Get maximum value out of your help desk temps

If you hire a temporary employee to fill in on your help desk, make sure that person receives training, or you're throwing your money away.

When you need vacation or sick time coverage on your help desk, do you call a temporary employment agency? If you can hire someone with a pleasant phone voice and some technical skills, your problem is solved, right? Unfortunately, we too often throw the temp to the wolves—letting him or her answer calls without any training or documentation. Here are some tips for making sure you get your money’s worth out of your temporary employees.

Documentation, training, and a safety net
Temporary help desk employees need three things: documentation, training, and a safety net. If you don’t provide them, your temps are going to get burned out, and they won’t come back.
  • Documentation. What are the 10 most frequently asked questions for your help desk? If such a list exists, make a copy for your temp. If your help desk supports users of a proprietary software system, provide the temp with access to that system’s user manual.
  • Training. Be sure someone takes at least 10 minutes to acquaint the temp with the surroundings and to familiarize the temp with the documentation. Make your expectations perfectly clear. If you want the temp to create a record of every call he or she answers, be specific about the kind of information you want the temp to record. And make sure the temp knows how to use the appropriate printed or electronic forms for keeping call records.
  • Safety net. What constitutes a tech support emergency? Make sure the temp knows what circumstances deserve emergency status and provide a list of telephone or pager numbers for the appropriate people in your organization. In addition, you should create a script of exactly what you want your temp to say in the event of a hysterical or otherwise emotionally distraught user. Try something like: “I’m a temporary employee; I’m very sorry I can’t give you an answer to that question right now. However, if you’ll give me a telephone number or an e-mail address where I can reach you, I’ll be happy to find the answer for you and get back to you as soon as possible.”

The theory here is that you don’t want the temp to promise that “someone else” will get back to your customer. Instead, you want the customer to feel like his or her problem is getting prompt, individual attention.

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