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Fundamentals of an Excellent Helpdesk Experience

by Katie Joll · Updated Jun 2 2020

What makes for an excellent helpdesk experience?

Your helpdesk is a key customer service channel; if it doesn't deliver as well as it should, you'll soon hear about it with complaints or even poor reviews.

With the right helpdesk system in place, your customer service can thrive. Here are a few fundamentals of what makes for an excellent helpdesk:

Free download: Setting standards with your helpdesk team

It's easy to find

Have you ever been on a website where you've needed help and found it incredibly difficult to discover how to get it? Not only is it a frustrating situation, but it's a poor experience service-wise.

The first fundamental principle of any helpdesk experience is that help should be easy to find. Whatever the business or use case for a helpdesk, users shouldn't be left clicking around a website searching for help. It should be something that is displayed prominently, minimizing the need to hunt it down.

For example, you might have “Get Help” on your main menu, or a small popup or website widget that prompts people to ask for help. JitBit has a support widget which brings up a simplified version of the helpdesk ticket creation page. This means that people can easily request help from any page of the website - no clicking around required!

It focuses on customer service

This might seem like a given, but sometimes the temptation is to set up whatever is minimal, especially if we're talking about internal IT help. The fact is if you want to reach the heights of an “excellent” helpdesk experience, you need to start by focusing on what customers need.

To begin with, this means personable agents who are happy to be there to provide service. If it's 8:45am and the data you need from the system for the 9am meeting isn't coming up, then you need someone capable and practical who can work quickly to help you. You don't need someone surly or unwilling.

Second, the agent works to solve the problem you have as quickly and easily as possible. Wherever possible, they resolve the request right there and then. If the request needs further investigation or to be escalated, they don't simply “ping pong” emails or phone calls, they actively introduce the customer and the issue they are having. A customer should never have to repeat themselves between different operators.

Third, your operators should be knowledgeable! Good product knowledge is critical. When a customer requests help, they are expecting that whoever they get hold of has the knowledge required to solve their issue.

As a fourth point, customers should have options in terms of getting the answers to their questions. For example, that 8:45 meeting example requires urgent help, so chat or a phone call would be the most expedient forms of communication. Sometimes though, a user just has a quick and relatively simple question; for this situation, most will appreciate having some kind of self-service available.

An excellent helpdesk experience puts customer service first

It has simple self-service

At JitBit we have what is known as a “customer portal,” where people can review their old tickets, create new ones and read FAQs. If they're having a similar problem to what they've had before, they can recall the advice they were given.

In a similar vein, having a good knowledge base is also key to offering useful self-service options. When we say “good knowledge base,” a few characteristics come to mind. Your knowledge base should:

On the business side of the knowledge base, it should have decent analytics and basic AI/machine learning features so that your job is made easier. For example, data from the knowledge base could be used to suggest new information that should be included. JitBit's knowledge base analytics will reveal search terms that are used, giving you an idea of what users are looking for.

Help is available quickly

Whatever the choice of channel, help should be available quickly to helpdesk users. We dug into some data on a previous post about customer expectations of response times. This included the following channel-specific information:

  1. Email. 44% expect a response within 24 hours, but the next-biggest group (21%) expect a reply within one hour.
  2. Social media. Response expectations are channel-specific. HubSpot revealed that most expect a response within six hours on Facebook and within one hour on Twitter.
  3. Live chat. A HubSpot report found people expect a response within 48 seconds.
  4. Phone call. Assuming that most customers can expect to be on hold for a bit, we wondered how long they will wait for. Various studies put that time at between one minute and 90 seconds.

There is nothing more frustrating than needing help but not getting a timely response out of people. In fact, lack of support can be a reason that people choose to go to a competitor (in cases where they have the choice).

Along these lines, having different ways of getting help is a good practice for helpdesks. That might be email, phone, self-service or even social media - regardless of what you choose, customers should receive a consistent experience on their channel of choice. Live chat is an increasingly popular option too. While it's not an absolute must-have, it provides the accountability of email with the real-time of a phone call.

It has (and abides by) SLAs

SLAs (Service Level Agreements) are important measures for any helpdesk. The best helpdesks lay out clear SLAs that guide their own performance and help to set expectations for their users. They monitor those SLAs closely and analyze the data, seeking to make any improvements where necessary.

We wrote a quick guide to SLA management here. Your SLAs help your support staff prioritize their work, including which tickets should be seen to first. They set expectations for customers in terms of when they should expect a response. This can help prevent people from clogging up support lines checking for an update to their query.

SLAs can also help prevent tickets from going missing. As an example, let's say you work through tickets in order of priority from “critical” down to “medium.” If you keep having a constant flow of new “critical” tickets, there's a danger that your medium tickets get pushed aside and forgotten about. An SLA that includes response time expectations helps keep those tickets prioritized correctly, so that time is of the essence and the ticket isn't buried under all the “urgent” requests.

Importantly, monitoring your SLAs can also help you to gauge the overall performance of your helpdesk. If response times are consistently slow, do you have a training issue? Do you have an issue with staffing? Or perhaps, is the time allowed too short for the response that is required?

The bottom line is that having standards helps you to deliver an excellent helpdesk experience. Monitoring allows you to be consistent and to make improvements.

Free download: How to set high standards with your helpdesk team

Final thoughts

An excellent helpdesk experience puts customer service first. It aims to deliver what customers need in a way that is easily accessible and usable by them.

The best helpdesks are transparent with SLAs and work hard to monitor their metrics. They analyze the data and make improvements where they are needed.

Importantly, the helpdesk experience should evolve with technology and customer expectations. Nothing stays the same and companies should ensure that their help experience is updated when needed.