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6 Ideas for a Streamlined Help Desk

by Katie Joll · Updated Jan 29 2021

One of the key challenges that most help desks have to juggle is managing time.

You’ve got constraints in terms of budget and number of assigned technicians or agents you can have, and you need to balance that with the workload coming through your help desk.

This makes streamlining and finding the most efficient operating strategies extra important. Sometimes you’re being asked to do “more with less,” while your users have high expectations of your service delivery too.

Here are a few ideas on how help desks can streamline:

Free download: How to create an effective process

#1. Split support into tiers

One thing we’ve seen work well as a streamlining strategy is to split support into “Tier One” and “Tier Two.”

Tier One is there to handle all the basic, everyday requests. Things like “my printer won’t power up” or “I can’t open X” are among their common tasks. A lot of the sorts of things they provide support for will be issues that can be explained in a knowledge base article. So their work requires knowledge and skills, but not deep problem solving skills or technical knowledge.

Tier Two has the more qualified engineers and is there to deal with any complicated issues that come up. Where a fix needs to be created or something requires a complex solution, they rely on their strong engineering skills to come up with a solution.

We’ve made an interesting observation that it seems the more skilled support people are right now in a “single tier” environment, the more issues you can find in the future. From what we’ve noticed, while it seems “everything just works,” the reality is that it’s being put on the shoulders of one or two geniuses who do everything.

This can all go down in flames in the future when those geniuses get burnt out from all the work they’re doing. As we see it, the only reason to put your super-skilled engineers in support is so that they can set everything up to work without them. Keep them for a “Tier Two” role instead.

Some of Jitbit's productivity features can help prevent burnouts by doing repetitive tasks for you.

#2. Prioritize quality self-service options

You’ll often hear leaders talk about the need to “move support closer to the customer.” As the support role has evolved, it’s moved from a very hands-on approach, where technicians might physically visit the customer, to more remote options. A step even closer means that customers should have good ways of helping themselves.

There’s a fine line between being customer centric and prioritizing efficiency sometimes. From the customer end, efficiency measures can seem cold and inhuman. They can even cause irritation - think of the last time you were several layers deep into an automated phone service system!

When we say “prioritize quality self-service options,” we mean to find the sweet spot where customer centricity and streamlining meet. Instead of feeling like they’ve been palmed off to a robot, customers should really get something from your self-service options. The option should make it easier and quicker for them, not frustrating and slow.

For example, a customer might use self-service options to review and download relevant information or to track orders. They might use it for basic issues such as “I’ve forgotten my password.”

It’s not that self-service options should totally replace the human support role, and you certainly don’t want your customers to feel that way. It should be obvious how they can get a human to help them instead if they prefer.

Read some more tips on how to avoid burnouts.

#3. Use automation where possible

Again, it’s not that you want to come off as robotic or inhuman. Automation should be strategically used to take care of the repetitive bits of customer service. For example, assigning technicians to tickets or sending replies to customers. JitBit helps you to set up automation “rules” like what you can see in the screenshot below:

Besides your ticketing system, look at any other parts of the workflow of an agent or technician that can benefit from automation. Any repetitive tasks tend to be good candidates and there are plenty of software programs now that will automate most of those things (clocking in and out, and time management, for example).

Automation isn’t just about your goal to streamline, it’s about minimizing human error, too. Anything that is automated is one less thing to potentially forget.

#4. Have an escalation process

Perhaps it doesn’t happen every day, but your help desk will get support tickets that require escalation. The thing you want to avoid for the sake of good customer service is those tickets being left in a holding pattern while agents figure out what to do with them.

A documented escalation process ensures that everyone is on the same page and that customers can be kept informed. The worst scenario is when tickets get bounced around with no resolution, while a customer waits and wonders what’s going on.

Escalation processes may look different for different support desks, depending on the resources you have available. For example, you might have different agents or engineers that are dedicated to certain types of problems and who will be assigned the ticket.

#5. Eliminate “orphan” tickets or emails

An orphan ticket or email is one that hasn’t been assigned to anyone. No one has accountability over it and as such, it can sit there for much longer than you’d expect a customer to wait.

This is something that comes up as an issue where a shared inbox is used instead of a ticketing system. We wrote about the relative pros and cons of shared inboxes vs. ticketing systems previously - while shared inboxes might work when you’re relatively small and have few requests, the cracks start to appear when the help desk gets busy.

The way to eliminate orphan tickets or emails is to ensure that all incoming tickets are automatically assigned. Clear ownership means that someone is getting pinged with reminders that there’s a ticket needing their attention.

The easiest way to do this? A good ticketing system. JitBit’s email-based ticketing system allows you to assign categories and tags to tickets, as well as assign agents to specific tags or categories. Additionally, any duplicates can be merged so that customers are getting one consistent line of communication and threads can easily be reviewed. No more orphan tickets!

#6. Measure and manage agent satisfaction

What does the satisfaction of your agents have to do with streamlining? Bear with us a minute because it’s actually a lot. Agent satisfaction impacts most of the key metrics you use to measure success and has a wider impact on other areas of the business.

Where satisfaction is rated low, you can find problems with disengagement, burnout and absenteeism. Those things impact how well the agent serves customers or does their job in general. Metrics such as response times, ticket resolution rates and customer satisfaction scores are just some of the potential flow-on effects.

Agent satisfaction can also have a sort of snowball effect. One person’s dissatisfaction can roll onto the next person via low morale, stress and lowered productivity. It’s not some “woo-woo” concept to relegate to the “nice to have” box – agent satisfaction is essential for the smooth running of your whole operation. In other words, you can do all of those other things for making your help desk more efficient, but they will be of limited use if your agents aren’t engaged.

Download our quick checklist for creating effective processes here

Final thoughts

Streamlining whatever you can is essential for time management and the efficient running of your help desk. This means having robust processes in place that can help you to “do more with less,” but also ensure that customer service remains strong, and agents aren’t overburdened.

JitBit is an email-based ticketing system that is simple, powerful and quick to set up. It is trusted by thousands of companies across more than 50 countries to help them provide an efficient help desk operation. Click here to find out more.