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The Helpdesk Model – What It Means to Put Helpdesk to Work and Improve

February 14, 2011 6 comments

Have you considered the impact your IT helpdesk has on the business you support? Think about your company’s reliance on technology and IT applications— when service interruptions happen, they impact processes and cause business disruption. The IT Helpdesk is much more than answering the phone and helping users solve their IT problems. Helpdesk has a direct impact on running the business, providing quality customer services and ensuring business profitability. If you are implementing an IT helpdesk in your company or in the process of improving your existing one, this article is for you. First, let’s discuss the IT Helpdesk Model. The diagram model shows the eight components of the IT Helpdesk Model. Each is briefly described below.  

Eight Components of the IT Helpdesk Model 

  1. IT Helpdesk Organization – This component represents the managers, staff, functions and supporting groups that comprise the IT helpdesk organization.
  2. Enablers – Enablers are tangible and intangible components needed to operate the IT helpdesk. This includes technology, tools, communication channels and analytics. Other important enablers are the required competencies of the individual staff working at the helpdesk and the group’s combined capabilities. 
  3. Service Review Board – The  Service Review Board is the steering committee or sponsor of the IT helpdesk organization. The group is composed of key IT managers, business/customer representatives and (if necessary) external consultants. They are responsible for providing strategic guidance, support, resources, and feedback to the group. 
  4. Business / Customers – This represents the customers that receive the IT helpdesk services. Your customers are everyone in the company; not just everyone who has computers, but everyone who has access to one that uses it as part of his / her function. It is important for IT helpdesk to know its customers and be able to identify and segment them. 
  5. Mission – The mission statement is the declaration of purpose, values, direction and tactics. It governs how the IT helpdesk will run its service delivery to its customers and guide every interaction it has with the users. 
  6. Service Offer – Your service offer represents the scope of your services to your customers. The services that your IT helpdesk provide are determined by business or customer needs. A good service offer is composed of service elements that are manageable and provide the best value to the business. 
  7. Performance – It is critical for part of the IT helpdesk function to be tied up with performance measures.  Performance should be measured periodically if the service offers are attained in a satisfactory manner. This component represents performance indicators that have to be defined and tracked. Performance also includes how the IT Helpdesk receives and handles feedback from surveys and customer focus groups.  
  8. Continuous Improvement – This component is tied up with performance measures. Your IT helpdesk will have to adjust services regularly — as business changes and as your customers demand more. Continuous improvement includes working on actionable items from performance monitoring or data analysis. 

Five Ways to Improve Your IT Helpdesk

1. Understand your Purpose, Involve your Customers and Set the Right Expectations  – Understand what senior management and your internal customers expect. Have focus group discussions with business leaders and key customers. Listen to feedback—positive and negative. Understand their concerns and identify opportunities. Invite your key customers to join and participate in your Service Review Board. When you and your customers communicate and understand what your service offers are, it easier for you to keep them satisfied because you have set the right expectations for your services. 

2. Establish a Clear Mission Statement  – Your mission statement is your declaration of purpose and values. This will set the direction of the group on how to interact with customers. It governs every interaction that deals with a call, request or problem. Putting together a mission statement must be a collaborative process. Let key members of the helpdesk and internal stakeholders participate in putting together a mission statement. A sample mission statement could read, “Focus on the needs of the business and support the customer in making the best use of technology in business.”  A sample value statement would read, “We aim to minimize downtime by restoring service as fast as we can. We solve problems, not symptoms, and work to resolve the root causes.”

3. Develop Needed Competencies and Roles. – To have an effective helpdesk organization, there needs to be clearly defined roles and an effective way of performing them. The major competencies and roles within helpdesk are: stakeholders, problem solver or experts, data analyst, communicator, and the customer service liaison. Stakeholders are represented in the IT Helpdesk Model as the Service Review Board. This group is established to provide sponsorship, guidance and support to the IT helpdesk organization. Problem solver and experts are senior members (level two or higher) of the helpdesk whose task is to solve escalated problems and find solutions to recurring incidents. Data analysts consistently mine helpdesk databases for trend analysis. The Communicator is responsible for the continuous improvement of helpdesk communication and customer service competencies. They are also responsible for call quality assurance. Customer Service Liaisons are members of the helpdesk who manage customer relationship and gather feedback from the customer through surveys and focus group discussions. 

4. Develop Your Service Offer – Your service offer should be tied up with your mission, customer need, budget and internal capabilities. Focus on providing services that give the best value to the business. Eliminate non-value creating services from your portfolio. If you provide too many services on a broad range of domains, you are setting your helpdesk group up for failure. Avoid situations where your resources are thinly spread and customers with important needs are forced to wait while you attend to a service that does not create value. Services are manageable, supportive of the business needs, well defined and well understood. After defining your service offer, communicate and market services to your customers. Remember that the service offer needs to be adjusted on a regular basis in order cope with changes in business needs, budget and customer expectations. An example of service offers are: “Provide support between 6am to 7pm daily. Allow customer channels such as email, call, voice mail, chat, and intranet site. Provide consulting on software recommendations. Broadcast information about system availability and planned maintenance. etc.” 

5.Have a Culture of Continuous Improvement – Most existing IT Helpdesks have massive amounts of data at their disposal—yet fail to utilize it in any meaningful way. Running an IT Helpdesk means gathering a lot of data for the purpose of evaluating service performance and resolving problems. Use data effectively to discover valuable insights and evaluate performance versus set target and objectives. Use data to conduct trend analysis on recurring issues so as to implement proactive measures in reducing the number of calls and incidents. Have a culture of continuous improvement. Don’t settle for mediocre performance. Always challenge your IT Helpdesk to continuous improvement in every aspect of the service it provides.

Please share with us your experiences in implementing and managing your IT Helpdesk. What were the challenges and key learnings? You can also post your questions about the topic so that I and readers can respond to them. Thank you.

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Transforming the IT Customer Experience: Helpdesk and Field Support (a story…)

Imagine crashing your PC after having a virus issue. You need to call the IT helpdesk. You pick up the phone and call the 1-800 hotline number. Your expectations of the quality of IT’s response time is so low that you’ll settle for a day or two without a workstation. You imagine that perhaps you lost all your files and important documents in your computer. Service? Forget it.  Your previous experiences with the IT helpdesk were terrible, if a service agent answers your call after 5 minutes waiting on call queue, it would be a small miracle. 

IT Helpdesk

Instead— you must be dreaming— your call gets picked up after two rings and a friendly service agent greets you with, “Good morning ,sir.  My name is Kyra, how are you? How can I be of service to you today?” You are surprised but refreshed with the friendliness of the agent’s greeting. It’s unusual and has never been the case before — even during the last time you called them a month ago. You reply, “I’m good, thank you. I have a problem with my desktop. When I started it this morning, I got a blue screen after a couple of minutes. I don’t know what’s wrong. I think it might be a virus or something. It was working last Friday when I left.”  The agent quickly and confidently replies, “Actually sir, we have a virus alert this morning that affected several users. We already sent a notice by email, and of course you didn’t receive it. We were about to call you but you beat us to that. We know the root cause of the problem for certain because of the new proactive monitoring tool that we recently implemented. Your desktop is one of those affected because you run one of our old desktop models with an older OS version on it. That made your computer more vulnerable to this new virus attack.” You are astonished with the level of information the service agent has already but still you have reservations as to whether this will impact the resolution time. Sure, she is friendly and she knows what’s going on but can she solve it?

Then you ask, “Then what should we do? It sounds like I won’t be able to use my computer today or for a couple of days perhaps?”  Kyra replies confidently, “No sir, definitely not. We won’t allow that. As a matter of fact, our field-support team members are on their way to the offices of the users affected. They are making rounds as we speak.  The person assigned to assist you is scheduled to arrive at 10:00 am. I think he’ll be there in minutes.”

Communication of the Service Deal

Kyra continues, “In the meantime, if you have a minute of your time to spare, I would be glad to tell you our new service mission statement. Do you have some time, sir?” You don’t have a workstation anyway so surely you have time and this wonderful service agent deserves a few extra minutes. You reply willingly, “Yes of course. I noticed a big difference in your over-all service today so far and I am pleasantly surprised. I’d be glad to hear about your new mission statement.” Kyra continued, “Thank you, sir. I am proud to say that our management and the whole IT organization came up with a common objective of improving our overall service delivery. Particularly, our technical support department which includes first level support agents, field-support service personnel and second level specialists, have the objective of providing our customers the fastest, high quality, friendly and effective IT support.”

“Sir, do you have any questions about our new mission?”  You decide that it is good for IT to communicate its service offer and you feel special to be treated an important customer. You say, “No questions, Kyra, and congratulations. I’m really happy about your service.  This is not what I expected. You guys really improved your service in such a short time. I’m impressed. Oh wait, I think the field support is here already. I have to go.” Kyra concludes, “Okay, sir, I will call you back after the service call to check if everything is fine. I know JB will take good care of you. Thank you and please don’t hesitate to call us again if you need anything.”

IT Field Support

Then as the field support agent comes into you office, he greets you warmly, “Good morning, sir. My name is John Bryan but you can call me JB. I am here to help you with your Desktop and I want to tell you about the two choices.” “Choices?”, you wonder incredulously. Now he is going to tell you the bad news that he needs to pull out your desktop for one day. Or maybe you get a loaner — something you’ve experienced before. At that time, you were given an incredibly old PC that was so slow you couldn’t even use it. You brace yourself for the bad news but instead he says.” I brought you a new computer. It’s a laptop. I need two hours to set it up fully with all your programs and files in it, or I can try fixing your virus problem for 30 minutes so you can work and then I can set up your new laptop for delivery next week.  What do you think? ” Already impressed with the customer experience so far, you think that two hours doesn’t seem so bad. Plus, you are getting a new laptop when you were expecting at least a day of no computer.  You reply, “OK, get on with the setup of the new one. I’ll wait here.” John Bryan says, “Good choice, sir. I’m sure you’ll be pleased with this new one. And finally sir, I can give you a general overview of the many capabilities of your new laptop and programs while we wait for the installations and file transfer to finish, or I could keep my mouth shut. What would you prefer?” 

After everything was done, you realize that not only has the IT support services improved but you also just had a transforming experience. Talk about exceeding expectations! 

I believe IT leaders have the power to embed a strong customer service culture through their influence…but culture embedding is not easy…organizations don’t create culture, it is an outcome of consistent behavior (demanded or influenced by leadership). If you provide the best customer service always, it becomes your culture. We try to make positive stories like these everyday… not always the case of course, what I am painting is the perfect world of IT support services, but this is what we aspire for.

Photo courtesy of Ivy Remoreras Photography.

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