The problem, as it is in many places, was getting users to actually help themselves, Hayes says. Help desks often don't do enough to educate users that self-help options are available or don't make them easy to use, he says.
"People always look for the path of least resistance," Hayes says. "If a phone call to the help desk is the easiest, quickest way to resolve the problem, that's what they'll do."
To cut down on the volume of password-reset calls, Hayes's team worked with the client company, a financial services firm, to better market its automated password reset function. They actively registered everyone at the company, rather than leaving them to register on their own. And they instructed help desk staff to remind callers -- politely, of course -- that the automated option was a better way to go. As a result, password calls dropped to about 10%, a sizable improvement.
Other help desk supervisors who have successfully cut down these kinds of calls say automated voice systems, which walk callers through the self-service option, can also be effective.
Office suite basics
How do I format my spreadsheet? How do I change the fonts in Word?
Every help desk fields these kinds of questions from users who confuse help with basic application training, says Hayes. Problem is, these mundane app-related questions cause trained technologists to divert time and attention from issues more critical to the mission of the organization, he says.
Hayes worked with an insurance firm's help desk that was seeing about 5% to 10% of its 400 daily calls stemming from these types of questions. He first enlisted line-of-business managers to help them understand why it was a problem, explaining that the tedious questions tie up help desk staff and keep them from reacting more quickly to more critical questions.
Then he deployed an education campaign to give users application basics. Via brown-bag lunches, tip sheets and easy-to-use self-service websites developed by IT, users could find answers quickly on their own. Beyond that, the help desk now compiles and disseminates quarterly "tips and tricks" to address the most persistent questions.
The results of their work: an 80% reduction in those types of calls.
About that trouble ticket...
The help desk for Franciscan Alliance Inc., a Mishawaka, Ind., healthcare organization, runs 24 x 7 with 17 staffers supporting 20,000 users. It handles about 8,000 calls monthly. Dan Lafever, IT service quality manager, says he noticed that more than 700 tickets were some sort of callback question, mostly "What's the status?"
Franciscan Alliance did have a self-service portal that workers could use to see the status of their tickets, but it took 17 keystrokes, four mouse clicks and four screens just to get to an open ticket -- and even more effort to get to the status report. Lafever says he understands why users called the help desk instead.