Helpdesk is often treated as a basic and entry-level part of the IT team and the IT services portfolio. When a user needs some IT assistance, he or she calls the helpdesk, and someone from IT staff comes or logs in remotely to solve the issue. The common understanding of what helpdesk guys are doing is just fixing the users’ computers. They come, do their magic, and go to the next person who needs some help. It’s a very straightforward service, with a relatively low level of complexity and depth. Or is it? What the helpdesk service means for both – the organization and the IT department?

Let’s start with the business. What users want is just their computers and the applications they use to be fixed if they are broken. That’s what they think they want. They have all kinds of IT issues and wish them to be fixed as soon as possible as well as their IT service requests to be completed regardless of their complexity. The helpdesk team has to handle all of these tickets. Of course, they don’t have to do it alone. What they have to do is to tell someone else that help is needed – to assign the ticket to the proper support team specialized in the particular topic. This may seem so trivial, but it really isn’t. In a big organization with the high complexity of IT services structure and many support teams around, the task of assigning all of the tickets to the proper teams may get quite challenging. And it often does.

Let’s say you work as a first-line specialist in the central helpdesk for a company hiring tens of thousands of people. You have to decide which support team to assign a ticket to. You try to find the proper team for the issue described in the ticket and suddenly you see five different teams which seem to support exactly the same application or four different teams supporting network in the organization. At the same time, the queue of tickets you have to take care of grows and grows, so you want the damn ticket to be solved by anyone, so you throw it to any team with the hope that it will fit.

Tickets roaming around all the strange support teams for many days is not a rare situation in large organizations. On the scale of the whole company generating many tickets every day, it becomes very inefficient. On the scale of a single user, on the other hand, it is very frustrating.

People not only want their tickets to be solved. They want it to be managed with engagement. They also want themselves to be informed effectively about the progress of the solution and be taken care of in the process. Imagine you’re a user and you reported an issue with the application you’re using. You can’t do your job because of the disfunction of this application. For a few days, you get one e-mail message after another saying that yet another team is not responsible to solve this kind of problem or does not support this application, so your ticket is sent back to the central helpdesk again and again. You can clearly see that nobody bothered to find the root cause of the problem or even took any time to really search for the proper support team.

It happens in many organizations, but it doesn’t have to be like that. A good helpdesk team may really make a difference firstly by doing at least a general root cause analysis and secondly by assigning it to the proper team. Surprisingly it doesn’t take them much time. They use their experience, communication skills, and network of contacts around the organization to quickly and precisely address the ticket not only to the right team but even to the right person, who solves it quickly and effectively.

Organizations can find it beneficial to improve the helpdesk service not only from the business perspective – or the users’ perspective if you will. The IT department itself can find it very valuable too. As described in the article “The Invisible Part Of The IT Department’s Value“, the helpdesk service is the one which is the most visible to the users and definitely the one where the most personal interactions occur. You won’t find much interaction with anyone by just using your business apps. While having your IT issue solved you usually communicate with some live person at least with the ticket system comments functionality.

Let’s consider the situation mentioned before again – you’ve submitted a ticket and it roams from team to team for a few days. In the first case or you can see comments from individual teams saying “this asset/this service is not supported by our team”. In the second case, you’re informed every day what each team has done for your issue to be solved like: “the network team has reconfigured the firewall to let the traffic of your application through than the system team optimized the resources for your application to run faster and finally the ticket has been sent to the application team for further investigation”. In which case you would be more satisfied with the service and appreciate the IT team for their hard work?

The IT department can use communication provided by the helpdesk team to its advantage or disadvantage. Poor performance of the helpdesk service makes the whole IT team look bad and incompetent in the eyes of the business. A good helpdesk service on the other hand can not only take care of its own positive and professional image but also is capable of helping to cover other IT teams’ mistakes. Mistakes, which always happen no matter how good the IT staff is. Even if not everything works well and the ticket isn’t solved as effectively as it can be, there is always room for proactive, cooperative, and professional communication.

If users see that their problems are being taken into serious consideration and resolved effectively, their work motivation grows and the whole organization works better as a result. The whole business wins because of the higher overall morale. The IT wins by having their most front-line services taken care of the communications effectively which results in the professional and friendly image of the whole department.

Working on helpdesk service improvement may not be a sexy thing, but the results this process has the potential to deliver may be really worth the effort. If you happen to be an IT manager or IT director, consider giving the helpdesk service some of your care and attention, because it can save you a lot of trouble.

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