simply using personal experience handling calls may not be as satisfactory as having collaboration from a group of technicians helping each other with hard to handle calls.

Transforming your help desk to a network-based environment takes time and commitment (along with acceptance from your team), but an investment in improving it can really pay off. Here are a couple of things you likely will need to keep a successful network environment:

Invest in collaborative tools and reward collaborative behaviors— a help desk that invests in tools which promote collaboration amongst technicians—even as simple as having an evolving knowledge base—can be extremely useful in culminating collaborative resolutions on hard to solve tickets. Help desk management should also acknowledge and reward those that seek collaboration (those that ask for help or seek advice from more knowledgeable help desk workers) to resolve issues.

Enlist the help desk to identify barriers to collaboration—having management plan and implement help desk collaboration without talking to help desk technicians is likely to end in failure. Help desk management should seek technician feedback when designing and implementing ways to encourage constructive collaborations in their help desk environment.

A collaborative network environment helps your team to resolve problems within the system, rather than expecting management to recognize and implement the right changes to improve your help desk service experience. It also empowers your help desk technicians to take charge, take control and share their knowledge. They are the seasoned experts—but unfortunately in most IT departments and outsourced help desks, their voices aren’t heard and any ‘improvements’ made to service are nowhere close to the right solution.

We’ve found that technicians that are engaged in helping each other, making documentation work, giving feedback on what would make operations easier, and have a voice in decision making are more likely to stay in their positions longer.

The bottom line—if your IT help desk takes the time and energy to implement an effective help desk environment, it will be better for your users and, ultimately, your business. If you’re concerned your help desk might not be doing all it can to get user satisfaction, Contact me today for a FREE help desk assessment!

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