Top 10 Help Desk Best Practices

The goal of any help desk is to be the focal point of contact between users and an organization. Having an ordered, proficient and high-quality help desk is the dream of every company, but for many organizations, budgetary concerns prevent management from achieving this objective. Customers don’t care about your business constraints. They expect a high level of quality support, through multiple channels, delivered by knowledgeable and courteous staff. Companies that view the help desk as a cost center and don’t provide it with the attention and resources it needs are at a competitive disadvantage. Your company’s product or service may be of the very best quality, but if your customer service is poor, or your otherwise competent staff is spread too thin, the quality of the product doesn’t matter. You will still be seen in a negative light and will lose business.

A common customer service pitfall occurs when a new product or service is introduced without adequately preparing the help desk department. A rush of user questions takes a toll on the help desk. Overloading help desk staff has two immediate results. First productivity decreases. And secondly, when people are overworked they become less courteous and less responsive. An overworked help desk staffer is not going to put a positive face on your business.

No matter what challenges your customer service faces, managing a help desk requires a holistic point of view, built on sound help desk practices. While many companies put software solutions in place to help improve efficiency, this in itself is inadequate. Below are top ten help desk best practices that can help your organization grow and flourish.

1. Make Organization a Priority

The first and foremost of help desk best practices is the organization of the help desk in a simple and efficient way. Although this organization can be facilitated by software, it is really more of a high-level strategic process.

The first step in organizing the help desk is to organize your information. This involves developing an uncomplicated, and clear-cut online knowledge base, which addresses the majority of your customers’ concerns clearly. Make this online database easy to access and understand, and resist the temptation to put absolutely everything in it. An online knowledge base helps reduce call volume and provides customers with an easy, self-serve approach to answering common and simple questions. But if you attempt to answer every single question within this self-serve help desk component, you will defeat the purpose of creating it in the first place. The goal of help desk services is to provide users with the information they need, while not requiring them to expend too much effort. Handle this database efficiently, and you can keep help desk phone call volume low, by allowing simpler questions to be answered automatically in the online database. Help desk support staff should also have access to a broader knowledge base of course, as well as a database that includes all past responses to questions. This will allow help desk staff to access answers more quickly.

2. Take the Time to Hire the Most Competent People

Companies that excel at customer service, excel at hiring the very best people. The crux of any successful help desk is to employ the right personnel. The help desk staff in many cases is the only live connection that exists between customer and company. Their efficiency and competency can be evaluated during the hiring stage, but beyond that, it is important to monitor how staff handle stressful situations. Remember, people most often call the help desk while in crisis. In this situation the employee’s competency can be gauged by his/her technical and communication skills in offering the required support.

Handling unhappy customers throughout the day is a daunting task that will adversely affect the morale of your employees. So before employing, test the candidate by asking several questions as to what they would do in this situation. Check their competency and manners while handling telephone calls, as well as their confidence, patience and logic. Hire the staff that has a good amalgamation of technical as well as customer service skills. A valid approach would be for example, if you intend to hire ten help desk personnel to recruit five with stronger customer service skills and five with stronger technical skills to obtain a good balance and an opportunity to cross-train. Towards this end, it is important to make sure your personnel are willing to work as a team.

3. Invest in Ongoing Training

Nothing can be more frustrating than waiting on hold for service, only to discover the person that answers your call, can’t answer your question. Continual investments in employee training is one of the help desk best practices that will improve your operations.

With today’s increasingly sophisticated level of technology, the job of help desk personnel has become all the more challenging. Customers have lost their patience; they want their answers and solutions right NOW! To deal with these types of situations there is a need for training help desk staff on a continuous basis. Apart from learning techniques for resolving problems and listening effectively, personnel need to be trained to provide accurate responses in both direct and email interactions. In addition to training staff in these “people skills,” continued training in business and technical skills is also necessary. Companies that embrace help desk best practices need to set aside a part of their budget to provide continuous training for their employees to ensure that they are able to fulfill the customer service-oriented needs (“people skills”), and also able to competently resolve technical questions.

4. Motivate the Team

As is the case with sports activities, “team spirit” is the hallmark of every successful organization. A good help desk manager, beyond possessing good management skills and technology skills, is also part cheerleader.

To achieve help desk best practices in an organization, every help desk worker must understand and appreciate the input of their co-workers. Management must consider each help desk employee as an integral part of the organization, and should realize that help desk staff is not, or at least should not be, considered an “entry-level” position. High-level managers should spend some time in the help desk area in order to see everything is working well, and to encourage staff. A simple pat on the back is always good for morale, but if encouragement ends there, you will soon find that you have a dissatisfied staff that is not delivering to their full potential. Provide bonuses and financial incentives to your help desk workers in the form of gift certificates for dinners or stores. Provide an award certificate or have “Employee of the Week” awards. Take them for a company-sponsored lunch, or for a weekend outing. This will stimulate the morale of employees and you will get greater productivity.

5. Be Available

Being available to meet your customers’ needs is an obvious help desk best practice that is often not followed. Customers’ problems do not happen on a fixed schedule, and if you have workers on a limited shift with only a skeleton staff on at nights, or strictly on an 8-to-5 schedule, then your customers’ needs will not be met on a timely basis. This is especially important for organizations with a global customer base, who may be experiencing call volume 24 hours a day from customers in different time zones. Availability is essential, as is flexibility. For example, if the marketing department is running a campaign, or you have just released a new version of your product, you will need extra support, perhaps at odd hours. Your help desk organization must be flexible enough to accommodate overtime, or to bring in extra staff to handle the temporary increase in call volume.

6. Cultivate Listening Skills

Being a good listener is a great skill for any job and one of the help desk best practices for any company. Beyond technical skills, the help desk worker must have exceptional listening skills. There are two reasons why listening skills are important. First of all, from a customer service perspective, customers just have a need to feel as though they are being attended to. Second, listening skills will help the staff person fully understand the nature and cause of the problem. In training, help desk employees must be able to learn the difference between simply hearing, and really listening to a customer. They should be taught how to be an effective listener and understand the main problem to be resolved.

7. Invest in Help Desk Tools

Help desk tools play a vital role in giving your organization an edge over your competitors. The help desk industry has one of the highest staff turnovers, and to run it efficiently, it is necessary to equip staff with great tools to track, log, and resolve issues instantly and improve the overall efficiency of your help desk. There are several different help desk software key features to keep in mind. One simple tool that should be in place at every help desk is an escalator, which is a simple process enhanced by your software environment to ensure that your customers aren’t left waiting for their issue to get resolved. You may be able to provide your customer with a way to log into a web page to see the progress of their issue. This simple step will reduce follow-up phone calls to your support team. Many of the technological tools you will use in the help desk are simple but highly effective. Include remote support solutions as well, which will help your staff interact with the user directly, through a secure connection.

8. Balance Talent and Tools

Companies that provide efficient service through their help desk pay attention to the composition and structure of the help desk. Help desk best practices involve assigning tasks categorically, rather than at random, to ensure that you are able to take full advantage of each staff member’s particular skill level. Help desk best practices also call for regular technology evaluations to ensure you have the best help desk software that meets the changing needs of customers. Your software environment may meet your needs today, but you may find that it won’t meet your needs tomorrow. Make sure that your help desk environment will accommodate multiple avenues of communication; besides phone calls, it should support email and IM. And most of all, ensure that you create a help desk software environment that is easy to use for your staff. Their focus must be on finding solutions and helping your customers, and not on trying to figure out how to use a difficult system.

9. Record Complaints Electronically

Electronic recording of all incidents and problems is a best practice for help desks of any size. All help desk staff must be trained to document everything. Collecting data through constant recording will help to solve future problems, and also will help in creating an analysis of how the help desk is working presently.

10. Survey Your Customers

One of the help desk best practices that can be adopted by an organization is to conduct satisfaction surveys. Customer input gives management a better understanding of how employees are working and what their competency levels are in areas such as product knowledge and communication skills. Besides ensuring that everything is working smoothly, these surveys can also help to spot impending problem areas, so they can be addressed before they escalate.