CXO

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.

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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?

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