Taking the Pain Out of Help Desk Systems
A number of times each year I have an opportunity to network with other IT professionals. Usually one of the topics of discussion ends up being how help desk services are provided by IT. Often I hear that help desk is a painful experience for both the end user and the IT staff. In fact, some have gone so far as to suggest end users are an annoyance that IT would rather avoid. I don’t accept that help desk needs to be a painful experience for either party. It just takes a bit of communication and setting expectations.
Here’s what is working for us.
From day one, we set expectations for new employees that our help desk system is our primary method of communication with our IT staff. It is a standard part of our orientation process to review how employees will interact with IT. We explain that by using our system we are accomplishing a few things:
- We create a method to document and communicate about issues so both parties are on the same page
- We talk about accountability. Once a ticket is opened in our system, it holds both parties accountable. IT can’t close out a case if it has not been satisfactorily addressed. Additionally, the end-user is responsible for providing additional feedback to help move their issue toward resolution.
- We set expectations for responsiveness. We have two people on our IT staff. If the user leaves a message for one of the team who is out of the office, it may cause delays in getting a response. However, if a ticket is opened both staff members are able to monitor for new issues at all times.
- We discuss how it helps us prioritize our issues. If there’s a report of branch communications being down, that certainly takes priority over a sticky mouse. This helps set expectations for communications.
We further explain that by using a ticketing system, we are not trying to avoid contact with our employee-users. Rather, what we are trying to accomplish is an orderly process that will allow us to address and resolve issues in the most expeditious manner. A help desk system for IT is no different from an order processing system for customer service, or a CRM system for the sales process. It is a tool of the trade.
AT RG Group, we have used in-house ticketing software for almost ten years. In May 2017, we converted to a new software system. Our earlier system was difficult to use and required logging into a portal. The portal was slow, cumbersome to navigate, and required submitting a form to create a ticket. Because the system was not easy to use, employees tended to avoid using it. In short, it was painful for them.
The new system is very easy for employees – all they need to do now is send an Email to our help desk Email address and a ticket is automatically created. What could be easier than sending an Email? Our employees never have to log into anything to manage their issue – they are able to respond back to questions from IT and provide updates as the case progresses all through Email. Of course, if their problem happens to be with their Email, we can take it outside the system to resolve. However, IT will still create a ticket and log all activity.
IT now has a very robust portal to manage the ticket load. We can track far more details than with the earlier system and manage an increasing volume of tickets very easily. The new system removed pain for IT as well.
The proof that the new system is easier to use is that we’ve seen a spike in tickets being processed. Prior to moving to the new system, we were processing on average about 95 tickets per month. With the new system in place, we are now processing about 143 tickets per month. Our employees are now more likely to log a ticket than place a phone call or use sneaker-net to report a problem.
A system that is easy to use will only get you so far without a responsive IT staff. Our staff prides itself on being very responsive. On average, a ticket is picked up by someone in IT in about 32 minutes. This includes nights and weekends as we have tickets being entered during periods outside of regular business hours. During regular business hours, the initial response to tickets occurs in under 15 minutes on average. Our employees have consistently ranked us high for responsiveness when polled internally. Not only did we make it very easy for them to report a problem, but they use the system because they know we are committed to responding quickly.
An effective IT help desk process works best when there is a partnership between IT and the employee users. Both are working towards the common goal of keeping technology running smoothly and bringing problems to a quick resolution. When our IT staff makes contact with our employees, we’re there to help. We’re not looking to reprimand or talk down to them. Our job is to help them past whatever difficulty they are experiencing and get them back to being able to do their job as quickly as possible. Additionally, we may take the opportunity to do a little training so they can be prepared to head off or resolve a similar issue in the future.
If your IT staff or your employees are finding the help desk process painful, ask them why. Then come up with a plan to address the concerns. Having to deal with a problem is stressful enough, don’t let your process compound that stress.