Updated Dec 23 2020 :: by Katie Joll

Your help desk or service desk is often the first port of call for customers or the users that you serve.

That means that what the service desk does can have a huge impact on customer experience and their overall view of your company. Being friendly, effective and efficient are important characteristics that you want to define that experience, but of course, we know that doesn’t always happen with every interaction.

What can improve your chances of having an effective service desk? Your values and culture can help. A healthy culture supports a positive environment and overall customer or user experience, while your values support that culture.

Team culture should definitely be a priority rather than an afterthought - here’s how and why:

Download our tips for building a successful help desk culture here

The importance of values and culture

You could look at it this way: the culture and values of your help desk define expectations and the proper way to behave, or to do the job. They determine what your team members prioritize, how they treat your customers and how they make decisions.

Every organization has a culture and some sort of values, but not every organization has them by design. You see, culture happens whether you’re intentional about it or not. It stems from the predominant view of “how we do things around here” and is reinforced by the attitudes and behaviors of those in influential positions.

By this definition, your culture can either help or hurt the overall effectiveness of your service desk. Just for a minute, think of somewhere you’ve been, either in-person, online or over the phone where you’ve needed customer service and been disappointed in the experience. What were the representatives like? In companies with a poor overall culture you’ll see things like:

  • Representatives who seem to be indifferent to helping you. They’re “just doing their job” and it feels like you’re interrupting them by needing their help.
  • Representatives who don’t focus. How irritating is it when you’re being served in a store and the person behind the counter carries on a side-conversation with someone else?
  • Mistakes being made that didn’t have to happen. The representative carrying on a side-conversation overcharged for something or didn’t apply the discount you were entitled to. In the case of a service desk, maybe they don’t actually solve the problem you went there for in the first place.
  • A general feeling of being underwhelmed with the service you got. At worst, it left you with a bad impression, at best, it was unmemorable and indifferent.

One of the things that poor culture can do is leave customers or users with a less tangible feeling of dissatisfaction and the idea that the company just “isn’t that into” serving their customers well. It can be more of an impression than a specific incident

Impact on your team members

The culture among your team and overall organization also impacts how your agents experience their work, and that can be significant.

It’s as simple as this: a positive culture tends to lead to agents enjoying their work and generally feeling good about the workplace. They value the organization, the service desk and the team members around them. They also care about the impression that customers get - they want it to be a good one!

One the other hand, a poor culture can lead to dissatisfied, apathetic or even hostile team members. It makes it hard to get out of bed for work in the mornings because the atmosphere can seem toxic and draining.

On a help desk, a manager might notice that key metrics are not being met. Maybe SLAs are missed and complaints are up. You might also notice high absenteeism and turnover, which in turn adds to a poor experience for customers.

Help desk culture impacts customer experience, and the engagement of your team

How values relate to culture

Your values can really drive your culture. Shared values give your people a common drive. They underpin what you’re aiming for and the culture that you develop.

One thing to be aware of is that values need to be truly embraced and demonstrated to be effective. That includes anyone in a management position. Culture and values tend to be driven from the top and people notice if there’s a disconnect.

Sometimes companies have “espoused values” - those which they claim are important to them, yet are often not demonstrated. For example, if you have a value of “we put the customer first,” but no one actually prioritizes them in reality, then you have a disconnect.

In these situations, there are often values present that aren’t what you talk about in company presentations. The HR benefits company Zenefits was one well-documented example of culture and values gone wild. Everyone from management down was partying hard during work hours and missing important KPIs. In some cases, they were even falling afoul of regulations for their industry.

It’s not enough to print values up on a wall chart - you need to demonstrate them to make them part of the culture you want to build.

Benefits of a strong culture for your help desk

It is worth putting the time into developing an intentional culture for your help desk because having one can deliver upon a number of benefits. Some of these include:

  • Strong performance. Help desks with a good culture tend to be high-achievers that do well against any KPIs or metrics.
  • Better teamwork. A strong culture tends to foster the team ideal and has people working productively together.
  • Collaboration toward goals.
  • Respect and trust among team members.
  • Less internal “politics” which can be inefficient for your operations.
  • Strong engagement among team members. They want to be at work and strive to do their jobs well.
  • A strong sense of identity and belonging among your team. They may take pride in serving customers well.
  • Better retention of team members. This also means less ramp-up time while you train replacements!
  • Better customer or user experience overall.

You can have the most brilliant, competent agents, but a weak culture will hamper them and the overall success of your help desk. Culture and underpinning values should be prioritized as an intentional exercise, before a culture you didn’t intend creeps in.

Define what “good” culture and values look like

The Zenefits example has served as a cautionary tale for many companies of what an effective culture doesn’t look like (and to their credit, they’re a different company now with new management leading the way). It’s easy to say “that’s not us,” but are you living up to what you’d expect a productive help desk culture to look like?

It helps if you can actually define what good culture and values will look, sound and feel like within your team. This might be an exercise to get everyone involved with if you haven’t already – shared understanding and buy-in can improve your success.

For example, here are a few questions you might brainstorm:

  • What does good customer service or “putting the customer first” look like?
  • How should customers feel when they deal with us?
  • What does a healthy team environment look and feel like? What are some examples of that?
  • What shared values will support a productive, healthy culture at work?
  • How will we reinforce/celebrate/acknowledge our shared culture and values?

Start with your definitions of what the culture you aim for looks like so you can build out specific actions and expectations from there.

Free download: Tips to build a successful help desk culture

Final thoughts

It could be concluded that your values and culture form the basis of the success of your help desk. The fact is, it’s difficult to run an efficient, high-performing, customer-centric support team without a good culture.

Your culture will determine how customers or users experience your service and how team members experience your organization. It directly contributes to success factors such as the productivity and engagement of your team.

The bottom line? Your culture matters and it deserves your attention.


'Why Values and Culture Are Important for Successful Help Desks' was written by Katie Joll
Katie Joll
Katie is our writer who specializes in technology and travel. When she's not writing, you'll probably find her on a trail, taking photos.


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