“It’s okay, we’ll get you reconnected to your printer” – an empathetic IT Helpdesk.
Do people in your company complain about the IT department? It’s not uncommon. However, the comments may be misdirected.
Recently, I was speaking with someone out in California who stated “Our IT department is the worst.” That’s a pretty strong statement. I asked what about it makes it so bad? Her answer consisted of their relative unresponsiveness to issues she and her people have had with their computers, how poorly software upgrades were handled, printing problems and a slew of other “issues” when looked at collectively fell into the IT helpdesk realm.
Her issues, and many employee’s internal issues generally, are not with the IT department per se, but rather with the quality of assistance provided by their helpdesk. Unfortunately, an overall opinion of the helpdesk conveys into an opinion of the entire IT department. So, fair or unfair, perception of one becomes the reality of the other.
No matter how great the IT department is doing behind the scenes, it’s the front line helpdesk that everyone sees. So, when Level 1 and 2 helpdesk tickets start backing up people get angry and frustrated. Smart CIOs know keeping internal customers happy is priority one and even the biggest back-office IT success can quickly pale against the complaints of a couple frustrated VPs who can’t email or print.
The first step to helpdesk success is in identifying a manager who not only has experience leading an IT helpdesk, but who can also take on related responsibilities. Depending on the size of your organization, the helpdesk manager can do more than simply oversee Level 1 employee efforts, manage the helpdesk software and meet monthly metrics. In some organizations, the helpdesk manager is also responsible for server stability management, phone and email network management, IT asset management and IT vendor negotiations. In addition, many bring with them knowledge and experience in ITIL processes and frameworks covering Incident Management, Services Management, Knowledge Management and other related helpdesk processes.
In addition, the helpdesk manager needs to be a part of the IT leadership group and made aware of all upcoming changes that will impact employees. Advance notice is necessary so the manager can update and provide training to their Level 1 employees who will be providing phone/desktop support, troubleshooting employee issues, and dialoging Level 2 issues with IT. Think of it this way, if a room full of generals create a strategy, start rolling the tanks out, but forget to tell the infantry, the situation would be disastrous. The same holds true here.
INTERNAL OR EXTERNAL?
The helpdesk manager and helpdesk associates don’t necessarily need to be internal employees. However, I would caution against sending your helpdesk activities offshore. I was speaking to one local CIO who told me “Yeah, when the CEO had an issue with his computer and contacted the helpdesk he was asked how to spell his name. That was the end of our offshore helpdesk.” Sure, that’s an extreme case, but an offshore or even offsite helpdesk third-party service doesn’t know your people, your processes, your culture, your products and, quite honestly, they aren’t paid to care. They simply have space in their helpdesk call center to answer and log your employee’s calls, attempt simple fixes (such as password resets), and push other issues up to Level 2 (which generally means they end up back at your internal IT department). Although offshoring may provide lower Tier 1 costs, shifting tickets back internally to higher, more expensive tiered support quickly evaporates any savings.
If you don’t believe managing and addressing helpdesk issues should be a core competency of your IT team, and yet you know of the employee dissatisfaction issues around outsourcing it, there is a third option. Some IT Service companies offer the ability to create a boutique helpdesk solution which will place a manager and helpdesk personnel inside your organization.This allows you to set helpdesk metrics and oversee the operation of the team without having to manage it on a daily basis.The IT Service company takes over the issues of staffing, recruiting, training, acculturating and, if necessary, terminating employees. These individuals do not show up in your company headcount, don’t receive benefits from your company and you don’t need an act of Congress (or HR) to remove them.
If you do this, it’s important these individuals understand the culture of your company and will be held to the same standards and guiding principles as any full time employee. They should not wear company shirts from their IT Service company but, if possible, wear your company’s logoed shirts. These individuals should blend into your company, not be apart from it. In cases where this has been successful,I have seen external individuals receive internal company awards, recognized and praised by senior management individually and employees honestly stating “I didn’t know (name) was from another company.I always thought he was one of us.”
CHALLENGE THEIR CREATIVITY
After a few months of successful metrics and positive comments, challenge the helpdesk team to come up with ways of being more proactive within the company (you will be surprised by what they come up with). When people feel valued and recognized for their contributions, regardless if they are internal or external employees, they will want to do more. In one case, a helpdesk team implemented “Tuesdays On The Floor” where they would have someone from the helpdesk walk each floor, stopping by cubicles and offices asking people if they are having any issues. In another case, a helpdesk held a once-a-month “Apps and Appetites” pizza lunch where they would go through features or enhancements to standard software, present new applications, etc.
The helpdesk is the face of the IT department to the company.That face should have a smile on it, be familiar and helpful, address issues quickly and keep everyone productive.
Tony Streeter is the Chief Marketing Officer, SVP at Y&L Consulting, Inc. in San Antonio, Texas. Mr. Streeter has led new product development, Ecommerce marketing, and integrated platform marketing initiatives for major companies such as Harland Clarke, Deluxe Corporation and RR Donnelley. Currently, Mr. Streeter leads marketing and branding initiatives for Y&L Consulting, a comprehensive IT Services & Solutions company specializing in IT Development, Information Management/BI, and Service Desk Services.