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The 7 Tenets of Providing Great Service at the Help Desk

04/03/2012 by: The SunView Team

Really, when it comes down to a help or service desk, it's only the medium your particular desk dabbles in that separates it from any other customer service situation. It could be working the ticket desk at an airline, or taking orders for fast food. No matter where you're providing service, when it comes to human beings interacting, there are bound to be some issues.

Having spent a number of years, especially those prior to post-secondary education, working nearly every form of service oriented job, I can tell you the stresses, the causes of those stresses, and the ways to get past them, are all very much the same. In fact, it's likely you've even witnessed those that have mastered the ability to dance an elegant waltz with even the most stubborn of customers or users - really those are one in the same.

Like a magical spell or Siren's song, they seem to caress even the most frustrated of service seekers. Weaving a quilt of empathy and concern, they get results and send nearly everyone away happier than they arrived.

Sadly, though it may just be the years collecting their toll on my own feelings, it would appear that individuals possessing the skills mentioned above are few and far between. On first pass, and without true analysis it begins to appear like more and more have been replaced by angry, unskilled, and apathetic drones. Could that really be the case?

It could, and while that might actually be an easier path, one where we all just accept that we won't experience good service again, that's really nothing shy of selling out and giving up. Even worse, some companies are already taking this course of action, and the Help / Service Desk hasn't been spared this fate. Perhaps even worse, many IT teams, and even entire organizations, forgive this lack of service-oriented culture with the thought that well that's just IT, they don't work well with others. Ultimately that is just very, very sad. If Obi was here, he'd say it best, "I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced."

The truth is that there are still help / service desks, whole IT departments even, providing incredible service every day. They work really well with people, and even more amazing, there is really no secret recipe for figuring out how they continue to provide the highest quality service to each and everyone of their customers.

First and foremost, they follow a set of principles, tenets if you will, which guide their team to making sure they have the ability, training, and tools to make a difference. Here at The ITSM Lens, we call this The 7 Tenets of Great Service at the Help Desk (though much of this will apply to any service situation. Paired with this is the right technology to meet customer expectations. For that, you will need to make sure your IT Service Management tools have the necessary components. A great place to start for that is our Getting Started Service Desk Solution Guide. Just click the banner below to access this guide and see twenty-five requirements every Service Desk solution should have.

1. Get Enough Information Up Front
Even in the most basic scenario (read a team with no ITSM tool), you should have a checklist of information you must capture in order to fully triage and begin working on a customer's issue. Having to repeatedly go back to the customer to ask for information that should have been gathered this first time through will tire out both parties, and eventually lead to the perception service is not your Help Desk's strong point. Combat this with your ITSM tool by making sure your easily customized forms contain everything necessary when someone submits and incident or request.

2. Read Through Your Own SLA (or other Service Agreements)
SLAs can tend to be very long, but they are super important, and when an issue really moves up the severity scale, you can be guaranteed your customer knows what kind of time frame resolution should be reached within. If you are a manager or IT leader, think about creating a summary version for your respective teams. It doesn't need to contain everything soup to nuts, just enough so your staff knows when they should be escalating.

3. Automate as Much as You Can
Using SLAs as an example again, your ITSM tool should support a wide range of automations, including automatically routing incidents or requests that infringe on thresholds that are established in the SLA. This kind of visibility will go a long way to making sure issues don't slip through the cracks. It doesn't stop there though. Automations can include a range of typically manual functions such as routing and report generation / distribution.

4. Escalate Issues Before It Is Too Late
This one shares a theme with the previous two. However, escalation isn't always dependent on what was defined in an SLA. Certain issues are likely to need specific expertise. Based on what's been entered into an incident or request, escalation could happen almost immediately.

5. Provide a Navigable List of Services and Self Service Options
The best solution is to have a Service Catalog that can provide a customized list of services based on a users group or level of access. However, even a simple list in PDF format will work in a pinch. Because businesses now operate in a required 24/7 paradigm, your customers may need to submit incidents and requests outside normal operating hours of the help desk.

6. Accept Your Customer May Know More Than You
If your customer says the application is slow, it may very well be. This is just one example, but because the close time a customer may spend with a particular technology, they may almost have a sixth sense when it comes to noticing something is awry. Don't discount it. In fact, embrace is and capitalize on their experience. It's very likely when there is an issue, this won't be the only occurrence. Everything learned here, including the expertise from that first customer, can be transferred to the others.

7. Say No When You Need To, And Yes When You Should
It would be a great world if we could all get everything we want. However, respect the controls that are in place in your organization. Just because someone, maybe even a manager, is screaming about pushing access through for a new user, remember that saying no, is sometimes the only thing protecting an organization from a data breach.

Image: Flickr | Frank H