IT Policies

10 things to check before you start working on the help desk

If you're getting ready to jump into the help desk fray, you'll probably want to iron out a few things first. Veteran tech Jeff Dray learned this the hard way, and he shares some advice on what you should do before you take that first call.

If you're getting ready to jump into the help desk fray, you'll probably want to iron out a few things first. Veteran tech Jeff Dray learned this the hard way, and he shares some advice on what you should do before you take that first call.


When you start a new help desk job, you need to get a few things straight before the calls begin rolling in. From past experience, I can vouch that you should cover the following points before you start taking calls. I believe that this process is sometimes known as "getting your ducks in a row."

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: Make yourself comfortable

Is your work area set up correctly for you? Do your feet reach the floor? Do your knees bang on the underside of the desk? In short, is your workstation suitable for you? Ensuring that you are comfortable means that you concentrate on the caller's problem and not the nagging pain in your back.

#2: Learn the logging system

Do you have the correct reference material at hand and has the call logging system been fully explained to you? In my experience, no two companies log their calls in the same way or use the same set of priority criteria. Make sure that the team leader shows you where to find everything.

#3: Get appropriate permissions

Do you have the access you need? If you have to change passwords, do you have the necessary permissions -- and have the procedures been explained clearly? I have been caught out in the past by people requesting password resets for a worker who had left the company. Only checking with the team leader saved us from an embarrassing faux pas.

#4: Know your limits

What is the limit of your authority? Are you permitted to block an abuser's account or do you need to refer to higher authority? Make sure you have read the relevant IT usage policy documents, so that you are sure what is permitted and what is not.

#5: Determine what your job covers

What is the scope of your remit? What requests will fall outside the help desk's field of operations? If you are responsible for changing light bulbs, ensure that you have the necessary certification. Here in England, the creeping nightmare of the litigation culture has arrived, and you need to be qualified to change light bulbs at work.

#6: Know the policies

What is the company's policy on abusive callers? What warning do you need to give before terminating a call? You may rarely get an abusive caller, but it's handy to know what to do before it happens.

#7: Find out about breaks

When are you permitted to take breaks? The help desk can be a stressful place to work, and sometimes you need to take a few minutes to clear your head. Obviously, you don't walk away when the calls are pouring in, but make sure you know the policy for taking an eye break.

#8: Learn the company hierarchy

Is the company structure clear to you? Is there a directory that fully explains where everybody fits in the organisation? I can still remember taking a call from a person who gave his name and nothing more; I then asked him what department he worked in. In the ensuing hush, a colleague passed me a hastily scribbled note that informed me that the caller was the chairman of the company.

#9: Meet your bosses

Who do you report to and how can you contact them? Have you met your line managers or did you just talk to the team leader when you were recruited? Make sure you get the opportunity to have a chat with them before starting, find out how they like things done, and most important, let them know a bit about you.

#10: Know what to wear

What is the dress code for the office? There is only one thing worse than turning up at a suit-and-tie building in T-shirt and jeans, and that's turning up at a T-shirt-and-jeans office in a suit and tie.


Preparation is great, but...

...Have you ever been thrown into a job role without getting a chance to get your ducks in a row first? What survival skills did you pick up along the way?

19 comments
bigjude
bigjude

There's something even more important. Teach yourself how to listen and how to haqve an open mind. The single most important thing when working at a help desk is to hear what the client is asking and to make sure you understand what they mean. I don't use inhouse help, which may be better, but find the helpdesks at companies even as significant as Symantec, don't hear what their callers are saying, stereotype their callers, don't hear you out so don't know what you've tried already and so on. My all time worst is a fellow called Hayden at the helpdesk of a satellite broadband company, I won't tell you the name, who doesn't listen, refuses to accept what is actually happening, gives rubbish replies which deny the intelligence of the caller and is, on the whole, an arrogant no-nothing little prick. Hayden is in New Zealand. My all time best are all the support staff at netlogistics.com.au, in Sydney, Australia, with whom I have a virtual private server. They listen, hear what you are saying, ask relevent questions and either fix it themselves or tell you how to. They do this with invariable courtesy. From the client's point of view, listening is the single most important attribute a help desk tech can have. Even if you hear the identical question, over and over again, there will always be the time there is something different which you should be listening for, and when the caller is not an ignorant fool. Miss these ones by not listening and you make an enemy for life and get complaints to senior executives and even to the company's directors.

mborges
mborges

You missd the number one thing to know: Don't contradict the way they do things until you have been on the job long enough to not be a "Noob". Many processes that companies use are there for a reason, how ever stupid we might think they are. It's OK to question why something is done, but keep your opinions to yourself unles asked or you are confident you have a firm understanding of the proces and a clear solution to whatever problem you see.

LarryD4
LarryD4

Maybe it should be: The 10 things you should ask your supervisor if the orientation doesn't cover it..

brianbrian
brianbrian

Jeff, That has to be joke right?

Marty R. Milette
Marty R. Milette

I was recently told that I wasn't 'qualified' to change the toner in the printer by the local health and safety clown. I could have mentioned I'd worked in IT and electronics for over 25 years, was an A+ Certified Computer Technician and 40+ Microsoft certifications, but it still wouldn't have made the slightest difference. The UK is a 'nanny nation' -- and getting worse every day. Just have to suck it up and enjoy the money.

elgeebar
elgeebar

If your not qualified, your not insured! Who is qualified to change light bulbs? Simple, an electrician. He'll have the training and knowledge on "Working a Hight Regulations" (how to use a ladder safely... when not to use a ladder and get a scaffold out instead, etc.) He will also have the training and knowledge on "Electrical Isolation Techniques" (how many people change a light bulb with the electric on? That's very much frowned upon by health and safety people and probably more importantly, the insurers)!

Amnezia
Amnezia

NZ's gone the same way. All electrical cables used in schools and business - offices, etc have to have a safety rating on them, stating the inspection date, the cable category and the date of the next visual examination. Oh, plus a serial number. (BTW, To check the cable, one must eyeball it to make sure it's not crimped or kinked, there's no cuts or exposed internal cabling, the pins are horizontal to the base of the plug. Then it must be tested on a meter - which just states "pass" or "fail". Then the ticket on the cable must be renewed.) This is a nightmare when there's a lot of PCs in the company. Oh, the testing unit used above cost us $NZ1,000.00 - about 320 pounds or $US500.00. We COULD get someone to do this for us - at a cost of between $NZ5.00 (1.6 pounds, or $US2.50 per cable. Nice income earner for someone. Each PC had 4 cables, plus multimedia appliances, heaters, CD players. There were about 6 PCs in each room And a log of EVERY cable, and electric appliance must be up-to-date for checking by an electrical inspector if required. I went on a course to do this - 6 hours, complete with a piece of paper that said I was certified to inspect electrical cables. Certified? Think the government is certifiable!! What a %^^%$&^% job. Fortunately I left before this became law - but I got my certificate. ROFL.

eclypse
eclypse

Next we're all going to need breathing certificates to make sure we have the proper technique for inhaling and exhaling. Someone with the breathing certification will know proper coughing isolation safety measures and also have a sneeze prevention certification. Ugh...

santeewelding
santeewelding

Holding who by the balls by warrant of law? Okay. One more reason to retreat from the warrant of law unto my own device.

Bob_or_Fred
Bob_or_Fred

"Even you could be at risk if you were say delirious with fever." If you're delirious with fever, one would hope you're not at work, so the windows at work are irrelevant.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Reinstate the medical emergency and then don't treat the person. ANYONE who would sue a person for collateral damage in first aid for treating or preventing a medical emergency doesn't deserve to be saved.

alex.kashko
alex.kashko

Eric Clapton's kid fell out of a high up window that was left open and died. Don't assume only idiots lean out of windows. Even you could be at risk if you were say delirious with fever.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

...to throw it out of court and call the guy an id10t. That's truly a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation. You save his life, he sues, you don't save his life, his family sues. Here in the US, most states have Good Samaritan laws, all based on one principle: "Any person who, in good faith, renders emergency medical care or assistance to an injured person at the scene of an accident or other emergency without the expectation of receiving or intending to receive compensation from such injured person for such service, shall not be liable in civil damages for any act or omission, not constituting gross negligence, in the course of such care or assistance." Some states only apply the law to certified First Responders and medical personnel, other states include everybody. Summary of laws: http://www.cprinstructor.com/legal.htm

elgeebar
elgeebar

I don't know whether to laugh or cry! So I'll laugh...

elgeebar
elgeebar

I have heard that if somebody is choking, you should think twice before help them in case you get sued!!!!!! The case in question was a guy who did the Heimlich manoeuvre on a this bloke that was choking to death, saved his life but managed to give him whip lash... so the ungrateful a$$hole got his lawyers out!

Jeff Dray
Jeff Dray

But I recently stayed in a holiday cottage in Cornwall where the owners had included the risk assessments in the information pack. One of the items listed was the risk of falling from upstairs windows, the remedy was the installation of safety window stays that Prevented the windows on the upper storey from being opened wide. I have managed to survive 50 years on this planet without falling out of a window and I've even been in some tall buildings in my life. When you hear tales about the Nanny State in Britain, be worried, they are all true.

elgeebar
elgeebar

Yes, I would blame the safety nazis... but I personally think its really the fault of the litigation lawyers... anyway, I'm off to do a risk assessment... now is it OK to open the window in case somebody falls out? (btw that was a joke ;)

matt.johnstone
matt.johnstone

.. the old joke changes from "How many people does it take to change a light bulb" to "How many certifications do you need to change a light bulb"

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