Your IT help desk plays an important role in the everyday running of the company.
It's a resource that users or employees are turning to in order to get on with their jobs, so what the help desk does can have a real impact on how well everything else goes.
This can put help desks under considerable pressure to perform well, which is where it's important to have some best practices in place. Here are some of the top best practices which help desks should have in place:
SLAs (Service Level Agreements) help to set standards for your team. They establish expectations such as timelines for customers and they help to keep your support team consistent.
SLAs are also important because they help team members to prioritize their work. They can decide what needs to be done next based on the ticket prioritization and meeting any agreed standards for response times. For example, a "critical" ticket might not be the next task to work on if a "medium" ticket has been waiting and is coming up on its SLA deadline.
Well-written SLAs should account for the following details:
They should be measurable and you should have the right metrics in place to monitor them by.
How do you as a manager or your help desk team know how well they're performing? Measuring and reporting on key metrics is important for transparency among the whole team.
That old saying "what gets measured, gets managed," applies - if you're running a help desk effectively anyway! Your metrics give you insights into how your help desk is being used and how well you are responding to requests.
Importantly, staying on top of metrics helps you to be proactive. For example, if you notice a trend of increased ticket volumes, you can do further investigation into the cause. Maybe it's just that you have more users, in which case, it may be an indicator that you need to staff the help desk with more agents. It could also be that some change has rolled out that is glitchy or has people confused. You might need to have fixes done or put out more training materials.
Giving feedback early and often is a great way to ensure that your agents develop and grow in their roles. A best practice for help desks is to be timely with feedback - don't wait until performance reviews to deliver it. Feedback has more relevance to a person when it is fresh, anyway.
While results are obviously a key reason for assessing agents and giving feedback, they shouldn't be the only thing you focus feedback on. Remember that your agents are human and that each has unique perspectives that contribute to how they do their jobs. Give feedback on effort and behaviors too, not just how they are contributing to bottom-line success.
Does your help desk truly evaluate user feedback? Or, do you quickly shuffle through the pile, just trying to close out tickets as quickly as possible? A best practice of the most successful help desks is to pay close attention to user feedback and look for ways to use it for improvements.
It helps to have processes in place to request and capture user feedback. For example, maybe you send out a survey to every user after they've had a ticket resolved. Another idea is to have a system for analysing the contents of the tickets themselves and looking for feedback within them. Users will often deliver feedback this way, for example "I couldn't find any information in the knowledge base on X."
The best help desks out there promote and follow-through with consistency. This means that users should be getting very similar information, whether they're different agents or whether they're using any self-help channels.
This involves a concerted effort to ensure that channels are kept up-to-date and that agents receive appropriate training. It also means being very clear with internal communications to agents. They should all be on the same page for how to deal with any issues or current events that come up.
The aim is that with consistent messaging, users should have a consistent experience. It is frustrating for people when they request help and get told different things by different people. This can erode trust in the competence of the help desk.
The best help desks are on top of follow-up, both for open tickets and for those that have been resolved. For example, where an issue can't be immediately resolved on first contact, help desks should set up automated prompts to follow up and ensure that the user is kept informed and that the right people are doing what needs to be done to resolve the issue.
Automation is key here because without it, tickets can fall through the cracks. Follow up should also include surveying users for whom tickets have been resolved. Again, surveys can be sent out automatically, triggered by the resolution of the ticket. It's a great opportunity for the help desk to assess staff and look for any ways you might improve processes.
"Know your customer" has been a business staple for a long time because if you really get to know them, you can understand what their needs are and make sure you are delivering. The same principle applies to help desks - knowing your customer enables you to provide a better service, tailored to their needs.
There are a number of things help desks can do to get to know their customers better. Besides surveys (as already mentioned), you could look at data from:
Look for trends and patterns. For example, are there particular areas or topics that get a high volume of tickets? What have you learned about the goals of your users? Which formats of information (such as in your knowledge base) tend to get the best responses or results? Are there any common complaints?
Knowledge management plays a key role in how successfully a help desk operates. It's how you deliver a consistent service and encourage your agents to contribute to the knowledge resources.
Good ITSM knowledge management practices apply and shouldn't need too much adaptation between businesses. These include:
All of the above best practices are made possible by using a good help desk software. Your software should follow best practices such as:
These are the best practices that set help desks apart as being among the best. JitBit is proud to offer a ticketing system that enables all of these points and is simple for companies to set up. Check it out here.
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.