Business Hardware

5 Annoying Help Desk Calls - And How to Banish Them

"Stuff breaks, and it's always going to break, and people feel responsible to call," he says. "We would get bogged down with the 'I-can't-use-this-or-that' type of calls." Problem was, IT was already aware of the problem and didn't need to waste resources fielding hundreds of redundant calls.

The college's IT team tackled the problem using a few different strategies, Little says.

It implemented a strict policy that IT wouldn't take a system down without sending notices to users and the help desk in advance. IT also must post notices at the top of the college's website home page when systems go down.

And the help desk now sets up an automated message during outages so users calling to report it know right away that IT's already on the case, a move that's dropped calls from upwards of a few hundred a week to a just few stray callers.

Run your best help desk

Running an efficient help desk is key to spotting persistent problems that unnecessarily zap energy and time from support personnel.

Yet consultants and trainers say many help desks still don't have in place many of the basic practices and tools required to run a lean organization capable of identifying and addressing such requests.

Some key requirements for an effective help desk include:

  • The right people. Even if the calls are basic and repetitive, your staff needs to remain courteous and helpful, says HDI managing director Craig Baxter. After all, the help desk is the only interaction many workers have with IT, so you want to make sure it's always positive.
  • Good incident management practices. Effective help desks follow a consistent and disciplined procedure to resolve requests that come in, so staff, typically with the aid of software, know how to collect relevant information, fix what they can, escalate problems they can't fix and set expectations with users so they're not left frustrated, Baxter says.
  • A way to identify most frequent problems. "Even if you have lousy software, even if it's a help desk person making hash marks in categories, it's critical for you to have this to identify [problem areas]," says Donna Earl, owner of Help Desk Coach, a consultancy and training service based in San Francisco and London.
  • Someone to analyze reports. It's no good to simply track problem frequency; you need a staff member to be able to identify the most common types of calls and track repeat callers, how long calls take to resolve and the cost the business incurs because of the initial problem, says Ken Hayes, director of continual service improvement in technology support services at Technisource Inc. The next step is to solve recurring problems through software upgrades or procedural changes or by offering personalized training to repeat callers.

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