Essentials for In-House Help Desk Operations

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This might come as a surprise, but the essentials for a smooth-running in-house help desk operation have very little to do with technology — Charles McCann, director of technical support, Oklahoma State University, said it’s more important to be sensitive to your customer’s needs, track calls and build organizational relationships.

“The No. 1 thing to remember when running an internal help desk is to understand the needs of the needs of your customers,” McCann said. “When you’re running an internal help desk as opposed to an external one, your customers don’t always have the option to go external or to find someone else. You have to be very sensitive to make sure you understand what their needs are and what they’re looking for overall. Be very receptive and very open to changes in the overall environment as they come because as the tempo of your organization changes, you as a help desk professional have to be ready and available to change with that so you don’t become irrelevant.”

Another important issue to consider is tracking — McCann said it’s important to track customer calls and contacts so that you can identify trends or more systemic problems. Looking at the processes your organization has, as well as the services being requested, can help you understand for what the user community is asking.

It also can let you know what you have and where you can improve your services. McCann also said one of the best things to consider, especially within an internal help desk, is the need to build strong relationships both inside the organization and the overall help desk community.

“The help desk for a long time has been looked at as the lower rung on the ladder, and that’s an unfortunate place to be, but it’s a place for us to work from,” McCann said. “As the help desk, we have the opportunity to work with these external units, to partner with them and to let them help pull us forward as we get better. For instance, a lot of times, help desks and second-level support or help desk systems have issues with each other — there’s more of a competitive spirit than a cooperative spirit there. I think it’s imperative, especially with an internal help desk, that it turns into a spirit of community working well together, one based around service to the customer.”

Further, McCann said a help desk can come to personify an organization especially to the person who is calling.
“An internal help desk is the face to your organization,” McCann said. “When somebody calls the help desk, they’re going to get one of my help desk technicians, but they’re calling the entire IT division — we represent the face of the IT division.

“The interaction you have with the individual on the phone is really not a technology-based interaction. It’s an interaction, a relationship that you build with the person on the other end of the line. That’s where a lot of the big gains come from. That’s where you get people calling back, having a good feeling, a good assessment overall of what they want of your ability to actually provide it.

McCann also underscored the service aspect of the help desk.

“In an internal help desk, what we’re selling is service, so if they don’t want to call you to get your service, then you’re missing your market,” he said. “A lot of times, people focus on cost per call, average speed of answer, building knowledge bases, which are obviously very important to a help desk. But some of the key cultural things, some of the key interaction issues are the most important things to build a good, strong help desk. The rest of it is really more technical, but once you have the focus where it needs to be, building those external tools, it isn’t nearly as difficult.”

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