Four Reasons Help Desks Fail

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As part of a managed services provider (MSP) community, I know firsthand that there are many quality help desks out there. The common challenge, however, is that there are many moving parts to consider as a company builds and improves on the one they have. Hurdles are an inevitable part of the help desk development process, but correcting them can ultimately transform a help desk. The journey may be long and arduous, but the rewards are plentiful if you’re committed to the continuous building process. Some of the hurdles we've tackled include:

1.     There’s no personal communication

As a consumer myself, I know there’s no greater frustration than trying to maneuver through a company’s automated system. I understand that there can be a great deal of efficiency associated with automated systems for things like payment addresses, credit limits, outstanding balances and a handful of other tasks. So, MainSpring’s ProSuite IT Support Centre always offers the option of submitting a service request via the agent installed on each client’s computer.

But, for those times when you need to speak with an actual human being, the process of making that connection can be maddening. I pity the poor person on the other end who has to endure the frustration after the caller’s 10-minute (or longer) venture to achieving human contact!

At MainSpring, we know that technical problems can be complicated, and that some clients prefer to talk through their issues. That’s why we believe in implementing personal communication within the construct of our help desk. To do this, we employ a real person who cheerfully greets every caller. Typically, this position is referred to as a dispatch, but we’ve found that the title, service coordinator, is a more fitting description for this essential personnel.

2.  Client communication isn’t a priority

The service coordinator is a vital part of any help desk. Why? Because the biggest potential failure for help desks is a lack of communication with the client. Most clients will understand if a resolution is going to take longer than they’d hoped, but they want to know that. When there’s no communication, it feels like their issue has fallen off the radar. And that’s when the frustrating phone calls and escalations begin. Communicating, whether good news or bad, is a key component to operating a successful help desk.

Since this role is so critical to a help desk’s success, the search for the right service coordinator is typically a challenging process—one we know all-too-well. Earlier this year, however, we experienced a stroke of luck by bringing Mimi Musgrave onboard as our current service coordinator.

While Mimi is capable of handling a number of technical issues herself, her primary job is ensuring that service requests stay in front of our technical staff and don’t get lost in the shuffle. She is constantly monitoring the age of these requests and re-assigning them to balance the workload for our techs. For major client outages, she is the liaison between our technical staff and the client with whom she communicates regularly. It’s this kind of reliable communication that fuels the most successful help desks.

3.  They’re not hiring the right talent

While the service coordinator is a critical cog in the wheel, it isn't the only important hire for a help desk…

It takes a special kind of person to work in a help desk environment. It’s challenging. It’s stressful. Clients are often anxious because a technical problem is preventing them from working and hitting their deadlines. So, hiring a technical person who has a short fuse and doesn’t work well under pressure is the fastest way to reduce your team’s worth and aggravate your clients. Aside from fixing technical problems, building relationships with our clients is the most important thing we do, so we’re careful not to hire human “robots"!

Over the years, as you would expect in any business, we’ve had turnover at our help desk, and from this experience, we’ve learned just how hard it can be to interview for empathy and passion. But, fortunately for us, we finally discovered the right mix with the team we currently have. They each have the necessary skill set, they’re passionate about keeping clients productive, and they understand how our clients feel when technology isn’t working. It certainly doesn’t hurt that our Support Centre Site Lead Kenji D’Aguiar was recognized as the firm’s Employee of the Quarter.

4.  They lack meaningful metrics

You’ll never figure out where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been. Establishing benchmarks for your key performance indicators (KPIs) and knowing your industry’s best-in-class numbers are both critical to improving and maintaining a sustainable help desk.

There are many MSPs to choose from, and, of course, clients want their problems fixed. But, at the end of the day, user experience (UX) is king, and the way to ensure that happens is through efficiency and ease of doing business. Business leaders want to know they’re getting the appropriate return on investment for managed services, so being able to demonstrate risk mitigation, proactive measures, reduced downtime and increased productivity will help them sleep at night—knowing they’ve made the right decision in choosing you.

At MainSpring, some of the key metrics we keep in front of the entire team and client are:

  • Ticket counts by client
  • Same day close percentages
  • Average resolution time

Each of these feed into reports that are reviewed as a team both weekly and monthly. That way, steps for corrective action can be taken when and where it’s needed.

We all know the old saying, “don’t fix what’s not broken.” Well, the flip-side of that is: “know what’s broken so you can fix it.”

Final piece of advice? Don't forget to celebrate! Building (and maintaining) a great help desk is a marathon, so make sure to recognize the many accomplishments you experience along the way.